Portugal manager Fernando Santos has joined critics of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and explained why Cristiano Ronaldo should not have been benched against Everton.
Ronaldo, 36, has enjoyed a dream return to Old Trafford, scoring five goals from six appearances in all competitions. Three of those have come in the Premier League and he had played every minute of three top-flight games before the Toffees clash. The Portugal skipper started from the bench before replacing Edinson Cavani on 57 minutes.
He could not find the net as the Red Devils were held to a 1-1 draw at the Theatre of Dreams. Solskjaer was slated in the media, with many pundits questioning his decision to name Ronaldo among the substitutes.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson waded into the argument, suggesting a manager should always play his best players. The Norwegian tactician defended his actions, making it clear he and his staff are more in the know than the media.
Ronaldo is now on international duty and set to face Qatar in a friendly on Saturday. The Selecao then go up against Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
There is every chance that the superstar will feature in both games. And Santos took a thinly-veiled swipe at Solskjaer when outlining the reasons why he will select the veteran.
“He will go to the game because he needs playing time. It’s important to him at this stage,” he told reporters on Friday, per The Mirror. “The last full game he played was in the Champions League. If he only plays against Luxembourg, he will have practically 15 days without playing with intensity.
“At this point I will say that there are strong possibilities of Ronaldo going to the game against Qatar, either starting or coming on later during the second half, so that the competitive rhythms are at their maximum against Luxembourg.”
Ronaldo not chasing records
There is very little that Ronaldo has not achieved at club level. He is also international football’s all-time top scorer with 111.
The former Real Madrid star has earned 180 Portugal caps to date. He is 40 short of the all-time appearance record but Santos made it clear that is not his primary aim of playing in a friendly.
“Thinking about the game against Qatar is not about records, he will always beat that record. He’s not worried about it,” he added.