Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Manchester United claimed a 3-2 win over Norwich on Saturday to take advantage of defeats for Arsenal and Tottenham in the race for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Spurs’ winning run was brought to an abrupt halt by a 1-0 home defeat by Brighton, while the Gunners were beaten 1-0 at Southampton to slump to a third consecutive loss.
Ronaldo’s 50th club hat-trick tempered a revolt among the fanbase at Old Trafford as United move above Arsenal into fifth on goal difference, three points behind Tottenham.
There was unrest among the United fans before the game even began as many did not come into the stadium until the 17th minute to protest against the 17 years of the Glazer family’s ownership of the club.
Those late to take their seats missed Ronaldo’s first goal of the afternoon as he swept home Anthony Elanga’s cross.
The 37-year-old then powered home Alex Telles’ corner for his 20th goal of the season despite United’s struggles.
However, the Red Devils’ defensive problems were laid bare by the bottom-of-the-table Canaries who had scored just 20 goals in their previous 31 league games.
Kieran Dowell halved the arrears in first-half stoppage time before Teemu Pukki levelled seven minutes into the second half.
David de Gea then had to produce a brilliant save to deny Pukki completing the comeback.
United players were then met with chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”, with Paul Pogba singled out for abuse when he was substituted.
But Ronaldo had the final say when his free-kick flew through the grasp of Tim Krul 14 minutes from time to set up a huge week for United.
Ralf Rangnick’s men face a daunting trip to Liverpool on Tuesday before facing Arsenal next weekend.
“Ronaldo has scored three very important goals for us,” said De Gea.
“We know we aren’t playing very well but we got three points. We should control the game more against Norwich at home.”