Ole Gunnar Solskjær confirms Cristiano Ronaldo will feature against Newcastle

‘The mood’s been very good, he’s worked well and we’re looking forward to Saturday’

Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo during a training session at Carrington. Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo during a training session at Carrington. Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has confirmed returning star Cristiano Ronaldo will make his second Manchester United debut in Saturday’s Old Trafford homecoming against Newcastle (3pm).

The 36-year-old returned to the club he shone for during six medal-laden seasons on deadline day, signing a two-year deal with the option of a further season.

Ronaldo has been training with the club this week and will feature when Newcastle arrive at a bouncing Old Trafford in Saturday’s eagerly anticipated Premier League encounter.

“He’s been having a good pre-season with Juventus, he’s played for the national team, he’s had a good week with us here,” the United boss said.

“He will definitely be on the pitch at some point, that’s for sure.”

Asked about Ronaldo’s first few days back at the club, Solskjær said: “Yeah, he’s been good.

“Of course we’ve followed his career from afar since he left here and I think everyone’s very, very happy to have him back.

“He can speak for himself but he seems like he’s happy to be back as well.

“The mood’s been very good, he’s worked well and we’re looking forward to Saturday, of course.”

Ronaldo appeared to be edging towards a move to Manchester City until United swooped in a fortnight ago, when Solskjær knew about the return but gave little away at his press conference that day.

The Norwegian said onlookers were “confused” rather than him as the Portuguese adds a new level of quality to the squad, both physically and mentally.

“We have grown as a group the last few years, I have to say,” Solskjær said. “The determination, the desire, the focus has improved over time and bit by bit.

“Even like bringing Raphael [Varane] in, he’s come in with a winner’s mentality, an unbelievable focus.

“Then of course Cristiano comes in as well and there’s no place to hide when you’ve got winners like them. You can’t go into training and give 95 per cent or not being focused.

“That’s what he demands of himself and of everyone else, so it’s been great having him in.”

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce is hoping his players can spoil the former Real Madrid and Juventus star’s big afternoon.

Bruce said: “Listen, it’s always going to be tough and obviously the added spice of Ronaldo coming back has added to it.

“But make no mistake, they’ve got quality players all over the pitch, so whenever you go to Old Trafford, the one thing you’re going to have to do is enjoy the challenge of playing against one of the big, big teams of this country and relish the opportunity to go and see if we can spoil the party a bit.

“That’s the big challenge to us all, of course, the ability for all of us to enjoy upsetting the apple cart and going and making it as difficult an afternoon as we possibly can for Ronaldo or Manchester United or the rest of them.

“They’ve got quality players all over the pitch and it’s one of those where you should really, really relish the challenge that’s coming and I hope we respond to it and really have a good go at it.”

United’s recapture of Ronaldo has been the talk of football since news of their sensational swoop emerged a fortnight ago and Bruce is in little doubt as to what he will bring to the mix.

He said: “You’re not going to be voted the best player in the world for . . . him and [Lionel] Messi have dominated that stage now for the last 15 years, is it?

“He’s been quite a remarkable player, how he’s looked after himself. The goals he’s scored at every club he’s played for is quite remarkable.

“That, quite rightly in my opinion, makes him the best player in the world. It’s a terrific signing by Manchester United.

“It’s quite an incredible story of him going back and I’m sure they could have sold out Old Trafford 10 times over if they wished. It’s been quite remarkable.”

Ronaldo, who won three Premier Leagues and the Champions League during a six-year spell at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2009, has insisted he has not come back for “a vacation” and Bruce is convinced he and fellow summer signings Varane and Jadon Sancho make the club genuine title contenders this season.

He said: “They were second last year and have brought in three quality players, so they’ve got to be there or thereabouts. That’s what the demands of Manchester United are, they’ve got to be in and around it, and they hope that they can have a good run at it.

“It will be difficult of course, with City and Chelsea and the strength of a lot of teams, but they’ve given themselves a hell of an opportunity.”

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