Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dismissed a Cristiano Ronaldo theory circulating in the media, and delivered mixed news on the injury status of Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof.
Manchester United face bitter rivals Manchester City on Saturday in another crunch clash for Solskjaer and co. The Red Devils have bounced back well following their 5-0 defeat to Liverpool two weeks ago.
Tottenham were put to the sword in what became Nuno Espirito Santo’s last match in charge, before more Ronaldo heroics salvaged a draw against Atalanta in the Champions League.
Ronaldo has upped his goals tally upon his return to Old Trafford to nine in 12 games. Without the Portuguese icon, United may well have been in dire straits on both the domestic and European fronts.
However, that has not stopped voices within the media claiming Ronaldo’s arrival may be having a net negative impact on the club’s fortunes.
That theory was put to Solskjaer in his Friday press conference. Unsurprisingly, the Norwegian wasn’t buying what some in the media are selling.
“He’s one of the best players that’s ever walked on this planet and his impact on and off the pitch has been absolutely immense,” said Solskjaer (via the Manchester Evening News).
“The way he conducts himself, how people can say that as a negative I can’t see that one. He scores goals, works for his team, and is a top, top pro.”
On the subject of the upcoming derby, Solskjaer admitted: “It’s a special one. The last time we had a Manchester derby with fans in the stadium the atmosphere was electric. Everyone will still remember that one more than dark moments we had.
“When Scott (McTominay) scored that goal in the extra time it was a special moment. It’s a one-off game, we have to start on the front foot, ready, because a lot depends on who gets on the front foot.”
United have a stellar recent record against City. In the last four Premier League clashes between the pair, United have won three and drawn one. However, Solskjaer is due to be without Varane in his expected three-man backline, though gave a positive update on Victor Lindelof’s availability.
Solskjaer delivers mixed injury update
On Varane, who suffered a hamstring injury against Atalanta, Solskjaer said: “With all the technology now you expect him to be out for four or five weeks with the scans. It’s a blow for us.
“Raphael has come in and been really really influential. Eric came in last time and was excellent. That’s why we have a big squad and cope with absentees.”
On Lindelof, the update was more encouraging. “He’s still a doubt, but hopefully, he can come back in tomorrow and say he’s ready… I would expect him to be ready, put it that way but I can’t promise you.”
The pressure will no doubt ramp back up on Solskjaer if United suffer a a heavy defeat. Nonetheless, Solskjaer is taking the pressure that comes with being United manager in his stride.
“When I stepped in the doors here in December 2018, three years ago, there’s been speculation ever since,” he added. “That’s no problem, we’ve moved on from Liverpool.
“It’s a dark moment in our careers. We’ve had a good two weeks. You don’t expect an easy ride when you become manager of Man United, that’s how it is.”