Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits signing Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester United was a mistake

Sean McCormick
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Cristiano Ronaldo

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted signing Cristiano Ronaldo as Manchester United manager was a mistake – although he insists it was the right decision at the time.

Ronaldo re-joined the Red Devils for a second spell in the summer of 2021, having developed into the best player in world football during his first spell at the club under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson.

He returned to the club having cemented himself as one of the greatest players of all time, albeit 36-years-old and in the twilight of his career.

So when the opportunity came for Solskjaer, who played with Ronaldo during his first spell at Manchester United, to sign him ahead of rivals Man City, he jumped at it.

Solskjaer outlines Ronaldo problems at Manchester United

Ronaldo still scored 22 goals that season, and his eye for goal certainly was not lost. But Solskjaer has admitted they had to tweak the way they played with the Portuguese international in the side.

It was this issue, as well as managing his game-time at Old Trafford, that caused issues before Solskjaer left the club midway through the season.

“It was a very quick decision. We didn’t think Cristiano was available and that he was going to move,” Solskjaer told the Stick to Football podcast.

Topic starts 36:20

“When it became apparent that he was leaving Juventus, obviously there were other clubs that wanted him – but I was excited. They [United] asked me: ‘Would you want us to try this?’.

“I said yes – obviously we know Cristiano is quality, and he’s 37, but we have to manage – he’s the best goal scorer in the world. It didn’t work out for me, it didn’t work out for Cristiano, but it was the right decision at the time.

“We started off straight away thinking how we are going to press and change the little tweaks. Cristiano is different to Antony Martial who was up front, or whether we would play Mason [Greenwood] or Marcus [Rashford] up front.

“Edinson Cavani was the one that suffered the most when Cristiano came in – we’d played and got Edinson into a certain way of understanding the way we played.

“Cristiano – when you know him and speak to him, he wanted to play three out of four games, he realised he’s getting older as well. But when you leave him out once, he’s not happy.

“With the ball, with him in the team, it was no problem. Without him [pressing], we had to change a little bit the different roles we’d gotten used to. We were one of the highest pressing teams before [Ronaldo joined].

“We let Dan James go when Cristiano came in, and they’re two different types of players. It was the right decision to make for me – it didn’t turn out to be the right one.”

Solskjaer and Ronaldo’s mutual respect

“Part of signing Cristiano Ronaldo was getting that passion from him, but that did have its complications.

“You’ve got Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, who can learn from Cristiano as he’s the best, the most disciplined and he’s been the best player in the world, and you think he’s going to help them.

“When he arrived at the club, he told me to start him for three games in a row, and then put me on the bench for the fourth game, but he’s so passionate so when I did that, he didn’t like it.

“When I was manager of Manchester United, I can’t remember too many problems from Cristiano Ronaldo.

“It was the game against Everton when he walked straight off the pitch after I brought him on as a substitute, but there were more problems with him after I had left the club.

“I had a good relationship with Cristiano and there’s loads of respect between us. I think he behaved really well in his disappointments when I was there.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjær was speaking on the Stick to Football podcast, brought to you by Sky Bet.

About The Author

Sean McCormick is the Sports Editor at Dexerto. He has a BA in Sports Journalism and over the last seven years has worked as a writer, reporter and an editor across titles such as Chronicle Live, Leeds Live and Manchester Evening News covering the region's football clubs and sports stars. Sean loves football, boxing, MMA, darts and NBA. You can email him here: sean.mccormick@dexerto.com