Ronaldo re-signing for United messed up Solskjaer's plans, says Merson

Re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo threw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans ‘out the window’, insists Paul Merson… as he claims sacked Man United boss couldn’t use his counter-attack ‘weapon’ with the veteran superstar up front

  • Cristiano Ronaldo re-joined Manchester United from Juventus on deadline day  
  • United extended Edinson Cavani’s deal and signed Jadon Sancho before that
  • Paul Merson believes deals show Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted to counter-attack 
  • He claims that was no longer possible when Ronaldo re-signed in the summer 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational return to Manchester United in the summer ruined now sacked boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans for the new season, according to Paul Merson. 

The Portugal international returned to Old Trafford from Juventus in a £19.8million deal after the Norwegian – who was axed on Sunday after three years in charge – saw his side finish second behind Manchester City in the Premier League in 2020-21.

But before the 36-year-old deadline-day arrival, United had handed a one-year extension to veteran striker Edinson Cavani and had signed Jadon Sancho in a £73m deal from Borussia Dortmund. 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United ruined Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans for the new season, according to Paul Merson

But Merson feels the latter two deals indicated Solskjaer’s plan to continue building on United’s counter-attacking style, which the ex-Arsenal midfielder believes is no longer plausible with Ronaldo up front. 

The 53-year-old also claims United are not a better team with Ronaldo in it, and that he was only signed to keep him out of the clutches of their city rivals. 

‘I feel sorry for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer,’ Merson wrote in his Sky Sports column.

‘He had a plan at the start of the season, having finished second last season. He’s chased Jadon Sancho for a long time, got him in, and he’s given Edinson Cavani another year. 

United extended Edinson Cavani’s deal by a year after finishing second in the Premier League

United then signed Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund in a £73m deal in the summer

‘Then, just before the season starts, he gets given Ronaldo. I think he’s thrown it all out of the window. From day one, they’re not a better team with Ronaldo in it.

‘You don’t go 29 games unbeaten away without playing a certain way, and bringing Sancho in gave them another weapon to play that way. With Ronaldo up there, you don’t have that weapon to play on the counter-attack any more.

‘It’s all snowballed for Solskjaer. He had a plan, and the Ronaldo situation threw it all out of the window, just before the season started. 

‘They only went for him because they heard Man City were after him. It’s not like United were calling Juventus to ask if he’s available because Ronaldo is the missing link for United winning the Premier League. He isn’t!’ 

Merson (above) believes those deals were completed to continue and enhance United’s counter attack, which he claims is no longer possible with Ronaldo playing

Merson also insisted he was not ‘having a go’ at the former Real Madrid star and that he is very much a ‘legend’, but claims United need to assemble a team and not rely on ‘someone who stands up front and puts the ball in the net 20 times a season’ to win trophies.

But it is not the first time Merson had expressed this view, telling Sky Sports during the international break after their reverses  by City and Liverpool: ‘He’s doing part of his job, I’ve said it on here before Man United are a better team without him in the team if I’m being honest.

‘If you want to play the way Man United play, what was it 28, 29 games unbeaten away from home playing attacking football with sheer pace, energy skill, they haven’t got that now.

‘When they played Man City last week, when they came out there was only one team winning that, it was embarrassing. 

Michael Carrick (right) has taken over temporary charge following Solskjaer’s dismissal

‘Much worse than the Liverpool game, it was shocking it was made even worse when Liverpool go to West Ham set up the way they did and played the way they did, at the moment they’re [Man United] are all over the place.’

Ronaldo has scored four goals in nine Premier League matches and nine in 14 across all competitions this season and will be looking to add to that tally at Villarreal in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.

But his goals were not enough to keep former team-mate Solskjaer in a job, with the Norwegian bidding a tearful farewell after being relieved of his duties less than 24 hours after their dismal 4-1 defeat by Watford.

Ronaldo however paid tribute to Solskjaer on Twitter after his sacking, posting: ‘He’s been my striker when I first came to Old Trafford and he’s been my coach since I came back to Man United. 

‘But most of all, Ole is an outstanding human being. I wish him the best in whatever his life has reserved for him. Good luck, my friend! You deserve it!’

Former midfielder Michael Carrick has taken temporary charge of the club before an interim boss is put in place, and he insisted he has ‘his own ideas’ on how they should play.

Asked if fans could expect to see any changes in approach from the team on Tuesday night, he said: ‘We will have to wait and see. I worked closely with Ole and we do have very similar beliefs – we did as players and we certainly do as coaches.

‘Of course I’ve got my own personality to Ole but we’re very similar and that’s why we worked together for so long. 

‘I’m not giving too much away about what my plans are but I’m very clear in my own mind about how we want to play and I’m looking forward to seeing that on the pitch.’

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