Cristiano Ronaldo became the all-time leading men’s goalscorer in football history as his brilliant hat-trick inspired Manchester United’s 3-2 win against Tottenham, while Liverpool closed the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester City with a 2-0 victory at Brighton on Saturday.
Ronaldo had netted just once in his previous ten games amid speculation that the Portugal striker was considering his future after less than a season of his second spell with United.
The 37-year-old’s commitment was questioned when he reportedly jetted to Portugal last weekend rather than watch his team after being ruled out of their 4-1 defeat at Manchester City with a hip injury.
Even United interim boss Ralf Rangnick conceded he didn’t know if Ronaldo was happy at the club.
But Ronaldo proved his commitment to the United cause with a superb display to single-handedly dispatch Tottenham at Old Trafford.
With recently retired NFL legend Tom Brady watching from the stands, Ronaldo bagged his first United treble since 2008.
His brilliant 25-yard drive put United ahead in the 12th minute before Harry Kane equalised with a 35th minute penalty awarded for Alex Telles’ handball.
United lead restored
Ronaldo restored United’s lead three minutes later from Jadon Sancho’s cross, but Harry Maguire’s 72nd minute own goal threatened to ruin his evening.
However, Ronaldo headed home from Telles’ corner in the 81st minute to claim his 807th career goal, making him the top-scoring men’s player in history, according to FIFA statistics, as he surpassed Josef Bican.
Ronaldo’s heroics earned a standing ovation from Brady and lifted United into fourth place, while Tottenham are five points behind them in seventh.
“Today it was his best performance, at least since I arrived. He was good in training on Thursday and that is why I decided to start him,” Rangnick said.
“A fantastic performance. It was not just the three goals, it was also he was part of the team when they were in possession of the ball.
“We showed the kind of reaction we were due after the bad second half at City.”
At the Amex Stadium, Luis Diaz opened the scoring for Liverpool with a 19th minute header and Mohamed Salah netted 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.
Mo Salah in contract talks
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 is up to Salah whether he signs a new deal, a claim that was followed by the Egypt forward’s agent tweeting a series of laughing emojis just minutes later.
Salah’s long-term value to Liverpool is immense, but of more immediate concern to Klopp will be the knock that saw him replaced by Diogo Jota soon after his first goal in four games.
With a testing trip to Arsenal looming on Wednesday followed by an FA Cup quarter-final at Nottingham Forst, Klopp will hope his star makes a quick recovery.
“Something was not right. I think there was a situation where his foot got 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 twice in their winning run, while also keeping a third successive league clean sheet for the first time this term.
On the title race, Klopp said: “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 as win as many football games as possible. We’re ready, we don’t need to call it a title race, we just want to win games.”
Brentford boosted their bid to avoid relegation with a 2-0 home win against third bottom Burnley thanks to a pair of late goals from Ivan Toney.
© Agence France-Presse