Ronaldo breaks goal drought as United climb back into top four

Published February 17, 2022
MANCHESTER UNITED’S Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after missing a chance to score during the Premier League match against Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford.—Reuters
MANCHESTER UNITED’S Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after missing a chance to score during the Premier League match against Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford.—Reuters

MANCHESTER: This time, Manchester United held on to their lead.

Cristiano Ronaldo ended his six-game goal drought by lashing in a 51st-minute goal to set United on their way to a 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion that lifted them into the Premier League’s top four on Tuesday.

Bruno Fernandes added a second goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time, with virtually the last kick of the game, following a rapid break as Brighton committed men forward.

United had failed to win any of its last three games despite taking the lead each time twice in the league, against Burnley and Southampton, and in getting eliminated from the FA Cup by second-tier Middlesbrough.

“First half was Mr. Hyde, second half Dr. Jekyll,” United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said, “and for a change it [the result] was different.”

Helping United’s cause against Brighton at Old Trafford was visiting defender Lewis Dunk getting sent off three minutes after Ronaldo’s goal for a professional foul, bringing down Anthony Elanga as the winger was through on goal. Dunk was initially shown a yellow card but it turned to a red after a video review.

Ronaldo, without a goal since December and dropped to the bench by Rangnick in some recent matches, answered his critics by cutting inside, after team-mate Scott McTominay dispossessed Yves Bissouma, and powering a curling shot into the far corner from outside the area.

The Portugal forward headed wide from Fernandes’ cross later in the half, kicking the post in frustration, but his display was praised by Rangnick.

“Very important not only that he scored but it was an outstanding goal,” Rangnick said. “It was important for all of us, but his overall performance was one of the best since I arrived here.”

Fernandes gave the scoreline a flattering look with a well-taken solo goal in stoppage time as United moved above West Ham United into fourth spot with 43 points from 25 games, four points behind third-placed Chelsea, who have a game in hand.

Arsenal, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur are also within striking distance of the top four and all have games in hand.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2022

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