‘Never seen anything so extraordinary’: Bizarre goal in Man Utd-Arsenal game as Ronaldo reaches new landmark
Cristiano Ronaldo breached the 800-goal mark in his career as the Portugal star netted a double for Manchester United against Arsenal in a game which also saw an extraordinary VAR incident when the Gunners opened the scoring.
On an incident-packed night at Old Trafford, Ronaldo won the game for the hosts when he drove in a penalty in the 70th minute.
That was his second of the game, after the Portugal star had earlier given United a 2-1 the lead in the 52nd minute only to see it canceled out by Martin Odegaard two minutes later.
It was the Gunners who had opened the scoring through Emile Smith Rowe in the 13th minute before United struck back through Bruno Fernandes just before half time.
Ronaldo’s double took him to 801 goals in his remarkable career – which according to records makes him the first player to surpass the 800 mark in top-level football.
The tally includes five goals at boyhood club Sporting Lisbon, 130 across his two spells for United, a record 450 at Real Madrid, 101 for Juventus, and 115 for Portugal – which is a record in men’s international football.
The all-time leading scorer in men’s football history is a source of contention due to sketchy records from past years, but Ronaldo is believed to head the charts in official top-level matches, even if the likes of Brazil legend Pele apparently scored more than 1,000 goals during his playing days.
Our minds are already set on the next game, there’s no time to celebrate! Today’s win was very important to get back on track, but there’s still a long road to go until we reach our destination… Congrats to all my teammates, great spirit tonight! 🙏🏽💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/XUFsOOGlws— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) December 2, 2021
Thursday’s landmark for Ronaldo was just one aspect of a remarkable game.
The opening goal from Arsenal’s Smith Rowe came in contentious circumstances after the midfielder sent the ball into the United net while goalkeeper David de Gea was down injured.
The Spaniard’s teammate Fred had trodden on his foot as they prepared to defend a corner, sending De Gea to the ground. The ball was cleared from the box but came back to Smith Rowe, who fired home his effort from just outside the box.
Referee Atkinson did not blow his whistle during the incident and was possibly unaware that De Gea was grounded. He did blow after the ball had gone in, suggesting he originally intended to rule out the goal but after a VAR review of just over three minutes it was allowed to stand because it was Fred who had accidentally injured his teammate rather than an opposition player.
For those that need to see it. Here's Fred stomping on De Gea's foot before the ESR volley in the Manchester United vs Arsenal game: pic.twitter.com/DRYC1wIEcZ— Has the Referee or VAR made a poor decision? (@PoorEPLreferees) December 2, 2021
Fans and TV pundits described the scenes as bizarre, with former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg saying he had never witnessed anything like it.
“I've never seen anything quite as extraordinary as this,” Clattenburg said. “Martin Atkinson was powerless. His feeling would have been that there was a foul but you can't blow your whistle until the ball goes in the goal.
“He didn’t see De Gea down. Martin isn’t looking at the keeper and it’s only when Smith Rowe is striking the ball that he looks and thinks ‘why is De Gea down?’ Then he will have thought there was a foul.”
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta also said it was an unusual goal.
“I've never seen anything like that, but that is the decision from the referee and VAR checked it and it was a goal,” said the Gunners boss.
Arsenal score after De Gea goes down by himself after being stepped on by Fred 🤯One of the strangest goals we've ever seen. pic.twitter.com/2E0yulACxP— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 2, 2021
Thierry Henry on Smith Rowe scoring in an empty net: "The last time I saw that was when I was 11-years old & my goalkeeper had gone for a sandwich & left his goal. We all turned & we were 1-0 down." [@primevideosport] #afcpic.twitter.com/0lI5JPvAP5— afcstuff (@afcstuff) December 2, 2021
Adding to the drama after the final whistle, caretaker Manchester United manager Michael Carrick announced that he was leaving the club.
Incoming interim manager Ralf Rangnick, formerly head of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow, was in the stands on Thursday and is set to take to over for the Premier League game against Crystal Palace on Sunday after receiving a work permit.
“After a lot of thought and deliberation, I have decided that now is the right time for me to leave,” said Carrick, 40, who took charge temporarily after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked last month.
Previously a member of the coaching staff, Carrick presided over three games as caretaker boss – a 2-0 Champions League win at Villarreal which booked United’s place in the knockout stages, a 1-1 Premier League draw with Chelsea, and Thursday’s win against Arsenal.
Carrick was a longtime servant for United, spending 12 years at the club as a player before joining the coaching staff.
Ragnick, 63, is widely respected in football circles for the work he did in Germany and has been handed a six-month deal until the end of the season as well as a two-year advisory role beyond that.
Thursday’s victory lifted United to seventh in the Premier League table, three points off the top four.