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EPL: Tottenham boss Conte still admires misfiring Ronaldo

Antonio Conte takes his Tottenham side to Old Trafford on Wednesday knowing that misfiring Cristiano Ronaldo still poses the biggest threat to his side.

Ronaldo fired Manchester United to a league double over Spurs last season, including a stunning hat-trick in the fixture at Old Trafford in March.

Ronaldo became the second oldest player to score a Premier League hat-trick behind former Tottenham and United striker Teddy Sheringham.

And Conte has not forgotten Ronaldo’s display in that game, declaring: “We lost to him, not United last season.”

It was arguably Ronaldo’s best all-round performance since his spectacular return to the club in 2021 and indicative of how he previously dragged Real Madrid to Champions League finals when all seemed bleak.

But those throwback moments have become few and far between, particularly this season, with boss Erik ten Hag banishing the Portuguese star to the bench following his failed move away from the club this summer.

Incredibly, Ronaldo scored more goals in that game against Tottenham alone than he has in his 12 appearances this term.

The 37-year-old has scored twice in all competitions, netting against Sheriff in the Europa League and Everton in the Premier League.

Whilst his stats don’t make for impressive reading, Conte will be plotting a way to stop Ronaldo from putting his side to the sword as he has so many times during his career.

At a time when many feel obliged to write off his impact, Conte knows the five-time Ballon d’Or winner still has the weapons to disrupt Spurs’ title ambitions.

“Last season he scored a hat-trick against us. We’re talking about an incredible player, a top player. We’re talking about a player who continues to make a difference for the team in which he plays,” Conte said ahead of the trip to Old Trafford.

“I have a lot of admiration for Cristiano, for his professionalism, but I hope he will remain calm, not like last season, when he scored three goals. We lost 3-2, but we lost to him, not to United last season. I remember that very well, because we played a very good game.”

Ronaldo’s influence on this fixture runs deep having scored eight Premier League goals against Spurs, including six in his last three games, meaning Conte’s side are his most prolific opponents.

His goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last October set a United side – under the gaze of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – on their way to a comfortable 3-0 win.

Ronaldo’s exploits that night plunged further doom and gloom on Spurs and as a result, Nuno Espirito Santo was relieved of his duties as manager.

But it was hardly rosy at Old Trafford at the time, United were thrashed 5-0 by Liverpool at Old Trafford the previous week and the vultures were circling for the Norwegian manager.

According to the Manchester Evening News, United were plotting a swoop for Conte but opted against it after Ronaldo opposed the move.

United chiefs were believed to have consulted the big players at the club in relation to the appointment of a new boss with Ronaldo reportedly blocking any move for the Italian.

The Red Devils’ loss was Tottenham’s gain as Ronaldo’s opener in the 3-0 win, led to Spurs appointing Conte whilst allowing Solskjaer more time to turn around the Red Devils’ underwhelming fortunes.

As a result, Conte took Spurs from ninth to the top four and they are a year ahead of United in their quest to close the gap on the title contenders and have Champions League football to boast.

Ronaldo was the difference-maker in the dugout last season and few would bet against him proving to be the scourge of Tottenham once more on Wednesday night.

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