Cristiano Ronaldo passed the 800-goal mark for club and country, scoring twice as Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-2 in an incident-packed Premier League match on Thursday.

United, with Michael Carrick on the bench as caretaker manager, were watched by their new interim manager Ralf Rangnick and after the match, Carrick announced he was leaving the club.

Carrick, who said the decision was “100%” his own, was unbeaten in his three matches in charge of the team after taking over following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last month.

United’s fans paid tribute to Solskjaer before the game with a banner in the Stretford End declaring “20-Legend” – a reference to the Norwegian’s old shirt number.

But it was another legend, Ronaldo, who took centre stage during an end-to-end game.

Arsenal took the lead in bizarre fashion in the 13th minute when from a corner United keeper David De Gea went down clutching his foot after he was stood on by teammate Fred and Emile Smith Rowe drilled a shot into the unguarded goal from the edge of the box.

As referee Martin Atkinson had not blown his whistle before the ball went into the net and no foul had taken place, the goal stood.

United’s protests were to no avail but they fought back on to level terms a minute before the interval through a Bruno Fernandes strike after a delightful back-heeled set-up from Fred.

Ronaldo put United in front in the 52nd when Diogo Dalot found Marcus Rashford on the right and the winger’s low cross was clinically converted for the Portuguese forward’s 800th goal.

The Gunners struck back quickly through Martin Odegaard who arrived on the edge of the box to guide home a fine low ball from Gabriel Martinelli.

But Ronaldo notched the winner from the penalty spot after Atkinson went to the pitchside monitor and ruled that Fred had been brought down by Odegaard.

United climbed to seventh in the table, two points and two places below Arsenal and a massive 12 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Bruno Fernandes has explained why he let Cristiano Ronaldo take Manchester United’s winning penalty against Arsenal on Thursday night.

The Portuguese midfielder says he was happy to leave the responsibility to his compatriot after missing his last effort in United’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on September 25.

“We didn’t have a chat. I missed the last one so I trust him in the same way I trust myself,” Fernandes told BBC Sport after the game.

“It was time for Cristiano to take the penalty because I took the last one and missed it. It doesn’t matter who gets on the penalty.”

“Every win is important. It’s been hard for us. Today we got a great win. We can be satisfied because we beat Arsenal,” Fernandes said.

Carrick, a former United midfielder, announced his decision immediately after the final whistle, bringing a close to his 15 years at the club.

“It’s not been an easy decision to make but I feel it’s the right one. I was going to take time off after I finished playing and it never happened. It feels like the right time to step away and what a way to finish,” Carrick said in a statement.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta saw positives in his team’s performance but thought they defended poorly.

“If you concede three goals at Old Trafford it is difficult to get a result. I was disappointed with the goals that we conceded,” he said.

“There were a lot of things that I liked In the game. I liked the behaviour of individuals. When you score two goals at Old Trafford you expect to get something from the game and that is a regret, but that is our fault. That is what happens against this quality of opponent.”

Cristiano Ronaldo – Still, the best in the world

Ronaldo’s double took him to 130 goals across two spells for United, adding to five for Sporting Lisbon, 450 for Real Madrid, 101 for Juventus and 115 for Portugal.

There is no central database to establish football’s all-time top scorer, but Ronaldo certainly tops the charts for official games at a high level.

The Czech football association says Josef Bican, who played in Czechoslovakia and Austria, scored 821 goals in official matches. Elsewhere his tally is placed at 805 – but those include reserve-team and non-official international goals.

Brazil legends Pele and Romario separately claim to have scored more than 1,000 goals each but filter out friendlies and those numbers drop down to the 700s.

Unofficial statisticians RSSSF say Pele (769), Romario and Ferenc Puskas (both 761) are the players nearest to Ronaldo at the elite end of football.

Lionel Messi is next on 756 goals for Argentina (80), Barcelona (672) and Paris St-Germain (four).

Ronaldo has scored more than 20 goals against five teams, all Spanish – Sevilla (27), Atletico Madrid (25), Getafe (23) and Barcelona and Celta Vigo (20 each).

He has hit double figures against 19 sides, including Tottenham (11).

He has now scored eight against Arsenal.

CR7 – The modern-day Legend

It’s worth recapping just how Ronaldo has become the top-scoring active men’s player in world football ahead of world-class strikers like Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and even Lionel Messi.

After joining United from Sporting in 2003 as a wiry winger with a penchant for flashy tricks, over the next six years Ronaldo converted himself into a ruthless goal-scoring machine, so much so that even teammates Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez – each one a top-drawer forward in his own right – adapted their own roles to fully support the apex of the United attack. In 2007-08, the season United won the second of three consecutive Premier League titles and the Champions League final, Ronaldo scored 42 goals in 49 appearances for the club and won his first Ballon d’Or.

By the time he joined Real Madrid in 2009 for a then-world record fee of £80 million, he was the complete package. In his nine years at the Bernabeu Ronaldo scored at a rate of more than a goal a game as he won 15 trophies including two La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues. And his goalscoring figures weren’t simply padded out with late goals to put the gloss on comfortable wins over LaLiga’s lesser lights — he scored plenty of goals when they mattered most against the best opposition, in the biggest games. No wonder he collected another four Ballon d’Or trophies before leaving Los Blancos in 2018.

