Ronaldo begins Manchester United revival with 800th career goal

ENGLAND-Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed 800 goals for club and country with a double as Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-2 to close to within three points of the Premier League top four.
Manchester United's Scottish midfielder Scott McTominay (C) vies with Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (R) during their English Premier League football match at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 2, 2021. AFP

With new interim manager Ralf Rangnick watching from the stands, the German was given a glimpse of both the talent he will have to work with and problems he has to solve at Old Trafford.

Arsenal went ahead in bizarre circumstances as Emile Smith Rowe's shot trickled in with United goalkeeper David De Gea down injured before Bruno Fernandes levelled.

Ronaldo's 800th career goal was quickly cancelled out by Martin Odegaard.

But the five-time Ballon d'Or winner had the final say when he crashed home a penalty 20 minutes from time.

A vital victory for United cuts the gap between the sides to two points in the battle for a place in next season's Champions League.

Three points also rounds off a fine stint for Michael Carrick in caretaker charge since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked after progress to the Champions League last 16 and a creditable 1-1 draw at Premier League leaders Chelsea.

The United fans paid homage to Solskjaer with a banner in the first match at Old Trafford since he was dismissed.

However, once the action got underway, nothing seemed to have changed from the final days of the Norwegian's reign as United started in a similar fashion to humiliating home defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ben White had chances for the visitors inside the first two minutes.

When Arsenal did go in front on 13 minutes it was in strange fashion.

Smith Rowe's shot bounced into an unguarded net with De Gea down injured having been stood on by his own player Fred.

Referee Martin Atkinson blew the whistle to stop play, but only after the ball had crossed the line and therefore the goal had to stand.

Arsenal players rebuffed United's request to stand aside and allow them to equalise in a gesture of fair play.

But they did so of their own accord a minute before half-time when Jadon Sancho and Fred combined to tee up Fernandes to slot home his first goal since September.

In stark contrast to a cagey first 45 minutes, the second period raged from end to end.

De Gea made amends for his part in the opening goal with a flying save to deny Gabriel before Aaron Ramsdale produced an even better stop at the other end to divert Ronaldo's drive to safety.

Ronaldo was dropped to the bench by Carrick at Stamford Bridge on Sunday amid suggestions that may become a more common occurrence under Rangnick's high-energy style.

Accommodating the 36-year-old has been one of the causes of United's decline defensively this season.

But Ronaldo has kept his end of the bargain with 12 goals in 17 games since returning for a second spell with the Red Devils.

He coolly slotted home Marcus Rashford's cross, but United's lead lasted just two minutes as Arsenal responded with almost a carbon copy equaliser.

This time Gabriel Martinelli was the provider for Odegaard to steer into the far corner.

However, on the night he reached another remarkable personal milestone, the stage was set for Ronaldo to breathe new life into United's season when Fred was chopped down inside the box by Odegaard.

Fernandes blasted over when he retained penalty duties against Aston Villa earlier in the season.

This time he stood aside for his international teammate, who smashed the ball high past Ramsdale for his 130th United goal across two spells.

Ronaldo also scored 450 goals for Real Madrid, 101 at Juventus, five for Sporting Lisbon and is the record goalscorer in international football with 115 for Portugal.

Spurs bounce back as Son sinks Brentford

Antonio Conte said Tottenham are starting to understand his philosophy after Son Heung-min's first Premier League goal since October sealed a 2-0 win against Brentford on Thursday.

Conte's side were last in action seven days ago for an embarrassing 2-1 defeat against Slovenian minnows NS Mura in the Europa Conference League.

Rocked by that chastening loss, Conte this week admitted the Tottenham job was "the biggest challenge for me. The club, in the last years, has been slipping".

While Tottenham remain very much a work in progress under the Italian, Conte could take heart from the most convincing performance of his brief reign.

A Sergi Canos own goal gave Tottenham the lead in the first half and Son wrapped up their second successive Premier League win after the interval.

It was Son's 75th top-flight goal since joining the north Londoners from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015.

Tottenham are up to sixth place after extending their unbeaten league run under Conte to three matches since he replaced the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo in November.

"It was a good performance against a dangerous team. I'm happy because I have seen great commitment and good passion from the players. It's a good reaction," Conte said.

"The players are starting to understand my philosophy. With the ball we can do better but at the same time the second goal was really good.

"The three points are good for the confidence. We have started on a new path. The players are showing me great desire to change the situation."

Maintaining an alarming trend for Tottenham, Harry Kane was anonymous for much of the match.

The England striker has scored just once in the Premier League this term and has only two goals in his last 10 appearances in all competitions.

"I'm not worried about Harry Kane. He played a really good game. He was in every offensive situation and the point of reference," Conte said.

"To have a player like this and to play with his commitment, desire and passion makes me very happy. It doesn't matter if he scores as long as he plays in this way."

Capital punishment

In their first league meeting with Brentford since 1949, Tottenham came close to an early opener when Lucas Moura's rising drive was tipped over by Alvaro Fernandez.

Tottenham had lost all four of their previous London derbies this season, but they were on track to end that painful streak of capital punishment by the 12th minute.

Son whipped a cross towards Ben Davies and the clearing header from Brentford's Pontus Jansson deflected in off the unlucky Canos's face.

Brentford were smooth in possession but lacked a cutting edge and Bryan Mbeumo volleyed wide from the edge of the Tottenham area.

Son forced a brave save from Fernandez, who inadvertantly used the side of his head to keep out the forward's stinging strike.

When Kane finally had a sight of goal from Oliver Skipp's pass, he wasted the chance with a tame shot straight at Fernandez.

Even with Kane subdued, Conte's men were superior for long periods and their pressure finally produced a second goal in the 65th minute.

Kane at last had an influence as he picked out Sergio Reguilon's rampaging run down the left and the Spaniard's cross was perfect for Son to tap in his sixth club goal this season.

Ivan Toney's close-range effort was repelled by Hugo Lloris in the closing stages as Brentford were beaten for the fifth time in their last seven league games. -(AFP)

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