Ole Gunnar Solskjær has admitted that signing Cristiano Ronaldo when he was the Manchester United manager “felt right but was wrong” and that he was let down by the egos of unnamed players whose failure to pull together presaged his sacking.
The Norwegian was in charge of United from 19 December 2018 until 21 November 2021, losing his position following a 4-1 loss at Watford the day before.
In summer 2021 Ronaldo joined the club for a second time at the age of 35. While the Portuguese scored twice against Newcastle in his opening game, a 4-1 victory, his addition unbalanced Solskjær’s team and after scoring nine times before the trip to Watford, the Norwegian lost his job.
“It was a decision that was very difficult to turn down and I felt we had to take it, but it turned out wrong,” Solskjær told The Athletic (£). “It felt so right when he signed and the fans felt that at that Newcastle game, when Old Trafford was rocking. He was still one of the best goalscorers in the world, he was looking strong.”
In late October United lost 5-0 to Liverpool at Old Trafford and despite winning away 3-0 at Tottenham the following week, losses to Manchester City and Watford sealed Solskjær’s fate. “When I looked at the fixtures it was going to be a deciding period,” he said. “When things didn’t go right, you could see certain players and egos come out. We beat Tottenham convincingly 3-0 away, but then we lost two games.”
Solskjær stated some of his squad had inflated views of themselves. “They weren’t as good as their own perception of themselves,” he said. “I won’t name names, but I was very disappointed when a couple turned down the chance to be captain. I was also disappointed when others said they wouldn’t play or train because they wanted to force their way out.”
Erik ten Hag, Solskjær’s replacement after the interim appointment of Ralf Rangnick, is enduring a tough start to the season, as United have lost three of their opening five matches. “I know what he’s going through. It’s a dream job, but it’s difficult,” said Solskjær. “You’re dealing with humans with all their problems and backgrounds – this isn’t a computer simulation. But most are good professionals who want to do well. Some think about No 1 first, most think of the club.”