At Juventus he continued his prodigious scoring rate, netting a goal every 1.33 games during his three seasons in Turin, which garnered him five trophies including two Serie A titles. His shock return to Manchester United in the summer did not do anything to knock his scoring form, with his goals coming at roughly the same rate back in England as he has extended his record tally for Champions League goals to 136 goals.

And let’s not forget his international exploits. Since making his senior debut for Portugal in 2003, Ronaldo has helped his country win the European Championship (in which he is the all-time top scorer) in 2016 and the UEFA Nations League finals (in which he is the all-time top scorer) in 2019, and broke Ali Daei’s long-standing world record for goals scored in men’s internationals with his 110th strike in September.

How long Ronald could keep playing?

Despite the mid-30s generally being regarded as the “twilight years” in the standard professional football career, Ronaldo has adapted remarkably well to keep playing at the top level as he has aged. He will turn 37 next February, but retirement doesn’t appear to be an imminent concern. For one thing, he signed a contract at Manchester United until the end of the 2022-23 season when he returned to Old Trafford, with the option of a further year that would take him past his 39th birthday were he to take it up.

Indeed, Ronaldo has actually stated on several occasions in the recent past that he plans to play on until he turns 40, should his body allow him the privilege. Around his 35th birthday last year, he told Marca:

“Much will depend on what I feel, on my motivation. Physically it will never be a problem. I am treating myself well and I think can play safely for up to 40 years.”

“The most important factor, honestly, will be more psychological – that will be the one that makes the difference.”

“In any case, everything has a beginning and an end. I won’t last a lifetime but I still feel strong enough to continue winning. I will stop if I have no incentives.”

Fernando Santos, who as Portugal coach has won the 2016 European Championship and the 2019 UEFA Nations League with Ronaldo as his captain, doesn’t disagree, telling TVI24:

“Cristiano is ready to play until he’s 40, but he doesn’t know if it will happen. At some point, he may feel that he no longer has the same conditions.”

“He’s not a player who will lower his level, when he feels like he can’t be Ronaldo, he won’t.”

He might not be as quick as he used to be, but Ronaldo remains in the prime physical condition and is rarely injured.

He might not be as quick as he used to be, but Ronaldo remains in the prime physical condition and is rarely injured.

Given that he’s just scored his 800th career goal a little over two years since he scored his 700th – on Oct. 14, 2019, during a 2-1 loss in Ukraine – it is eminently plausible he could reach four figures before he calls it quits. It’s certainly a big ask, but if anybody’s up for the challenge, it’s Cristiano.

Like a fine Madeira wine, he is improving with age. In fact, he has actually become more prolific in the goal-scoring stakes since he turned 30.

Can Ronaldo keep scoring at the same rate?

While not overly scientific, here ESPN FC gauges the possibility of Ronaldo successfully hitting the 1,000-goal mark before the end of his career by examining a few different metrics. First and foremost, there’s every chance he’ll play on past 40 given his unflinching commitment to fitness, personal conditioning and professional motivation.

As things stand, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 801 senior goals for club and country combined. This official count does not include his goals for Sporting B at the very start of his career or his international appearances at youth level, which include two goals scored for Portugal’s under-23s at the 2004 Olympics.

As far as Ronaldo is concerned, goals have never been hard to find. In fact, they’ve been scored with clockwork-like regularity throughout his 19-year professional career. Since he left Manchester United for Real Madrid as a 24-year-old in 2009, his goal-scoring rate has never once dropped below one goal every 2.5 games for any club.

From the very start of his career onward, it’s taken Ronaldo roughly two calendar years to score 100 goals. That said, he rocketed from 400 to 500 career goals in the space of just 662 days (one year, nine months, 24 days) between January 2014 and October 2015 during the very height of his goal-scoring heroics at Real Madrid. Another ludicrously prolific purple patch like that and Ronaldo might well be ticking over into four figures sooner than anticipated.

Ronaldo and penalties

From 11 penalties in his first 100 goals to 29 of them between 701 and 800, spot-kicks have proved to be an invaluable and consistent source of goals for Ronaldo. So much so that his second of the night against Arsenal, and his 801st in his career overall, was scored from the penalty spot — the 142nd time he has converted a spot-kick.

Some might use this as a reason to denigrate and debunk his goal tally, but as the old footballing adage goes: they all count the same.

If he continues as designated taker for club and country, Ronaldo will be guaranteed at least 10 goals per year – which roughly contributes 40 more goals toward his projected end-of-career tally, at the minimum.

The less said about his free-kick conversion rate, the better.

Can Ronaldo reach 1000 goals?

During his last three full, uninterrupted seasons (2017-18, 2018-19 and 2020-21), Ronaldo has maintained a rough average of 47 goals in 55 games in all competitions per campaign. As there were no international fixtures played between November 2019 and September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not included the 2019-20 season in the average.

If the 36-year-old Ronaldo were to consistently score at this rate for the next four years until the age of 40, he’d score 190 goals in 220 games for club and country. If we add these 190 prospective goals to his current tally of 801, we see that Ronaldo would fall narrowly short of scoring 1,000 career goals (801 +190 = 991 goals).

Still, there is nothing to suggest that he could not raise his scoring game to another level while playing in the Premier League and Champions League for United. After that, he could move to a club in another European League or even move further afield to a league where he finds goals easier to come by.

When it comes to Ronaldo and his sporting ambitions, experience tells us it’s best to not bet against him achieving the impossible.


Courtesy: ESPN and BBC


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