I saw Cristiano Ronaldo become the highest scorer in elite soccer history, and it was a iconic sporting moment I'll never forget
- Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick as Manchester United beat Tottenham on Saturday.
- His second goal was his 806th in elite soccer, making him the greatest goalscorer of all time.
Cristiano Ronaldo has produced plenty of iconic moments during his glistening career — his trio of goals for Portugal against Spain at the 2018 World Cup and his late winner for Real Madrid against FC Barcelona in 2012 spring to mind.
Saturday night's stunning hat-trick against Tottenham Hotspur might be his greatest individual acheivement on the field.
Going into the weekend, Ronaldo had scored just once since the turn of the year. After missing last week's embarrassing derby defeat to Manchester City, he flew off to Portugal without telling his manager, intensifying rumors that he was going to leave Old Trafford this summer just one season after sealing a sensational return to the club at which he made his name.
But with his and United's backs against the wall, Ronaldo, in typical fashion, stepped up to the plate with a performance for the ages that not only restored the club's hopes of a top four Premier League finish, but also saw him become the greatest goalscorer in the history of soccer.
I was on-hand to watch and it was a moment I will never forget. I was at Old Trafford as part of a trip to Manchester to interview club legends Wes Brown and John O'Shea, who are ambassadors for the club's partnership with Marriott Bonvoy.
The 76,000 seat stadium was tense before kick-off, an eery quietness running around the stands as the stadium prepared to welcome a Spurs team which had recently proven itself to be sublime and substandard in equal measure.
United itself had also endured a mix bag of recent form mostly due to defensive mishaps provided by club captain Harry Maguire.
Confidence that Ralf Rangnick's men would be able to shut-out Spurs' impressive front-free of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, and Dejan Kulusevski was low, with Maguire being jeered as his name was read out by the stadium announcer.
United fans knew that if their team was to take anything from the game, it would have to outscore Spurs by penetrating its leaky defence, and with Marcus Rashford misfiring and Edinson Cavani on the bench, the supporters knew the man for the job.
"Number seven, Cristiano Ronaldo!" said the announcer, elongating every syllable for maximum effect, prompting applause from every stand and chants of the 37-year-old's name from those in the Stretford End.
Old Trafford was setting the scene for its prodigal son to deliver, and he did just that.
After just 12 minutes, Ronaldo opened the scoring with a superb strike from just outside the penalty box. He celebrated in trademark style and the fans copied, 70,000 screaming "SUIIII" in unison.
Harry Kane leveled the scores from the penalty spot on 35 minutes after Alex Telles' handball, but just three minutes later, Ronaldo found the net again, tapping home the excellent Jadon Sancho's low cross.
The goal was the 806th of Ronaldo's career and saw him move one ahead of Czech striker Josef Bican's haul of 805 in the fiercely-debated battle to be soccer's greatest ever goalscorer.
The pace of the action died down after the break, but when Maguire turned the ball into his own net to make it 2-2, it was all stations go for United, which needed a win to keep itself in the race for Champions League soccer next season.
Rangnick played his final hand as he subbed defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic for Cavani and Rashford for youngster Anthony Elanga, who had scored twice in his last five games.
But it was Ronaldo who proved to be the German coach's ace, jumping highest to head home the winner with nine minutes left.
Old Trafford erupted, with chants of "VIVA RONALDO!" echoing from every corner of the iconic stadium.
—Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 13, 2022
After the match, Rangnick called Ronaldo's performance his best since he took over as manager interim manager in November.
"Since I arrived it was his best performance," Rangnick said. "Not only because he scored three goals, two brilliant goals.
"He was also energetically really good today. He was part of the whole team when we had to defend, and we had to defend a lot. So, a top performance by him."
Rangnick's assessment of Ronaldo's exploits, however, were modest to say the least. His performance against Spurs wasn't just the best of the season, it was among the best of his career, not only because it saw him break a record that is unlikely to ever be surpassed again, but because it was quintessential Ronaldo.
With the cards stacked against him, he leapt highest, both physically and metaphorically, at the final hour to prove that he remains on the pantheon of the world's best players and that he isn't ready to step down just yet.
Insider's trip to Old Trafford was facilitated by Marriott Bonvoy, as part of its partnership with Manchester United.
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