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CRISTIANO Ronaldo is on course to topple George Best as United's most prolific goalscoring winger.

The 22-year-old's first ever Reds' hat-trick in the 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle takes the Portuguese international's season tally to 22.

That's just one short of his 2006-07 contribution and 10 behind Best's 1968 phenomenal haul of 32 in all competitions.

Best was Old Trafford's top scorer in four seasons in the 60s and 70s.

Ronaldo has beaten the Irish genius's 1971 tally, is one behind his haul from 1970, and four away from equalling his 1972 contribution.

Then he'll have that figure from 40 years ago in his sights.

Of course, United won the European Cup that term and Best was European Footballer of the Year.

But for now Ronaldo is more content that the champions are back on top of the Premiership.

"I am very proud and happy because I scored three important goals," he said.

Important

"But we need to focus on the fact we are top of the league. That's the most important thing.

"The team is very confident and we feel great. We are playing well. It is great for the spirit. It is fantastic. We are very confident and playing some fantastic football.

"In the second half, we were brilliant. We need to keep going like that."

Ronaldo had his match ball signed by all United's dressing room and it will now have pride of place in his home.

But Sir Alex Ferguson believes the winger could be making room for a few more.

"Cristiano was a very happy bunny in the dressing room," said the United manager.

"It is a good moment for the boy. He has scored two on many occasions. It has been coming and now he has broken it. We are all delighted for him.

"Who is to say he can't get many more hat-tricks for us "The way he is going, who is to say where he will finish up. He is improving all the time.

"A haul of 22 goals already is marvellous. We said in the summer `could he do it again?' I couldn't see why not.

"He is an improving player. He is showing more maturity. His decision-making is getting better all the time. His knowledge is getting better."
 
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