Why Ole Gunner Solksjaer regrets signing Cristiano Ronaldo for Man United

Former Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA

Former Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA

Published Mar 8, 2024


Former Man United manager Ole Gunner Solksjaer has opened up about his time at Old Trafford, saying he regrets signing his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Solksjaer said the decision to sign Cristiano was the correct one at the time, but in hindsight, he said it probably would have been best for the club and the five time Ballon D’or winner if the deal had never materialised.

Ole was speaking on Sky Bet’s Stick To Football podcast with former footballers Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Jamie Carragher, Ian Wright and Jill Scott.

Man United signed Cristiano from Italian club Juventus to block Pep Guardiola signing him from rivals Manchester City.

He flirted with Harry Kane and eventually landed Erling Haaland for the role after Gabriel Jesus was sold to Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta.

“It was the right decision to make for me, but it didn't turn out to be the right one,” the former Man United number 20 said of the CR7 signing.

The Norwegian also signed Raphael Varane from Real Madrid, Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and backup goalkeeper Tom Heaton on a free, in the northern hemisphere summer transfer window of 2021.

Man United had finished third the previous season and had been knocked out in the semi final of the FA Cup and also lost the final out of the Europa League to Villarreal through penalties.

At the time, Ole said it felt like the former United number seven was the missing piece in the puzzle to mount a serious title charge. He was wrong.

“It was a very quick decision, we didn't know he was going to move. When it became apparent he was leaving Juventus, obviously there were other clubs that wanted him, I was excited.

“The club asked me, would you want us to try this. So I said yes. Because obviously we know Cristiano, he's quality.

“We thought yeah he's 37, but we have the best goal scorer in the world.

“It was my decision, it didn't work out for me, it didn't work out for Cristiano, but it was the right decision at the time,” said Ole.

United were in good form when Cristiano Ronaldo arrived, having beaten Leeds United 5-1, won 1-0 away against Wolverhampton and drew 1-1 with Southampton.

Ronaldo scored a brace against Newcastle United on his second debut and it looked like he would fit in perfectly.

Cavani’s pain

Before CR7’s arrival, the team had started of as a high pressing team with a front three attack of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Antony Martial/Edinson Cavani through the middle.

“He was the one that suffered the most, Cavani, when Cristiano came in. We had played and got Edison into understanding the way we played.

“That first game you thought yeah it's gonna work, it's Cristiano. Obviously he wanted to play three out of four games, he's not happy when you leave him out,” said Ole.

Solksjaer admitted that out of possession, Cristiano did not press like the others.

“That was the biggest thing. We were one of the highest pressing teams. We had loads of energy,” he said.

Ole gets the sack

After a poor spell of games, including a 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool, a 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City and a 4-1 drubbing by Watford, former United chairman Ed Woodward fired Solksjaer, who still believed his side would have qualified for top four that season.

United ended the 2021/22 season sixth, under the management of interior manager Ralph Rangnick who famously recommended open heart surgery to fix the club - calling for about 10 players to be sold.

After failing to qualify for the Champions League, Ronaldo wanted a move away but the club and new manager Erik Ten Hag refused.

He was further frustrated when the new coach mainly played him off the bench. He gave an explosive interview to Piers Morgan, criticizing the low standards at the club, the coach and some of his teammates.

His contract was terminated by mutual consent and he signed for Saudi side Al Nassr on a staggering deal.