Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s decision to use Cristiano Ronaldo as a substitute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Everton has been criticised by the Manchester United manager’s own mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ronaldo sat on the bench until the 57th minute. United were leading 1-0 when he came on, only for Everton to score an equaliser through Andros Townsend as United’s recent indifferent form continued.
In a video which emerged on Twitter Ferguson, who played a significant role in bringing Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, is heard to question Solskjær’s team selection.
Filmed talking to the former mixed martial arts champion and United fan Khabib Nurmagomedov in the directors’ lounge at Old Trafford after the Premier League match, Ferguson appears to suggest Ronaldo should have started.
“I also think that when they saw Ronaldo wasn’t playing …” says Ferguson. He is then interrupted by the Russian, who points out: “He came on in the second half.” Ferguson follows that up by saying: “Of course. But I also think that when they [Everton] saw Ronaldo wasn’t playing …”
United have won one of their last four matches, when Ronaldo scored a late winner in the Champions League against Villarreal last week. Questions have been raised about Solskjær’s continuing suitability as a successor to Ferguson, who managed the club to 13 Premier League titles and won the Champions League twice.
Solskjær, a player under Ferguson from 1996 to 2007, and United’s manager since December 2018, has made great play of his relationship with his former boss, frequently harking back to working under the Scot, 79, and now a director and club ambassador. As yet, he has been unable to lift a trophy, with United losing in last season’s Europa League final to Villarreal on penalties.
Mike Phelan, Ferguson’s assistant in his later years, has meanwhile been handed a new deal until June 2024, the length of his contract matching that of Solskjær, who signed a similar extension in July
Phelan returned to the club to work alongside Solskjær when the Norwegian replaced José Mourinho, initially as an interim appointment before the position was made permanent later in the 2018-19 season.
Handing Phelan that deal suggests the Glazer family ownership’s satisfaction with the current managerial setup, despite recent results. Ronaldo, a five-times Ballon d’Or winner, has scored five goals in six appearances since his return to the club he first played for from 2003 to 2009.