On a day of demonstrations against the Glazer family, Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick rescued Manchester United’s blushes as they battled relegation-threatened Norwich.
Green and gold fireworks filled the air before kickoff on Saturday, along with cries against the long-despised owners, with hundreds attending the protest organized by 1958, a newly created fan organization.
Anti-Glazer chanting rang out during an Old Trafford match that seemed to be heading to a stalemate until goals from Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki canceled out Ronaldo’s brace.
“You’re not fit to wear the jersey,” some said, only for star man Ronaldo to fire home a magnificent 25-yard free-kick and secure a hard-fought 3-2 victory against the Canaries.
Ralf Rangnick’s side’s first victory in five weeks was hardly a thunderous reaction to last week’s loss at Everton, but surprising losses at Tottenham and Arsenal on Saturday have given United’s top-four aspirations fresh life.
Dean Smith’s rock-bottom Canaries, on the other hand, watched their prospects of avoiding the drop shrink as Ronaldo proved their undoing on a day when off-field rage dominated the pre-match buzz.
Before the game, the demonstrators made their opinions known, with a handful of supporters lingering outside until the 17th minute — one minute for each year of the Glazers’ control.
Those inside Old Trafford were vocal from the start, as the team continued following an early Pukki opportunity that David De Gea saved.
Early chances came from Anthony Elanga, Jadon Sancho, and Ronaldo for the attack-minded hosts, who forced Norwich into a costly seventh-minute error.
Elanga has been a rare bright light for the Old Trafford giants this season, and his pushing led to him stealing the ball from a panicked Ben Gibson before squaring for Ronaldo to calmly slot home.
Jesse Lingard, Diogo Dalot, and Sancho all had chances as United’s assault continued, with chanting against the Glazers echoing throughout Old Trafford.
As United pressed for a second goal, Tim Krul wonderfully stopped Lingard at the near post, with Ronaldo leaping over Gibson to head home Alex Telles’ set-piece in the 32nd minute.
Ronaldo sent an ambitious overhead kick over the bar against a Norwich team that had generated little, only to be outmaneuvered on the stroke of half-time.
Pukki passed inside to Dimitris Giannoulis, and United somehow missed the Finland forward’s dash inside, as well as Dowell’s surge to the back post, where he headed home unchallenged.
It was a stomach blow at the conclusion of a mostly one-sided first half, and Krul stopped Lingard’s brilliantly executed volley from restoring United’s two-goal lead early in the second half.
Norwich made no changes at halftime and seemed to be boosted by Dowell’s goal, but the roles were inverted when City rocked Old Trafford in the 52nd minute.
Goalscorer became provider when Dowell sent Pukki through, who kept his calm before firing past De Gea and in off the near post.
The goal was certified following a VAR review for offside, and Milot Rashica’s 20-yard shot would have turned the game on its head if De Gea hadn’t made a wonderful one-handed save that deflected his 20-yard effort wide.
Ronaldo’s header from a Telles corner was saved, and Dowell tried his luck from a distance as both sides continued to press.
Some United supporters booed, and Norwich smelled blood, as Rashica was stopped by Dalot before Sam Byram scored.