Cristiano Ronaldo became the all-time leading men’s goalscorer in footballing history as his brilliant hat-trick inspired Manchester United’s crucial 3-2 victory over Tottenham, while Liverpool closed the gap on leaders Premier League Manchester City with a 2-0 win at Brighton on Saturday.
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Ronaldo had scored just once in his previous 10 games amid speculation the Portuguese striker was considering his future after less than a season of his second stint with United.
The 37-year-old’s commitment was called into question when he reportedly traveled to Portugal last weekend rather than watch his side after being sent off in their 4-1 defeat at Manchester City due to a hip injury.
Even interim United boss Ralf Rangnick has admitted he doesn’t know if Ronaldo is happy at the club.
But Ronaldo proved his commitment to the United cause with a superb display to single-handedly send Tottenham to Old Trafford.
With recently retired NFL legend Tom Brady watching from the stands, Ronaldo won his first United hat-trick since January 2008 – 14 years and 59 days ago.
His brilliant drive from 25 yards gave United the lead in the 12th minute before Harry Kane equalized with a 35th-minute penalty awarded for Alex Telles’ handball.
Ronaldo restored United’s lead three minutes later from a Jadon Sancho cross, but Harry Maguire’s 72nd-minute own goal threatened to ruin their night.
However, Ronaldo came in from the corner of Telles in the 81st minute to score his 807th career goal, making him the most successful men’s player in history, according to FIFA statistics, as he overtook Josef Bican.
Ronaldo’s heroism earned a standing ovation from Brady and lifted United into fourth place, while Tottenham are five points behind them in seventh.
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THE RED WINS BUT SALAH INJURED
At the Amex Stadium, Luis Diaz opened the scoring for Liverpool with a 19th-minute header and Mohamed Salah scored with a 61st-minute penalty awarded after Yves Bissouma’s handball.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have won their last eight league games, keeping the pressure on City with the champions playing at Crystal Palace on Monday.
Salah has reached 20 goals in a Premier League season for the fourth time, with his latest strike coming at just the right time amid his tense contract negotiations.
Klopp said on Friday it was up to Salah whether he signed a new deal, a claim which was followed by the Egyptian striker’s agent tweeting a series of laughing emojis minutes later.
Salah’s long-term value to Liverpool is immense, but a more immediate concern for Klopp will be the knock that saw him replaced by Diogo Jota shortly after his first goal in four games.
With a trial trip to Arsenal looming on Wednesday followed by an FA Cup quarter-final at Nottingham Forst, Klopp will be hoping his star will recover quickly.
“Something was wrong. I think there was a situation where his foot stretched. We’ll have to see,” Klopp said.
While City are in fine form, Liverpool’s hot streak is equally impressive. The Reds have scored 21 goals and conceded just two in their winning streak, while keeping a third consecutive clean sheet in the league for the first time this season.
When Salah converted on the spot, it made Liverpool the second club to score 2,000 Premier League goals, emulating Manchester United.
“We expected it to be a difficult game and I’m really happy with some moments. We were really strong and scored a great goal,” Klopp said.
On the title race, Klopp added: “It’s always the same, you expect Manchester City to win every game when you watch them play.
“The only thing we can do is win as many football games as possible. We are ready, we don’t need to call it a title race, we just want to win games.
TONEY STRIKES TWICE
Brentford bolstered their bid to avoid relegation with a 2-0 win at home to compatriots Burnley thanks to a pair of late goals from Ivan Toney.
Brentford are nine points clear of third-placed Burnley, who are one point from safety.