Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show as Manchester United eked out a 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday.

It was the Cristiano Ronaldo show that Manchester United have been waiting for all season, as the Portuguese legend delivered a typically clutch performance at long last. The Red Devils were the stronger team in the game’s first quarter, which included a brilliant long-range strike by Ronaldo, who had Fred to thank for finding him in acres of space.

But Tottenham hit back with a short period of dominance that culminated in a goal from Harry Kane, after Alex Telles had handled Dejan Kulusevski’s cross. Telles quickly made amends, as he found Jadon Sancho with a well-timed pass over the top of the Spurs defence, before the Englishman squared the ball to Ronaldo for a simple tap-in to make it 2-1 heading into half-time.

Tottenham came out of the interval determined to get back into the game and dominated the proceedings for the first thirty minutes of the second half. Their efforts were rewarded when Harry Maguire inadvertently turned Sergio Reguilon’s cross into his own net, tying the scores again heading into the game’s dying embers.

But just when it looked like Manchester United would drop points again, Ronaldo nodded in Telles’s delivery from a corner to make it 3-2. That would be the game’s last goal, as Manchester United clinched three crucial points to return to the top four ahead of Arsenal’s game against Leicester City on Sunday. The Hard Tackle runs the rule over both sets of players.

Manchester United

David de Gea: 6/10

David de Gea had no chance to stop either of Tottenham’s goals, which resulted more from mistakes by his teammates than brilliance by the opposition players. Other than that, the Spanish international barely had anything to do.

Diogo Dalot: 6.5/10

Dalot showed what Manchester United had been missing during his forward forays. But he also faced some tricky moments against Sergio Reguilon and allowed the Spaniard enough space and time to cross the ball in for Tottenham’s second.

Raphael Varane: 7/10

Varane returned to the starting lineup after recovering from COVID-19, and his presence at the heart of the Manchester United defence was critical. The Frenchman never lost a duel, negated Harry Kane’s influence greatly and helped build play from the back with deadly efficiency.

Harry Maguire: 6/10

Maguire had a hit and miss game, as he scored the own goal that brought Tottenham back into the contest. But the Manchester United captain also made some key tackles and clearances and barely misplaced a pass during build-up from the back.

Alex Telles: 7/10

Telles was once again nervy off the ball and struggled against Dejan Kulusevski at times. He also handled the ball when the Swede attempted a cross in the first half, giving away the penalty that Kane converted. But the Brazilian’s impact on the ball was superb, as he released Jadon Sancho in the build-up to Cristiano Ronaldo’s second, before grabbing the assist for the hat-trick goal.

Nemanja Matic: 7/10

Scott McTominay’s absence might have forced Ralf Rangnick’s hand, but playing Matic was a masterstroke, as Kane was neutralised whenever he looked to drop deep. The Serb initially played his teammates into trouble, but started playing better passes as the game wore on. His impact off the ball was top-notch, helping Manchester United weather the storm.

Fred: 7/10

With Nemanja Matic holding the fort behind him, Fred capitalised and ran riot by popping up in dangerous areas. The Brazilian opened up play beautifully with a deft flick in the build-up to Ronaldo’s first goal. He did not shy away from putting in the hard yards either, winning five duels and completing several crucial tackles and interceptions.

Marcus Rashford: 5/10

The ongoing week has been dominated by the shock news of Rashford considering his Manchester United future. And he ended it with another unconvincing performance, as he did not carry any threat whatsoever and often ran into a Tottenham defender. He is not doing himself any favours.

Paul Pogba: 6/10

With Bruno Fernandes missing due to an illness, Pogba got a rare chance to play the no. 10 role. While the Frenchman relished the opportunity and linked up well with his teammates, he often lost the ball in dangerous areas, which helped Tottenham initiate electric counter-attacks.

Jadon Sancho: 7/10

Sancho was the standout attacker in the game as the Englishman continued his solid run of form. He constantly looked to push Manchester United forward and played a game-high four key passes, including the final ball for Ronaldo’s second. He is quickly starting to become an asset for the Red Devils.

