Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is bemused by criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo, who again rescued Manchester United a result in midweek at Atalanta.
After a Champions League brace, Ronaldo now has nine goals in 11 games for United this season heading into Saturday’s Old Trafford derby against Manchester City.
The veteran forward scored three goals in his last five Premier League Manchester derbies in his first stint with United. Indeed, his final strike for the club before joining Real Madrid came against City in May 2009.
However, he is also the only player to have been sent off in two Manchester derbies in the Premier League.
Despite Ronaldo’s goals, United have been unconvincing since he returned to the club this season, prompting some to suggest his role in the team was an issue, especially with the likes of Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood subsequently pushed to the fringes.
But Solskjaer said on Friday: “He’s one of the best players that has ever walked on this planet.
“His impact so far, on and off the pitch, has been absolutely immense. The goals he scores, the way he conducts himself around the place. How people can say he’s a negative, I can’t see that one.
“We’re really pleased the way he’s started off. But that’s what he does. He scores goals, he works for his team, and he is a top, top professional.”
United’s bigger problems may well be in defence, where Raphael Varane is out for “four to five weeks” with a hamstring injury.
“It’s a blow for us, because Raphael has come in and been really influential, but Eric [Bailly] came in last time and was excellent,” Solskjaer said. “That’s why we have big squads, to cope with absentees at times.”
The return of Victor Lindelof would at least provide a boost, with Solskjaer describing the centre-back as “a doubt” but still hoping he could feature.
“I would expect him to be ready, put it that way,” the manager said.
United have kept three consecutive Premier League clean sheets against City, as many as in their previous 18 meetings, but they have conceded in 13 home matches in a row in all competitions.
They have only twice endured a longer sequence (21 games between April 1958 and March 1959, and 14 between September 1954 and February 1955).
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