Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists Cristiano Ronaldo was never going to sign for Manchester City.
On the morning that United reached an agreement with Juventus to sign Ronaldo, City were the only club with known interest in the 36-year-old and a deal was so advanced sources in Ronaldo’s circle said the transfer was ‘gathering pace’.
However, the Manchester Evening News revealed in a string of world exclusives United’s owners, the Glazers, were prepared to hijack City’s move for Ronaldo and that he spoke with Sir Alex Ferguson on the Friday morning. United were emboldened to submit a contract offer to Ronaldo and soon scheduled a medical in Lisbon. Ronaldo’s entourage informed City he was no longer interest in joining them.
United sources have consciously avoided referring to City’s interest in Ronaldo even though the club was spurred into re-signing one of their greatest players because they could not bear the prospect of Ronaldo playing for City.
“I don’t think there was any prospect of that,” Solskjaer claimed of City’s attempt to buy Ronaldo. “I don’t think so.”
Ronaldo has rejoined United 18 years after he first signed for the club and is the oldest outfield player in Solskjaer’s squad. Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic are the only other outfield 30-somethings but United have ample experience to complement the youthful recruitment drive Solskjaer has overseen.
“Mason [Greenwood], Jadon [Sancho], Hannibal [Mejbri], Aaron [Wan-Bissaka], Donny [van de Beek], Marcus [Rashford], I’ll forget some names,” Solskjaer added. “The young boys in this group have some unbelievable professionals to learn from.
“You have Cristiano, one of the best players of all time. Raphael [Varane], Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes. So many players to learn from, how to deal with ups and downs in careers and how they prepare and how to act. I am sure I should have mentioned every single one here. Don’t kill me if I’ve forgotten some of them!
“But, of course, when you have players like this, there is no hiding place because you’ll be told. If you don’t do the right thing you’ll be told. When I walked into the dressing room here when I played, and if Roy Keane saw me dip out of a tackle or not make the run, you were told.
“I ended up being one of them that told players I played with. That’s how it should be in Man United. You should have some experienced leaders there that can put the demands down. It wasn’t always Sir Alex and it can’t always be me, or the coaches.
“We are lucky that we have players like Harry [Maguire], who has come in the last two years and been an unbelievable captain, as in how he has pulled everything together and stood tall in, call it, hard times.
“We are now in a position where the experience should be just dripping down to the boys, who have aspirations to be as good as these players we’re talking about.”
“Obviously the crowd got excited straightaway when he started on his stepovers. He was so direct and fearless and brave. He got knocked down, got up again. He showed everything a Man United player should when he goes to Old Trafford and steps on that pitch.
“That’s what we have come to expect from players at Man United. You should have that mental strength and courage and bravery and believe in yourself.”