Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes Cristiano Ronaldo will relish the challenge of proving age is just a number on his return to the Premier League and says Manchester United were always going to pounce when such a “special player” became available.
United beat Manchester City to sign the five-time Ballon d’Or winner from Juventus, with the 36-year-old striker set to make his second debut for the club against Newcastle United after the international break. Solskjær said United have not signed Ronaldo to warm the bench and was adamant the Portugal forward will improve his team after watching them extend their unbeaten away run to a record 28 league matches following Mason Greenwood’s late winner at Wolves.
“He is going to make us a better team,” the United manager said. “He’s a special boy, or man now. He was a boy when I played with him. Of course, the players are excited, some have played with him in their national team. You see the fans – they are excited. That’s what he does – he is a special player.
“He is a great player, a great human being. I’m excited to keep building this squad. He will bring something completely different. Hopefully Cristiano can come in and show what he has done in his career. I am sure he likes all the talk about being old. Make it personal and he will show what he can do.”
United swiftly made their play for Ronaldo after City withdrew from talks on Friday. “We have always been watching Cristiano, and the day he was going to move, we would [always] be interested. We never thought he would leave Juventus this season. Everyone that cares for Man United wanted this to happen but the biggest thing was Cristiano wanted to come here.”
Greenwood’s winner was shrouded in controversy, with Wolves adamant Paul Pogba should have been penalised for fouling Rúben Neves in the buildup to the goal. Pogba appeared to catch Neves’s right shin but the referee Mike Dean waved played on. “We always do meetings and everything with referees about VAR, I don’t know why,” Neves said.
“They [the officials] said before the season starts that they will look for contact and if the contact is strong enough, they will give the foul. Maybe because in the last game it was a foul [on Bruno Fernandes] before the Southampton goal, maybe now they did the opposite. I showed my leg to the ref, to the assistant ref. It was a clear foul.”
Jadon Sancho made his first start for the club since a £73m move, while £41m summer signing Raphaël Varane made his debut, recording an assist and a clean sheet. “Top performance,” Solskjær said of Varane.
“It was ‘Welcome to the Premier League’: tempo, hustle and bustle, and having to defend counterattacks. He is good in the air, so composed on the ball, so experienced and nothing fazes him. He was good in the dressing room before the game, and I thought he showed his class. I am delighted with him.”