MANCHESTER: Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo showed his continued class in front of goal by cancelling out Marcos Alonso’s opener for a dominant Chelsea side in their 1-1 Premier League draw at Old Trafford on Thursday.
It was another night of mediocrity from Ralf Rangnick’s United as their troubled season, which began with such high expectations, peters out.
The result leaves Chelsea in third place on 66 points while United are in sixth spot with 55, five points behind fourth-placed Arsenal having played two games more.
The only moment of class, to bring some cheer to the United supporters who had again vented their frustrations against the club’s American owners, the Glazer family, came from Ronaldo with a superb piece of control and finishing.
Little has worked for United this season, either under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or German Rangnick, who took over from the Norwegian in November, but Portugal’s five-times Ballon d’Or winner has certainly delivered in front of goal.
Ronaldo’s 62nd minute strike was his 17th league goal this season with only Mohamed Salah of Liverpool having found the target more often and the former Real Madrid man has claimed eight of his team’s last nine goals.
“Not only the goal Cristiano scored but his whole performance, his attitude at the age of 37, this is not normal to do that,” said interim manager Rangnick who will be replaced by Ajax Amsterdam boss Erik ten Hag at the end of the season. “If he plays like he did today he can still be a big help to this team. It was a good point for us. In the first half Chelsea dominated the game. You can see that they have top players and are well organised, and it’s not so easy to get hold of them.”
In keeping with the Red Devils’ season only David de Gea and Ronaldo emerged with any credit by keeping the hosts in the game at either end.
De Gea spread himself brilliantly to twice deny Kai Havertz with the best chances of the first half.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was furious with his German compatriot’s poor finishing, but Havertz did at least have a hand in the goal that finally put the visitors in front on the hour mark.
Havertz flicked on Reece James’ cross into the path of Alonso, who hit a sweetly-struck volley across De Gea.
The lead lasted just two minutes as Ronaldo was at his clinical best to smash home United’s first big chance of the game.
Nemanja Matic chipped a brilliant pass into the path of the Portuguese to control and fire high past Edouard Mendy for his 23rd goal of the season.
Chelsea went close to a winner in the 79th when Mason Mount set up James with a clever, heeled lay-off but the full-back’s left foot curler struck the post.
“If there is one team that deserves to win it’s us, but we didn’t take it,” said Tuchel. “It’s our responsibility to win a game like this when we dominate in all areas of the match. We were not decisive or clinical enough.”
Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2022