Cristiano Ronaldo ends Man Utd debate with stunning Tottenham hattrick - 5 talking points

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick as Manchester United beat Tottenham 3-2 to give their Champions League hopes a major shot in the arm.

United twice surrendered the lead following goals from Ronaldo, with a Harry Kane penalty and Harry Maguire own goal keeping them in touch.

But Ronaldo’s third and final strike of the game with less than ten minutes remaining earned them all three points in their hunt for a top-four finish.

After a relatively quiet start, the game exploded into life in the 12th minute when Ronaldo smashed in the opening goal from 25 yards, arrowing his strike into Hugo Lloris’ top corner.

The goal should have sparked United into life, but they were almost pegged back when Ben Davies saw a goal disallowed for offside.

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Spurs were given a route back into the game 10 minutes before the break, when Alex Telles was adjudged to have handled a Dejan Kulusevski cross.

Kane made no mistake from the spot and it was just rewards, with the England captain pulling the strings from his deeper-lying position.

But Spurs’ parity lasted less than three months, with Ronaldo notching his second goal of the game from a Jadon Sancho cross.

However, United retreated deeper and deeper, unable to keep hold of possession and allowing the visitors to grow in confidence and with 20 minutes to go they were level for the second time when Sergio Reguilon's cross was turned into his own net by Harry Maguire

But like so many times in his remarkable career, Ronaldo wasn't to be denied, completing his treble in the 82nd minute with a thumping header.

The win leaves United in fourth place in the Premier League table, although they have played four more games than Arsenal.

Here are the talking points from a frantic game at Old Trafford:

The 37-year-old’s first season back in English football has been punctuated by suggestions that for all of his goals, United are actually a better team without him.

Particularly since Ralf Rangnick’s appointment and the need for high-pressing football, Ronaldo’s suitability has often come into question.

However, while his game may have changed from the 2009 version which swapped United for Real Madrid, he still has the ability to create magic.

United had started low on confidence and appeared tentative to take risks - that was until Ronaldo picked up the ball 30 yards out.

There is only ever one thing on his mind when he has the ball at that range and his strike was as clean and crisp as you are likely to ever see.

His second and third were vintage Ronaldo and he almost single-handedly dragged his side to a result they arguably didn't deserve.

Cristiano Ronaldo ends Man Utd debate with stunning Tottenham hattrick - 5 talking points

There may be questions over his role in the long-term, but in the here and now, United remain a more dangerous team when the Portuguese superstar is in the lineup.

It’s difficult to remember just how bereft of confidence Harry Kane looked at the start of the season.

A summer of exploits for England, twinned with months of intense transfer speculation looking to be weighing on the shoulders of the precocious goalscorer.

Fast forward a few months and he looks completely reborn, his first-half penalty means he now has six goals in his last five games - but it’s his all-round play that is perhaps most impressive.

Kane constantly found himself in space, with United’s midfield and defence left with no idea on whose responsibility he should be.

After early season concerns, Harry Kane is well and truly back to his best.

While the Glazer family remain wildly unpopular in Manchester, their reputation in Tampa was transformed with the arrival of a certain Tom Brady almost exactly two years ago.

Regarded as the greatest player in NFL history, the quarterback helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl in his first season with the franchise.

There were similarities with their pursuit of the veteran passer to the way in which they brought Ronaldo back to Old Trafford at the start of this season.

It was hoped Ronaldo’s arrival would reap similarly rapid honours and while that has failed to materialise, it was fitting he took centre stage in front of another genuine sporting icon.

Following news that Rashford has been unhappy with his role under Rangnick, there was always likely to be a little extra attention on his showing.

“He's got an opportunity today, he's got to take it,” Roy Keane said before kick-off, but he failed to do so in a performance which showed a player struggling for confidence.

Starting on the right, before switching with Jadon Sancho, the academy graduate struggled to have an impact from either side.

There has been speculation that Rashford could seek a summer exit if he continues to see his game time limited, however, he needs to provide a lot more when he is given a chance in order to convince the interim boss.

There was a time when trailing Manchester United at Old Trafford was one of the most daunting tasks in world football.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s catalogue of successful sides had a reputation for sensing when their opponents were weak and mercilessly stepping on their neck.

The 2022 vintage of United do not have the same trait.

United took the lead on two occasions, but on both, they appeared to shrink, rather than puff their chests out and look to dominate.

Had it not been for the heroics of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo those frailties would have cost them even more points.

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