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Cristiano Ronaldo Seals Victory for United with his 801st Career Goal

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03 Dec 2021
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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Man United beat Arsenal 3-2 in an Old Trafford thriller that saw him reach his 801st career goal.

Eight hundred and one. And counting. Still counting. Not yet done. Not yet over. Don’t write him off. Never, ever, write him off. The Cristiano Ronaldo era is done, you may have heard, with the arrival of Ralf Rangnick. Apparently not. Check the record, check the record, check the guy’s track record.

Ronaldo is now, officially, the greatest, proven, goalscorer in football history, the first to reach the milestone of 800 goals. Yes, there are some lurid claims from elsewhere. In Hungary, they credit Lajos Tichy with 1,912. The Czechs will state, straight-faced that Josef Bican scored 1,812, although FIFA knock that down by about 1,000. Four-figure claims are also made on Pele’s behalf. Yet none of this can be substantiated. Ronaldo’s achievements are there in black and white: five for Sporting Lisbon, 450 with Real Madrid, 101 at Juventus, 115 in the national shirt of Portugal, and now 130 across two spells at Manchester United.

And he’s not finished. He demonstrated that on Thursday night. He didn’t settle for 800 when Martin Atkinson belatedly pointed to the spot in the 70th minute, having first been steered by VAR. No chance of Bruno Fernandes taking the ball this time. No discussion required, no selfless acts of comradeship.

Once Atkinson saw the light over Martin Odegaard’s foul on Fred, there was only one man standing over the ball, closing his eyes in concentration, focussing on winning this game for his team. Then, before the Stretford End, Ronaldo’s blast gave Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale no chance. It truly was never in doubt.

His first, the mighty 800th, was a far better goal than he made it look because not everything is about self-aggrandizement with him. Like his only peer, Lionel Messi, so much of his game concerns keeping it simple when lesser players would unnecessarily complicate. A straightforward header, a cool finish, clean, nothing fancy. That was his milestone moment.

It was Marcus Rashford’s cut-back square pass that made it, but the way Ronaldo opened his body to put the ball in the farthest corner away from Ramsdale was just perfection. He celebrated in trademark style, iconic to the last.

And it’s probably good to have got that out of the way. There was a suggestion in the first half that Ronaldo was trying too hard to make number 800 the shot heard around the world. Twice, he attempted overhead kicks – once missing completely, then striking the ball too straight, and tamely wide. Better not to think too much about it. He’s Ronaldo, it was always going to come, and 801 goals do not happen by accident.

Yet this wasn’t just about him. It was a fine night for Michael Carrick, too, who ends his three games as interim’s interim unbeaten. He steered Manchester United into the last 16 of the Champions League, took a point away at the league leaders Chelsea and won his only home game in a vintage ding-dong with an improving Arsenal. Credit to the visitors, they made an excellent match of it although Rangnick, watching from the stand, may prefer more structure. It was very harum-scarum at times. .

At that point, Atkinson blew. We can only presume he saw De Gea’s stricken state and presumed he had been laid low by an Arsenal player. It may have been an accident but, even so, it would hardly be fair for Arsenal to take out the goalkeeper, then score. Replays showed nothing of the sort had taken place. Fred had stood on De Gea’s leg, clumsily. It was probably why the midfielder was most agitated about stopping play. A guilty conscience.

It seemed at first that Atkinson had disallowed the goal. Yet, truth revealed, that would have constituted a clear and obvious error. It was not Arsenal’s fault that two Manchester United players had collided. No foul had been committed, no head injury sustained, no reason at all to stop play. Indeed, Atkinson didn’t stop the play. He had the whistle near his mouth but did not blow it until after the ball was in the net. When Arsenal scored play was ongoing.

Enter VAR Andre Marriner, aka the voice of sanity. He informed Atkinson of the only decision that could possibly be made: Arsenal had scored legitimately. By now, De Gea was up and ready to continue. It might be asked why he had collapsed to the ground when the ball was in play, why he didn’t even look outwards to the field of play. Yes, he was injured, but not seriously. Could he not have limped, and signaled his distress, at least covering a few bases? Atkinson received Marriner’s interpretation – aka, the rules – via his earpiece and gave the goal. United was furious, of course. Yet Arsenal would have had greater justification for anger had the goal been disallowed.

It maintained a worrying trend for Manchester United. Smith-Rowe’s was the ninth league goal scored by visitors to Old Trafford without reply, their worst run since the 1961-62 season when between September 30 and November 11, Wolves, Birmingham, Bolton and Leicester also amassed nine unchallenged. The nine this season have come courtesy of Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Arsenal.

The latter deserved their lead, too. They were the better team for much of the first-half, from as early as the second minute when a Ben White header from a corner was cleared with a panicked slice by Marcus Rashford. They could have furthered their lead in the 39th minute, too, when Martin Odegaard played a sweet pass inside to Gabriel Martinelli who slipped as he shaped to shoot and skewed his effort wide. Later, in the second-half, a reverse of that combination would erase Ronaldo’s milestone inside two minutes, Martinelli cutting the ball back for Odegaard to sweep the ball past De Gea.

As for United’s first-half equaliser it was arguably the move of the night. Jadon Sancho pressed down the left, finding Fred who had made a surging run inside. He crossed first time for Bruno Fernandes, who opened his body and defeated Ramsdale. It set up a second-half of records and comebacks from both sides. Rangnick may have found the spectacle entertaining, but coaches are rarely fans of the rollercoaster. They like things that can be relied upon, though: like 800 goals.


  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • manchester united
  • Ralf Rangnick
  • Livescore (livescore)
  • Match highlights

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