In pictures: Man Utd v Villarreal
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Cristiano Ronaldo is already proving to be crucial to Manchester United’s hopes of any silverware this season as the Portuguese superstar’s winning strike against Villarreal could end up being pivotal in qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages. He was also hugely missed in United’s Carabao Cup fixture against West Ham last week as the Red Devils crashed out of the competition.
But such is Ronaldo’s importance to this United side already, Solskjaer has been unable to give the 36-year-old much rest.
He’s played over 180 minutes of football in the past seven days and will be expected to start again for this afternoon’s match against Everton.
Despite his age, Ronaldo has proven to be one of the fittest footballers in the world.
Ronaldo has repeatedly stated that he expects to still be playing at the top level into his 40s.
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But Solskjaer admitted at the start of the season that he would have to manage Ronaldo’s minutes at some stage.
Speaking after Ronaldo’s second debut against Newcastle, Solskjaer said: “The thing with Cristiano is that he looks after himself so much so I know he will recover quickly and he has had a pre-season.
“Of course it’s important that we get everyone up and running and to get him up and running and to give him 90 minutes.
“But no, it’s not impossible to leave him out.”
How Ronaldo would react to being benched for any league or European match remains to be seen as he’s started every game since he arrived.
But today’s game against Everton is the first real test on whether Solskjaer will stick to his words a few weeks ago that it isn’t “impossible” to drop Ronaldo.
There were just two Serie A matches last season where Andrea Pirlo left Ronaldo out of the starting line-up when he was available for the matchday squad.
Solskjaer has shown in the past that he’s not afraid to make big decisions, largely surrounding club-record signing Paul Pogba.
The Frenchman has often been in-and-out of the starting line-up under Solskjaer’s reign, despite United paying more than £90million to bring him back to Old Trafford in 2016.
Ronaldo though is far more influential than the French midfielder and choosing to leave him out for a match which United go on not to win could make or break their season.
Solskjaer will have the international break where Ronaldo will be able to get some recovery from the hectic fixture schedule.
But when players return from the international break, United have six games scheduled in just 21 days.
All league games are set to be tough propositions as well as they face Leicester, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City along with Champions League fixtures home and away against Atalanta.
Ronaldo may well insist that he’s capable of starting in all matches for United, but Solskjaer’s early-season declaration has raised some doubts on whether he will.
Or, the Norwegian head coach may have been playing mind games with his rival managers trying to second guess whether Ronaldo will be rested for that match.
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