Cristiano Ronaldo has been a problematic signing for Manchester United. Particularly in the last few weeks he has – finally, at 37 – begun to look his age. He would create tactical problems for any coach, especially one as devoted to gegenpressing as Ralf Rangnick. He is not the player he was. But though much was taken, much abides.
That this was only his second hat-trick for Manchester United is testament to how he has changed as a player. As he moved past Josef “Pepi” Bican in Fifa’s charts as the leading goalscorer of all time, it’s easy to forget that when he left Manchester United in 2009, he was not yet the goal machine he would become but rather a wide forward who would occasionally be deployed through the centre. It was only at Real Madrid that the goals came by the bucketload.
His three goals aga …