Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken out for the first time on his dismissal as Manchester United boss after coming clean on how Cristiano Ronaldo changed the dynamic at Old Trafford and why bringing him back to the club was a “mistake”.
The legendary Norwegian was the somewhat surprise choice by Old Trafford chiefs to succeed the departed Jose Mourinho back in December 2018 after the Portuguese firecracker was relieved of his duties.
Solskjaer was to last close to three years in the United hotseat and was largely seen as making a success of things at Old Trafford. He guided the club into the round of 16 in the Champions League, a runners-up spot in the Europa League final, as well as finishes of third and then second in his two full seasons in charge.
However, things began to unravel in the autumn of 2021, just a matter of months after the return to the club of Ronaldo.
The Portuguese superstar was brought ‘home’ to Old Trafford, some 12 years after his departure, in a £12m deal following his departure from Italian giants Juventus.
His comeback at Old Trafford initially appeared a masterstroke, with Ronaldo scoring nine times in his first 11 matches.
However, with results going off the boil, Solskjaer was fired after a humilating 4-1 defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road, with many citing the return of Ronaldo as changing the trajectory and atmosphere at the club.
And while that possibly did not come to the public’s attention until last year and the player’s very public falling out that led to his contract being torn up, Solskjaer has now spoken out for the first time, both about his dismissal and the re-signing of Ronaldo.
Solskjaer comes clean on Ronaldo mistake
Speaking to The Athletic around the return of the superstar, Solskjaer insisted all seemed well at first.
“It was a decision that was very difficult to turn down and I felt we had to take it, but it turned out wrong,” Solskjaer admitted.
“It felt so right when he signed and the fans felt that at that Newcastle game, when Old Trafford was rocking (after Ronaldo scored twice in a 4-1 win).”
Prior to United’s move to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, there has been speculation about the player moving elsewhere with Manchester City among those keen.
However, after Sir Alex Ferguson and Rio Ferdinand both got involved, it was reported that the two men persuaded Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford instead.
Solskjaer then admitted that certain egos affected the confidence within his squad, and while not naming Ronaldo by name, it does point to the problems that have since plagued Ten Hag at Old Trafford.
“When you have a group you need everyone to pull in the same direction,” Solskjaer added. “When things didn’t go right, you could see certain players and egos came out.”
Ronaldo left United in November 2022, having scored 27 times in 54 games during his second spell at the club.