Ronaldo hat-trick sinks Spurs

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte says his players need to be 'more calm' after 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford

Sunday, 13th March — By Dan Carrier

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Premier League

MANCHESTER UNITED 3 (Ronaldo 12, 38, 81)
TOTTENHAM 2 (Kane 35 pen, Maguire 72 og)

A HAT-TRICK from Cristiano Ronaldo saw Manchester United edge past Tottenham in a five-goal thriller that in 90 minutes showed all that is good and bad about Antonio Conte’s side.

Despite outplaying United and creating the lion’s share of the chances, Spurs were undone by three moments of Ronaldo magic.

They were moments that proved the difference between two sides that simply don’t have enough quality across their first XI’s to genuinely say they deserve a Champions League spot.

Ronaldo, who has scored 14 times and created six goals in 20 appearance against Spurs, gave United all three points with a thumping header from an Alex Telles corner on 81 minutes.

Tottenham had taken the game to the home side, though had to rely on a Harry Kane penalty and a Harry Maguire own-goal as they twice came from behind to level.

Ben Davies had seen a first-half finish disallowed for offside, and for all of Tottenham’s brightness on the ball, they could not fashion the finishing required to win at Old Trafford.

And while the collective effort was there, Heung-Min Son turned in another worryingly lacklustre performance – his off colour form a factor behind Spurs failing to translate possession into goals.

Son is one of the sides genuine performers, and when he doesn’t show up, a key weapon in Tottenham’s armoury is blunted.

Speaking after the game, Conte said: “I’m the first to tell you that if you want to be competitive, if you want to improve your level, you have to work a lot.

“At this moment the team needs to work on many aspects. At the same time we have to be stable, to be stable and to keep good results in every moment. Instead we are doing up and down, up and down.

“Don’t forget that in the last five games we scored three goals at Manchester City, four goals away at Leeds, five goals against Everton, and two goals here against United away.

“It means that the team is producing, is improving, and creating chances and scoring a lot of goals. But at the same time we have to try to improve in experience and to manage the game.”

The Tottenham boss added: “During the game there are many parts. There are moments where you feel you have to push and to push, and to go strong, and to win duels.

“And there are moments that you have to keep possession. You have to be more calm. I think in this aspect we can improve a lot. We have to be disappointed because from this game we deserved much more.”

Ronaldo gave United the lead on 12 minutes when he received the ball in space just outside the Spurs box. With trademark control, he whipped an instant drive into Hugo Lloris’s top corner.

Spurs were not flustered, and with the new boys Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur increasingly looking like oven-ready Premier League signings, United’s defensive frailties were regularly exposed.

But Conte’s side lacked the finesse to find the finishing touch required – until Kane levelled things from the penalty spot on 35 minutes.

Ronaldo restored United’s lead after being played in by Jadon Sancho, before Maguire turned Sergio Reguilon’s cross past his own keeper on 72 minutes.

Both sides looked increasingly ragged as they sought the winner, and it took one more moment of Ronaldo class to make the difference between these two Champions League pretenders.

Manchester United: de Gea, Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Telles, Matic (Cavani, 80), Fred, Rashford (Elanga, 67), Pogba, Sancho, Ronaldo (Lindelof, 82)
Substitutes not used: Henderson, Bailly, Jones, Mata, Lingard, Wan-Bissaka

Tottenham: Lloris, Romero, Dier, Davies (Bergwijn, 87), Doherty, Hojbjerg, Bentancur (Winks, 87), Reguilon, Kulusevski (Moura 77), Son, Kane
Substitutes not used: Gollini, Sanchez, Royal, Rodon, White, Scarlett

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