Manchester United survived bad luck, wasteful finishing and an inept refereeing performance to take all three points in a 2-1 win over West Ham at the London Stadium.
United dominated possession for long periods and, despite conceding a freakish opening goal, created the better chances in both halves.
However, Reds’ boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be justified in feeling that the outcome was reached despite some truly baffling decisions from ref Martin Atkinson.
The visitors dominated the opening exchanges and were almost rewarded when Bruno Fernandes‘ thumping drive was brilliantly tipped onto the post by Lukas Fabianski.
And yet, despite controlling the half for long periods, it was the home side who took the lead on the half-hour.
Within 5 minutes the visitors had equalised. The scorer should come as little surprise.
Fernandes’ in-swinging cross was met by Ronaldo, who notched his fourth goal in three games by stabbing past Fabianski at the second attempt.
As the match wore on, the energy levels began to drop and the home side seemed content to sit deep and counter. However, the lull was broken by a flurry of controversial moments in the last 15 minutes.
The first flash point came in the 76th minute, with the scores level and United probing for a winner.
Ronaldo jinked inside the flat-footed Vladimir Coufal, whose desperate last ditch tackle saw his flailing leg trip the Portuguese inside the penalty box.
Despite obvious contact and a failure to play the ball, neither the ref nor VAR saw any reason to scrutinise the challenge further and the Reds were denied a stonewall penalty and possible winner.
With two minutes remaining that lapse appeared moot, as substitute Jesse Lingard drifted into the box, cut inside Kurt Zouma and unleashed an absolute rocket into Fabianski’s top corner.
It seemed that the former Hammers’ loan star had returned to deliver the ironic, final knife twist of an entertaining game.
And yet, further drama would be breathed into the game’s dying embers. Within a minute of the goal, Ronaldo found himself the victim of another rash tackle in the box, this time from Kurt Zouma.
Again, Atkinson inexplicably waved play on.
Moments later Yarmolenko’s hopeful cross hit the outstretched hand of Shaw and, after a look at the screen, the home team succeeded where the visitors had twice failed, in being awarded a justified spot kick.
It was a chance for David De Gea to step up and erase the painful, lingering memories of that torturous Villareal defeat back in May.
And the Spaniard grabbed the chance to become the hero, leaping to his left to palm away specialist penalty substitute Mark Noble’s tamely taken effort.
The save sparked euphoria in the away dugout that spilled onto the pitch at the final whistle. In a game liberally sprinkled with talking points, it seems fitting that the last word should go to De Gea.
While the focus has been upon his high-profile teammates, the Spaniard has enjoyed something of a minor renaissance this season and appears to have risen to the challenge of being United’s Number one.
For the first time in over two seasons, United fans can once again proudly proclaim that ‘Dave saves!’.