Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has no regrets over not starting Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Everton, which left his side with just two wins in six games.
Solskjaer opted for Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial at Old Trafford – it was the first time Ronaldo had been named on the bench in a Premier League game for United since May 2007 – claiming the team needed a refresh after their “physically and emotionally” tiring 2-1 win over Villarreal on Wednesday.
The decision looked vindicated when Martial gave United the lead just before half-time, and despite bringing Ronaldo on before the hour mark, Everton scored through Andros Townsend on the breakaway to send United into the international fortnight in unconvincing form.
Ronaldo looked visibly frustrated at full-time walking straight down the tunnel while muttering to himself.
2007 – Cristiano Ronaldo is starting a Premier League match at Old Trafford from the bench for the first time since May 2007, when Man Utd lost 0-1 to West Ham on the final day of the 2006-07 season. Unusual.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 2, 2021
Asked after the game if he regretted leaving Ronaldo out, Solskjaer said: “No. You make decisions throughout a long, long season; you have to manage the players’ workload and the decision for me was the correct one.
“Anthony Martial did well, scored a good goal. Edinson [Cavani] needed minutes and could have had a goal. We have to make those decisions at the time.”
After Bruno Fernandes’ weak corner was cleared, United midfielder Fred had two opportunities to win the ball from Demarai Gray on the touchline, before Everton broke away and scored. Solskjaer says the trouble should have been dealt with early.
“We got hit on one break that cost us and we lacked that cutting edge to get the important second goal. We made a couple of decisions that cost us. We had players behind the ball when the ball was delivered and we should have dealt with it. We need to work on it because we are facing more and more opponents who allow us to have possession.”
It doesn’t get much easier for United after the international break, with Leicester (A), Liverpool (H), Tottenham (A) and Manchester City (H) to come in the Premier League with vital Champions League group games against Atalanta wedged in.
“It’s a big month. We have to be focused and make sure we use the international break well; come back with energy and clear focus. The mindset is good, the players are hungry to improve. We dominated the game but just couldn’t get the second goal you need in games like this.
“I’m confident we will get the best out of this squad. A lot has happened this month [player arrivals]. We have loads to work on but I do believe in these players and this coaching staff. I believe we have something going but proof is in the pudding.”
Bruno: We need to look at our mistakes
Bruno Fernandes was superb for the majority of the game at Old Trafford, but his weak corner was the first mistake by United that led to Everton’s leveller.
Speaking to BBC after the game, Fernandes said United need to take a look at themselves after dropping more points at home.
“We should win this game. We should create more chances. We should not concede that kind of goal. It’s not the first time and we have to look at our mistakes and see what we can do.
“We don’t look at the league table at this moment but of course we should have more points. We drop points at home and we should not do that. These last two games at home was not good enough in the Premier League. If we want silverware at the end of the season we have to do much better.”
Townsend: Celebration wasn’t disrespectful to Ronaldo
Everton’s hero Andros Townsend produced Ronaldo’s trademark celebration after scoring, but speaking to BT Sport after the game, he claimed it was out of respect for the five-time Balon d’Or winner.
“This guy is my idol. I grew up watching him, hours on the training pitch trying to execute his techniques, maybe need to spend longer on his celebration! It wasn’t great execution!
“But it was respect to Ronaldo, honoured to be on the same field as him.”
United’s last four home games
It’s been a rather unconvincing four home games in 11 days for Manchester United…
September 22: West Ham – Carabao Cup third round – lost 1-0
September 25: Aston Villa – Premier League – lost 1-0
September 29: Villarreal – Champions League group stage – won 2-1
October 2: Everton – Premier League – drew 1-1
Manchester United’s gruelling run
United face a formidable set of fixtures in October and November as they look to keep pace in the Premier League and ensure Champions League qualification, with Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and the Manchester derby looming domestically.
October 16: Leicester (a) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
October 20: Atalanta (h) – Champions League, kick-off 8pm
October 24: Liverpool (h) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
October 30: Tottenham (a) – Premier League, kick-off 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports
November 2: Atalanta (a) – Champions League, kick-off 8pm
November 6: Man City (h) – Premier League, kick-off 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports
November 20: Watford (a) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
November 23: Villarreal (a) – Champions League, kick-off 5.45pm
November 28: Chelsea (a) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
November 30: Arsenal (h) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm