Manchester United 3-2 Tottenham: Match Statistics
If Cristiano Ronaldo promises to return from every trip to Portugal with a hat-trick, Ralf Rangnick would probably grant his star striker a mini-break every week.
After a week in which his off-field activity provoked more debate, the Manchester United forward showed on it why he will be remembered as one of the greatest of all time by hitting a sensational treble in a 3-2 win over Tottenham.
Indeed, it was fitting that NFL legend Tom Brady was present at Old Trafford on Saturday to witness Ronaldo get his first hat-trick for the club since 2008.
The American took to his feet to applaud the Portugal international after the 37-year-old completed his hat-trick in front of the Stretford End with just nine minutes to go in an absorbing Premier League encounter.
Ronaldo was disappointed to find out he would not be part of Ralf Rangnick’s starting XI for the Manchester derby last weekend but he responded in the best possible fashion, with his three goals, and excellent all-round performance against Spurs, arguably illustrating why he should always start up front.
His first goal – a stunning strike from 25 yards out into the top corner – will no doubt be his favourite from an aesthetic perspective.
However, his textbook headed winner from Alex Telles’ corner was clearly even more satisfying, given it also decided a top-four battle in United's favour.
Ronaldo's second effort may have been a tap-in but if there was any doubt about the difficulty of his hat-trick, one only needed to look at the fact that his expected goals tally for the game was 0.85.
Ronaldo's latest hat-trick also saw him become the game's all-time leading scorer, with 807 goals.
Records will, of course, be of little interest to Rangnick, who is trying to ensure that United qualify for next season's Champions League, and the German will have taken far more encouragement out of how well Ronaldo linked with the ever-improving Jadon Sancho.
Pleasingly, the Portuguese also showed a willingness to work hard and make runs that caused Tottenham's back-line all sorts of problems.
He was involved in nearly every positive move United made. Nobody had more touches than Ronaldo in the opposition box and his passing accuracy in the final third was 93 per cent.
Of course, United needed this kind of performance from their talisman, as this was a must-win match for Rangnick's side, who have now moved back above Arsenal into fourth place, albeit having played four games more than the Gunners.
And as Spurs boss Antonio Conte pointed out in his post-match interview with Sky Sports, "Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the two best players in the world in this era.
"When you play against this type of player, they’re decisive. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, for United it wouldn’t have been a good night."
Still, while this victory certainly won't paper over any of the cracks in this United side, this was a marked improvement on the performance they produced in last weekend's 4-1 loss at Manchester City.
The defence remains a concern, though, as Tottenham’s wing-back's wreaked havoc at times, peppering United's box with crosses of all kinds.
So, there was a depressing air of inevitability about struggling captain Harry Maguire putting one cut-back into his own net to gift Spurs an equaliser with 18 minutes left.
There will have been nobody more relieved, then, when Ronaldo rose to power head another late winner for United.
The roar at full-time from the home support only further hammered home just how important a victory this was for the hosts.
United still have it all to do to finish in the top four but with Ronaldo once again showing why some consider him the Tom Brady of football, nothing seems out of reach.