Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he had no regrets starting Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench as Manchester United were held by Everton on Saturday.
The Red Devils boss made five changes to the side that beat Villarreal in the Champions League on Wednesday courtesy of a last-gasp Ronaldo goal.
The decision appeared to have been vindicated when Anthony Martial, making his first Premier League start since August, scored in the top flight for the first time since February to put United ahead.
Martial had to come off after picking up a knock, and less than 10 minutes after Solskjaer introduced Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, Everton equalised as Andros Townsend buried only their second shot on target of the contest.
United could not find a way to take all three points and only avoided defeat when Yerry Mina’s tap-in was correctly disallowed for offside by VAR, while they have now won just two of their past six games in all competitions.
Ronaldo looked clearly frustrated as he headed straight for the tunnel muttering to himself after the final whistle, but Solskjaer, who earlier cited the physical and emotional fatigue from their Champions League exploits, defended his team selection.
Asked if he regretted not starting Ronaldo, he replied: “No. You make decisions throughout a long, long season, you have to manage the players’ workload and the decision for me was the correct one.
“Anthony Martial did well, scored a good goal. Edinson [Cavani] needed minutes and could have had a goal. We have to make those decisions at the time.”
United had nearly 72 per cent of the possession, but they could only manage 13 shots to Everton’s 12 and rarely looked like scoring after Townsend’s leveller.
Solskjaer was left frustrated at the manner in which his side conceded on the counter-attack following their own corner.
“We got hit on one break that cost us and we lacked that cutting edge to get the important second goal,” he said. “We made a couple of decisions that cost us. We had players behind the ball when the ball was delivered and we should have dealt with it. We need to work on it because we are facing more and more opponents who allow us to have possession.”
With games against Leicester City, Atalanta (twice), Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City to come after the international break, Solskjaer insisted he has confidence performances and results will improve.
“It’s a big month. We have to be focused and make sure we use the international break well, come back with energy and [with a] clear focus,” he said.
“The mindset is good, the players are hungry to improve. We dominated the game but just couldn’t get the second goal you need in games like this.
“I’m confident we will get the best out of this squad. A lot has happened this month [player arrivals]. We have loads to work on but I do believe in these players and this coaching staff. I believe we have something going but the proof is in the pudding.”
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