Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice – including the 800th goal of his career – as new interim boss Ralf Rangnick watched Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-2 in an incident-packed encounter at Old Trafford.
The Gunners got their reward for a lively opening but it came in strange circumstances as Emile Smith Rowe volleyed into an open goal on 13 minutes with David de Gea lying prone in the United six-yard area.
The Spanish stopper received treatment for a minor collision with his own team-mate, Fred, and following a lengthy delay referee Martin Atkinson had no choice but to award the goal as there was no obvious infringement involving a visiting player.
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United were furious but improved as the half wore on and Bruno Fernandes marked his 100th appearance for the club with a smart first-time finish following a neat move down the left.
The hosts suddenly looked far more threatening and stole in front on 52 minutes when Ronaldo grabbed a landmark goal with a lethal first-time finish. However, the lead only lasted a couple of minutes as Martin Odegaard swept a similar effort into the far corner to drag Mikel Arteta’s men level.
United refused to be denied though and Ronaldo stepped up to convert a penalty 20 minutes from time to ensure caretaker boss Michael Carrick, who said afterwards he will leave the club, signed off undefeated.
The result means United move up to seventh while Arsenal stay fifth and miss the chance to break into the top four.
Next up, the Red Devils host Crystal Palace on Sunday while Arsenal visit Everton on Monday night.
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates
Image credit: Getty Images
Ronaldo shows Rangnick just what he can do in an early December cracker. There have been some crazy Premier League goals over the years – and Smith-Rowe’s is very much a ‘what happened next’ candidate for quizzes of the future. It was truly bizarre and looked like being the major talking point – until the second half happened.
Ronaldo decided he wanted the headlines and helped himself to a brace and another milestone. It was typical of the Portuguese star’s timing with plenty of talk suggesting he wouldn’t fit into Rangnick’s philosophy, and of course, the 36-year-old superstar begged to differ.
The Red Devils' interim boss may have been wondering what he had let himself in for as United started slowly, but he got a real taste of the high-octane passion of the Premier League in the second half as he watched on from the stands after having his work permit approved.
There is obviously plenty of work for him to do in the weeks and months ahead but United are just three points off the top four despite their recent travails and there is certainly a much more positive vibe around the club now – and the departing Carrick deserves some real credit for that after securing solid results in his three matches in charge of team affairs.
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MAN OF THE MATCH
Cristiano Ronaldo (Man United). The forward made the significant contributions as United came from behind to claim an impressive win. The fact he netted a landmark goal and responded in style to being benched at Chelsea says much about his mentality and ability to produce when it matters most.
Man Utd: De Gea 5, Dalot 6, Lindelof 6, Maguire 7, Telles 7, Fred 7, McTominay 8, Sancho 6, Bruno Fernandes 7, Rashford 7, Ronaldo 8. Subs: Martial n/a, Lingard n/a, Van de Beek n/a.
Arsenal: Ramsdale 7, Tomiyasu 6, White 6, Gabriel 6, Tavares 6, Partey 7, Elneny 6, Smith Rowe 7, Odegaard 6, Martinelli 6, Aubameyang 6. Subs: Saka 6, Lacazette 6, Nketiah 6.
13’ - GOAL! Man United 0-1 Arsenal (Smith Rowe): Smith-Rowe volleys home from 25 yards out after United failed to completely clear a corner. There's real drama though as De Gea was lying injured inside his six-yard box. The stopper receives treatment as replays show it was a coming together with his own player. There’s nothing wrong with the goal other than the keeper being down with a minor knock. Eventually, referee Martin Atkinson gives the goal – but United’s players aren’t happy!
43’ - GOAL! Man United 1-1 Arsenal (Fernandes): Old Trafford erupts as Fernandes side foots a first-time shot beyond Ramsdale after fine play on the left by Sancho and Fred.
52’ - GOAL! Man United 2-1 Arsenal (Ronaldo): It had to be him, didn't it? It's that man Ronaldo who finds a yard of space in the area to meet Rashford's low pass from the right and sweep a first-time effort beyond Ramsdale. Just the 800th goal of his career – incredible!
54’ - GOAL! Man United 2-2 Arsenal (Odegaard): Odegaard slots a low shot from just inside the area into the far corner after Martinelli picked him out with a lovely cross from the right.
70’ - GOAL! Man United 3-2 Arsenal (Ronaldo): Ronaldo lashes a penalty down the middle to snare the 801st goal of his career. The spot kick was awarded after the referee was asked to check the monitor by VAR following a poorly-timed challenge from Odegaard on Fred.
- Emile Smith Rowe (21y, 127d) is now the second-youngest goal scorer for Arsenal in the Premier League at Old Trafford, after Nicolas Anelka in February 1999 (19y & 340d).
- Ronaldo scored the 800th goal of his professional career for club and country - and then netted his 801st (130 for Man Utd, 5 for Sporting, 450 Real Madrid, 101 Juventus, 115 Portugal).
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