Ronaldo Showed a Timely Performance to Give Another Shot to the Usual Atlético FC

Cristiano Ronaldo gave Manchester United fans an idea of what they thought they would gain from a second-time visit to Old Trafford when he scored three goals against Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 on Saturday. Ronaldo’s 59th hat-trick of his career was the second for United and the first in 14 years, as his second spelling failed to match the hype about his purchase in August.

United enter a balanced Champions League round of 16 clash against Atlético Madrid on Tuesday after a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital, knowing that European glory is their only chance of grabbing silver this season.

Ronaldo has typically saved his best record for the Champions League this season by scoring six goals in the group stage just to ensure United do not suffer the embarrassment of group stage relegation for the second season in a row.

However, his low performance as a frustrated and isolated figure in front of Wanda Metropolitano three weeks ago further shows the problems Ralph Rangnick faced while holding a temporary position as United manager.

The German is considered the godfather to the energetic and demanding style of play that inspired managers like Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel to become Champions League winners. Rangnick was unable to bring the same enthusiasm to United, largely due to the inability or unwillingness of the 37 -year -old Ronaldo to press.

The Portuguese have also been cited as the source of stories of dressing room concerns that seem to permeate after every bad decision. Amid reports that he would be sidelined from last weekend’s Manchester derby match, Ronaldo flew back to his home country to recover from a thigh injury cited as the official cause of the 4-1 defeat at the Etihad.

‘Keep playing’

Rangnick joked that perhaps he should allow the trip more frequently after Ronaldo returned to Manchester in excellent shape to put Spurs by the sword. But he has also not given up on evaluating Ronaldo’s work without the ball in recent weeks.

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“Today he showed exactly his physical ability,” Rangnick said of Ronaldo’s contribution to the defense. “We also have to admit that this has not always happened in recent weeks and months.

“Today has definitely shown that he is still fit to play at this level.” Ronaldo’s performance caught the attention of spectators watching Tom Brady when the seven -time Super Bowl winner told his star friends to “keep playing” as they hugged on the Old Trafford pitch after the match.

Whether he stays for the second year of his contract at United depends on whether the Red Devils qualify for the Champions League next season. In the twilight years of his career, he couldn’t afford to spend a season away from the biggest stage where he shone the brightest.

Atlético know this very well. Between 2014 and 2019, Ronaldo was on the opposite side for all five Champions League play-off appearances, landing twice in the last defeat against Real Madrid. Ronaldo’s triple on Saturday set another goal -scoring record when he now scores the most goals in men’s professional football, according to FIFA, with 807 goals.

Only Sevilla suffered more in this number than Atlético who conceded 25 goals. As United’s struggles have shown, Ronaldo may no longer be the strength he once had. But he would still be the person most feared by Diego Simeone’s men if he returned to haunt them at an important event.