Ole Gunnar Solskjaer never feared Cristiano Ronaldo would join Manchester City and welcomes the pressure brought by the Manchester United star’s return home.
The 36-year-old will make his second debut for the club in Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated Premier League clash with Newcastle at a rocking Old Trafford.
Ronaldo signed a two-year contract with the option of a further season when completing his deadline-day switch from Juventus, just days after United struck the blockbuster deal.
The news of that agreement sent shockwaves around the football world, especially as the forward was widely tipped to join rivals City – not that former team-mate Solskjaer was ever concerned about that.
“I don’t think there was any prospect of that,” the Norwegian said when asked about Ronaldo potentially heading to the Etihad Stadium. “I don’t think so.”
Whatever the truth is about the potential move to the blue side of Manchester, the Portugal international feels back where he belongs wearing the red number seven shirt.
United are a different club to the one he left in 2009 and have fallen behind crosstown rivals City in the trophy stakes since Sir Alex Ferguson bowed out as Premier League champion four years later.
Ronaldo’s return increases the pressure on Solskjaer to end that drought, with the Old Trafford giants without a trophy of any kind since 2017.
“That’s great,” he said of the pressure. “I’ve said it so many times. We knew we had to rebuild, we had to get players experience, get players minutes, play for Man United, because I felt we were at a low point.
“And now I am looking around the squad, the bench, the young players coming through, this is a team – I said it before we signed Cristiano – I don’t think anything is beyond these players.
“It is now we all focus on, go game by game, knowing that the challenge is there in the toughest league in the world, with two teams that have won the Champions League in the last few years, we know the competition is there.
“There is not a lot of room for errors. We need consistency, we know we need to improve on a few things.
“The pressure is a privilege. At Man United you want that pressure. As a player, coach or manager, if you want an easy life you go midtable somewhere.
“No, we want that pressure. We feel it but that makes you feel alive.”
While Solskjaer stressed that it is not as simple as Ronaldo turning United straight into title winners, he underlined the quality added by a star who “gives us another edge”.
The 1999 treble hero said his former team-mate “doesn’t want any special treatment”, although his quality from set-pieces does leave Solskjaer facing an interesting decision when it comes to penalties and free-kicks.
Bruno Fernandes has flourished with that responsibility since joining at the start of last year and Solskjaer has spoken to the playmaker and Ronaldo.
Asked if Ronaldo would be on penalties, Solskjaer said: “I knew that question was going to come and of course, I’ve had a chat with the two of them.
“We’ve got two players there that I’d trust with my life to put a penalty away and that’s a great position got be in.
“They’ll know via the conversations we’ve had and the conversations we’ll have before the games how we’re going to solve this.
“It’s going to be my decision what’ll happen. The two of them will keep on doing what they do when they’re asked to take the penalties.”
Put to Solskjaer that Fernandes and Marcus Rashford shared penalties at the start of last season, he added: “I’ve got Cristiano, Bruno, Marcus, I’ve got players I trust to score every time they step up to take a penalty.
“I’ve had this conversation, of course, and they know my position on it. They know that I decide who is going to shoot the penalty if we get one.
“That’s not going to cause an issue. We’re here to win together. It’s not about my numbers or your numbers. It’s about us as a team and the decision is going to be mine.”