Merson: Ronaldo spoiled Ole’s plans as Man Utd ‘weapon’ taken away

Lewis Oldham
Paul Merson on Cristiano Ronaldo

Paul Merson has claimed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans were “thrown out of the window” when Cristiano Ronaldo returned as he took away a key Man Utd “weapon”.

Ronaldo re-joined the Red Devils before the 2021/22 campaign. He came back to England after successful spells at Real Madrid and Juventus.

The 36-year-old has scored in all four of United’s Champions League group games but he has not replicated that form in the Premier League.

Solskjaer aimed vicious ‘parting shot’ at ‘flops’ after ‘betrayal’

The forward only has one goal in the league from his last seven outings. This has coincided with United’s poor run of form.

Man Utd have lost five of their last seven games in the Premier League. This run of results led to Solskjaer leaving the club on Sunday.

In his Sky Sports column, Merson suggested that Ronaldo takes away Man Utd’s “weapon” on the counter-attack:

“I feel sorry for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer,” Merson wrote.

“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.

“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!”

Speaking last month, Merson suggested that Man Utd players are “petrified” of Ronaldo:

“Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t do anything up front, he just stands still because he cannot go past people anymore. United’s forward players are petrified, they just give Ronaldo the ball in hope more than expectation.

“To get the best out of Ronaldo he’s got to be given a completely free role, in the hole and then have the likes of Marcus Rashford or Mason Greenwood opening up the game ahead of him to give him the space he needs on the ball. But if you play him up front you have to accept that he is not going to run beyond.

“I wouldn’t blame Ronaldo, it’s the manager’s responsibility to adopt a system that gets him into the game. Ronaldo is the best in the business over five yards, he makes great runs, he’s just not getting the service.

“Jadon Sancho doesn’t cross the ball, Greenwood wants to come inside and shoot, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba want to spray it around in the middle, and Ronaldo just isn’t getting the ball in the areas where he can hurt teams.”