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Ronaldo to the rescue as Man Utd's season saved from going into total meltdown

20:25 GMT+4 16/04/2022
Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United 2021-22
The five-time Ballon d'or winner stepped up with another hat-trick as the Red Devils beat Norwich City 3-2 on a toxic day at Old Trafford

Match statistics: Manchester United 3-2 Norwich City

On an afternoon where Manchester United needed an antidote to a growing toxicity both inside and outside the ground Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up.

Despite his reputation, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner rarely scores from free-kicks, so when his 25-yard drive flew into the Norwich City goal to seal his second hat-trick in successive home league appearances, the roof came off Old Trafford.

His treble sealed a crucial 3-2 win for the Red Devils, which in turn stopped their season from entering total meltdown - at least for now.

United’s supporters had made themselves clear ahead of kick off who they believe the problem is at the club.

Thousands protested against the club’s ownership outside Old Trafford, but those behind the march - who took the decision to boycott the first 17 minutes of the game in a representation of the 17 years of Glazers ownership - made it clear that this is not just about the owners anymore.

There have been so many abject performances this term that the fans’ have turned their anger towards the club's underperforming players.

A statement from an anonymous fan group associated with the protest said, "it's long past time for these obscene-wage thieves to deliver so, as with the Glazers, they need to get out of the club.”

Historically, many United fans would argue they never turn on the players, but with bottom-of-the-table Norwich holding them at 2-2 midway through the second half, things changed.

Paul Pogba was booed off the pitch when he was replaced by Marcus Rashford, with a chorus of ‘F*ck off Pogba’ following from some of those sat in the Stretford End.

That came only three minutes after ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ was aired from those sitting in the same seats.

There are many in this United team who the fans could have been aiming that chant at, but Ronaldo is not one of them.

Another three goals takes him to 21 goals in all competitions this season, as he reached the 20-goal mark for the 16th consecutive season.

For all the criticism that has come Ronaldo's way this season, he showed yet again that he can be this team's saviour, rather than their problem.

He is a seasoned goalscorer who has been able to bail out his team-mates time and time again, even after another performance that was strewn with defensive mistakes.

There will be more questions asked of Ralf Rangnick's side after they managed to squander a two-goal lead against the team who sit rooted to the bottom of the table, as Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki netted for the Canaries either side of half time after Ronaldo's opening double.

The players were pointing the finger of blame at each other, but none will be directed towards Ronaldo this time around.

With Tottenham having lost at home to Brighton earlier in the afternoon and Arsenal losing their third Premier League game on the bounce away at Southampton while United were winning, the Red Devils look like the cat with nine lives when it comes to a top-four finish.

With six games left to play and now just three points behind Spurs in fourth, they could not save their Champions League skin again, could they?

Anfield awaits on Tuesday, in a game that will provide plenty of answers.