Cristiano Ronaldo: 10/10

2022 had not been a memorable year up until Saturday for Ronaldo. But he took it upon himself to deliver the win for Manchester United, scoring three superb goals to clinch the narrow victory. The first of his three strikes stood out – a fiercely driven shot from distance to beat Hugo Lloris. He showed good awareness to net the other two and now has more goals than anyone in the game’s history.

SUBSTITUTES

Anthony Elanga: 6/10

Elanga was a bundle of energy after his introduction, pushing Manchester United forward while also putting in the hard yards off the ball. But he was not involved in any game-changing moments.

Edinson Cavani: N/A

Cavani barely got a touch on the ball in the game’s dying embers. But the veteran striker did set up a chance late in the match.

Victor Lindelof: N/A

A late introduction, Lindelof helped see the game out.

Tottenham Hotspur

Hugo Lloris: 6/10

Lloris did not have a chance of saving any of Ronaldo’s three efforts after being sold short by the defenders. But he made two big saves to deny the Manchester United talisman and keep Tottenham in the game.

Cristian Romero: 6/10

Romero endured a game of two halves as he struggled to contain the marauding Jadon Sancho in the first half, before finding a stable footing after the interval. The Argentine made some important tackles while building up play efficiently from the back.

Eric Dier: 5/10

Dier inexplicably left Cristiano Ronaldo with acres of space to muster the powerfully driven shot for Manchester United’s first goal. The English international struggled to contain the Portuguese legend throughout the game.

Ben Davies: 6/10

Davies was the least busy of the Tottenham centre-backs, with Rashford’s struggles giving him a breather. But he could not stop Ronaldo from scoring Manchester United’s second, although Sergio Reguilon was at fault for playing the Portuguese forward onside. The Welshman also had the ball in the back of the net, but was offside.

Matt Doherty: 6/10

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Doherty struggled to impose himself as much as he has in recent games. While the Irish defender barely misplaced a pass, he did not carry any threat. And his forward forays left Sancho with a lot of space to exploit behind him.

Rodrigo Bentancur: 6.5/10

Bentancur was delightful on the ball and carved out some superb openings on Saturday, playing a team-high three key passes. But his defensive output was sub-par, which enabled Manchester United to find open spaces between the midfielders and the defenders several times.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: 6.5/10

Hojbjerg was instrumental in helping Tottenham wrest control of the proceedings in the first half. The Dane also played some dangerous long passes but did not always find the intended target. But he lost track of Fred at times, with the Brazilian also laying the ball off him in the build-up to Ronaldo’s first.

Sergio Reguilon: 6/10

Reguilon returned to the starting lineup after replacing the injured Ryan Sessegnon. The Spanish defender was a potent outlet on the left flank, but also lost the ball carelessly a few times. That said, it was Reguilon who crossed the ball into no man’s land when Maguire scored the own goal to make it 2-2.

Dejan Kulusevski: 7/10

Kulusevski was the only Tottenham forward who carried any kind of threat on Saturday. The Swede took advantage of the space that Telles afforded and won the penalty that Harry Kane converted. But his influence waned as the minutes wore on, and he was rightly taken off for Lucas Moura.

Harry Kane: 6/10

Kane was the more in-form of the two strikers heading into the game, but Ronaldo outshone him on Saturday. The England captain flitted in and out of the game and barely got chances to score. He did not make any errors in finding the back of the net from the spot, but needed to do more on the day.

Son Heung-min: 5/10

It is not every day that Son Heung-min is barely influential in a game. While the South Korean international linked up well with his teammates, he could not find a way to get into dangerous scoring positions. In the one moment that he did, Son fluffed his lines, inexplicably missing the target.

SUBSTITUTES

Lucas Moura: N/A

Lucas Moura was a bundle of energy after replacing Dejan Kulusevski, but his output on the ball was sub-par.

Steven Bergwijn: N/A

A late introduction, Bergwijn barely had any time to affect the game.

Harry Winks: N/A

A late introduction, Winks did not have much time to influence the proceedings.

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