Four things Rangnick got right as Ronaldo hat-trick sees Man Utd beat Tottenham

Cristiano Ronaldo’s spectacular hat-trick saw Manchester United move back into the top four with a vital 3-2 home victory over Tottenham Hotspur. Ralf Rangnick looked destined for another frustrating evening at Old Trafford, as Antonio Conte’s side twice came back from a goal behind to level the contest.

Ronaldo spectacularly ended his recent goal drought, accepting a neat flick from Fred, before launching a majestic 30 yard effort past a helpless Hugo Lloris. However, any excitement generated from the Portuguese wizard’s moment of brilliance was subdued 23 minutes later, when Harry Kane lashed home an equaliser from the penalty spot after Alex Telles handled Dejan Kulusevski’s cross.

On multiple occasions this season, United have disintegrated after losing a lead but Ronaldo stepped up and put United in the ascendency again, slotting home Jadon Sancho’s well measured cross, after Nemanja Matic freed the Englishman down the left wing. But United captain Harry Maguire, whose performances have been heavily scrutinised, looked to have lost the points, after he unfortunately diverted Sergio Reguilon's cross into his own net.

However, Ronaldo came to rescue the points, and perhaps United's Champions League hopes, as he rose highest to head Telles' out-swinging corner into the roof of the net.

Daily Star sport considers four things Ralf Rangnick got right after Ronaldo inspired United to a priceless victory, and one thing he got wrong.

What Rangnick got right…

Ronaldo's deeper position

Former Juventus and Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri once stated his decision to regularly deploy Ronaldo as a centre-forward was ‘absurd’. Well, the Portuguese ace’s position may have been ‘absurd’ but his impact was absolutely seismic.

Ronaldo dropped between the Tottenham midfield and defence, before lashing a 25-yard thunderbolt into Hugo Lloris’ top right-hand corner.

While the sight of Ronaldo pile-driving long shots into the top corner is hardly alien, the 37-year-old has been more of a penalty box poacher ever since he returned to the club.

However, Fernandes’ absence seemed to liberate Ronaldo from the penalty area, as he regularly looked for space just in front of Tottenham’s backline. If this was a tactical ploy from Rangnick or the special kind of ingenuity that can only come from experience, it was an excellent and devastating move for Ronaldo.

Advanced Paul Pogba

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Pogba’s deployment just behind Ronaldo was the second big surprise of at Old Trafford – the first was the Frenchman’s no-nonsense zero all over haircut. Bruno Fernandes’ absence through illness likely motivated Rangnick’s decision to push the Frenchman further forward than he is normally accustom to.

Pogba’s tends to operate from a much deeper position, where he has the time to control the ball, consider the options ahead of him, before executing the pass. And it proved to be a masterstroke from Rangnick as the former Juventus ace was a composed, but creative figure in what was a very hectic area of the pitch.

Tottenham's defence struggled to keep tabs on Pogba, as he constantly switched positions, linking up with Sancho, Marcus Rashford, and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as dropping deeper to create space for the latter.

Fernandes will likely cruise back into his favoured position in the next match, but Pogba demonstrated that he can be a threat in the more advanced areas off the pitch.

Majestic Matic

Another tactical decision which was likely forced by Fernandes’ unfortunate absence. Nemanja Matic filled the significant void departed by Scott McTominay, who was ruled out of the contest by a positive Coronavirus test.

The experienced Serbian was counterbalanced by the more dynamic Fred, who main role was to press the Tottenham midfield and look to win the ball back high up the pitch.

And it was Matic’s perfectly measured pass down Tottenham’s right flank that freed Jadon Sancho and enabled him to cut the ball back for Ronaldo to slot home his second goal of the game.

Starting Rashford

Marcus Rashford seemingly entered into Old Trafford with a little bit of a dark cloud hovering above him. As well as regular scrutinisation into his performances, the Englishman’s future at United dominated the headlines in the build up to this fierce contest.

But while Rashford’s influence in the attacking third was minimal, the United academy ace made up for it with some vital contributions in the defensive phase.

Conte’s expansive 3-4-3 formation meant United’s right flank had to deal with the explosiveness of Son Heung-Min as well as the marauding runs of wing-back Sergio Reguilon.

And United full-back Diogo Dalot was very rarely isolated, as Rashford regularly tracked back to help the Portuguese international out in the defensive phase. Rashford’s attacking impetus may not be as sharp as previous seasons, but his work rate and determination should not be overlooked.

What Rangnick got wrong…

United’s leaky defence

Considering United’s recent difficulties, this was a very positive display from the Red Devils.

However, their leaky defence came back to haunt them again, as the backline was completely bypassed for Tottenham’s equaliser.

While Maguire’s own goal will see his performance immediately thrust back under the microscope, Reguilon should not have been afforded the freedom, time and space he had to fire the ball across goal.

As the race for the top four looks set to go right down to the wire, these little details and errors could still cost the Reds this season.

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