Discussion over the Portuguese icon’s impact at United has swirled in recent weeks, with the Reds 20 points adrift of rivals Manchester City. He is increasingly willing to miss out on a top-four finish that would give them would secure a place in the next Champions League.
However, in an almost perfect weekend for Ronaldo and Manchester United, the top four contenders, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, suffered defeats. At the same time, United slipped into fifth place with six games remaining.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores his 806th career goal another en route to a hat-trick against Spurs in March. Also, Ronaldo endured a torrid afternoon at Everton in their next league match. He went after his defeat and a youngster’s mobile phone-related incident.
The 37-year-old was on the scoresheet within five minutes against Norwich, playing home after teammate Anthony Elanga had dispossessed defender Ben Gibson near goal.
His second goal of the first half, a trademark corner header from Alex Telles, appeared to have put United in the driving seat. Still, two quick strikes on either side of half-time from Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki once exposed United’s defensive weaknesses.
Both Dowell and Pukki ran into acres of space before converting as the side rooted to the bottom of the table leveled out.
In many ways, the winner was the signature of Cristiano Ronaldo, who scores another impressive free-kick to cap off a hat-trick and secure a vital victory for his team. And yet the fact that he has scored from a free-kick in recent years is clearly unlike Ronaldo.
Despite a string of standout free-kick goals in his career, Ronaldo had not scored directly from one since September 2020 for Portugal.
However, the 37-year-old Ronaldo turned back the years against Norwich, unleashing a devastating strike past Tim Krul to score his first free-kick since returning to United in more vital circumstances.
With 15 Premier League goals on the season, he now trails only Liverpool’s Mo Salah (20) and Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min (17) in the scoring charts.
No other United teammate has broken double figures in the league, with teammate and compatriot Bruno Fernandes the club’s second-highest with nine goals.
After the game, United manager Ralf Rangnick praised the crucial impact of Ronaldo.
Rangnick said that just like against Tottenham, and it was crucial today.
The second and third weren’t just easy goals. The way he took those goals is just outstanding.