MANCHESTER: Cristiano Ronaldo's fifth goal in three games salvaged a point for Manchester United in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea on Thursday that further damaged his team's chances of a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Ronaldo ran onto a ball over the Chelsea defense from Nemanja Matic and delivered a clinical finish in the 62nd minute, two minutes after Marcos Alonso gave the visitors the lead.
Reece James later curled a shot against the post for Chelsea, who dominated the first half but found United goalkeeper David de Gea in fine form.
With only three games left to play in the league, United stayed in sixth place — five points behind fourth-place Arsenal and having played two matches more than its rival for Champions League qualification.
Tottenham is between the two teams, in the fifth spot, with three more points than United and two games in hand.
Chelsea consolidated third place and are six points above Arsenal.
Ronaldo came into the game having scored a hat trick against Norwich and another goal against Arsenal in his previous two games.
On 17 goals, Ronaldo is tied with Son Heung-min in second place in the Premier League scoring chart behind Mohamed Salah.
“Not only the goal Cristiano scored but his whole performance, his attitude at age of 37, this is not normal to do that," interim United manager Ralf Rangnick said. “If he plays like he did today he can still be a big help to this team.”
The buildup was dominated by reports that Rangnick was considering taking over as Austria's national team coach as well as more protests against the Glazer family’s ownership.
Some protesters entered Old Trafford in the 17th minute, having missed a minute for each of the Glazers’ 17 years in charge.
“Glazers out” read a banner above the tunnel before kickoff at Old Trafford, where a mixture of De Gea’s saves and poor-decision making meant Chelsea failed to turn their 11 shots into a deserved halftime lead.
Thomas Tuchel's team finally broke the deadlock when Alonso volleyed home following Kai Havertz's flick-on but Chelsea was unable to build on that.
United defender Victor Lindelof saw a stoppage-time header denied and the highlight of the closing stages was the introduction of 17-year-old talent Alejandro Garnacho for his United debut.
“One team deserved to win and that was us," Tuchel said. "We didn’t take it. It was a very, very good performance but we were not decisive enough. We lacked a bit of determination in the box to win the game.
“It sometimes happens. It’s on us to learn from it. You need to be clinical to get the reward. We have to live with a point but it’s not a fair result."