Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted that he "made a couple of bad decisions" as Manchester United slipped to a 4-2 defeat against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

The loss saw United's 29-game unbeaten away run in the Premier League come to an end, and the Red Devils have managed just one point from their last three league games.

Solskjaer's men took the lead, but they were then overhauled and conceded a third goal less than a minute after pulling level again, before a stoppage-time goal for the Foxes sealed the result.

The Norwegian manager was unhappy with the manner of the goals his side shipped, but he shouldered the responsibility for the result which means United have won just once in their last five games across all competitions, losing three.

"When you look at the game, the four goals we conceded are all very poor," Solskjaer said to Sky Sports. "We didn't deserve to carry on the [unbeaten away] run. The performance was not good enough.

"We got a very good goal with Mason [Greenwood] and we were knocking on the door for another, but then some sloppy play and we concede. It was end to end but they created more chances. Two goals from set-pieces is disappointing and then seconds after equalising that should not happen [for Jamie Vardy's goal].

"I pick the team and Harry [Maguire] has showed no reaction [to his injury]. I hold my hands up if that doesn't work out and I probably made a couple of bad decisions.

"Lately, we have not been in great form and lost too many points. Something may have to change. Do we need more legs in there? What do we need? It is one that we have to really analyse. The one positive was Marcus [Rashford] coming back in. He’s got legs and is sharp so that's a big bonus.

"I've got many good players and every game is a different game. I am not going to put excuses up for the team I put out because it is full of top footballers and that was not good enough."

Despite United's poor form, Solskjaer insists he is not feeling the strain and is confident the team have the capacity to improve under his guidance.

"Every time you lose, the pressure builds of course, but we are used to living with that pressure," Solskjaer told the BBC. 

"We are Man United; setbacks have happened before, worse performances, and we've got to bounce back on Wednesday. I'm going to do the job as well as I can; I believe in this team."

United's first opportunity to rectify their issues comes on Wednesday as they host Serie A side Atalanta in the Champions League.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants star forward Marcus Rashford to focus on football following his recovery from a shoulder injury.

Rashford underwent shoulder surgery in August and is in line to make his first appearance of the season when United visit Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.

The 23-year-old England international has been hailed for his off-field work, awarded an MBE in his campaign to end child poverty.

But Solskjaer urged Rashford to prioritise his football career moving forward.

"I know that we will see the best of Marcus in the years to come," Solskjaer told reporters. "He has done remarkable things at a young age but he is now coming into the best age for a footballer and he is more experienced.

"He has [had] time to reflect. You know what he has done off the pitch as well, because he has done some fantastic things, and now to prioritise, maybe prioritise his football and focus on football because he's got a challenge on his hands here at Manchester United, he has a challenge on his hands to play for England.

"I think Marcus is one of those who takes up those challenges and is going to.

"He is going to express himself and his talent and he knows that we want a lot from him but we are going to give him the time to get back to what he was and what he can be."

United – fourth in the Premier League and two points off the pace – are looking to extend their record unbeaten away run in the league to 30 games (W19 D10).

The Red Devils have not conceded more than once in any of their last 15 on the road (seven conceded in total) – their longest such run in league football.

United have the player with the most overall chances created (Bruno Fernandes, 23), the most chances created from set plays (Luke Shaw, 11) and the most assists (Paul Pogba, seven) in the Premier League so far this season.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended his decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo before the international break, adamant he is trying to learn from his own mistake of overexerting his players.

Ronaldo was surprisingly named among the substitutes as United could only draw 1-1 with Everton in their most recent Premier League match.

United produced a disappointing performance as they were left with just two wins from their past seven home games in the league.

Ronaldo came on in the second half to make his 200th top-flight appearance for United, becoming only the fifth player since 2003 to reach that milestone in two of Europe's big five leagues.

The Portugal star looked furious as he walked down the tunnel after that match and a video posted by Mixed Martial Arts star Khabib Nurmagomedov – who was a guest of the club – showed Alex Ferguson questioning Solskjaer's decision to rest Ronaldo in a conversation with him.

But while Solskjaer says he would like to play Ronaldo – who scored four goals in two games for Portugal over the past couple of weeks – as much as possible, he insists he is looking out for United's collective conditioning in the long term.

"He's an exceptional player, finisher, goalscorer and professional," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Saturday's clash with Leicester City.

"It's hard to leave him out and everyone would love to play six games [in a row] and play the same XI, it's great, but it's rotation [they need].

"We need to get to May with everyone firing. We got to May and the final stretch last season and we were a little tired.

"I'm the manager, I manage for the club, but of course it's nice to have him on the pitch because he'll always come up with the goods, and the more we have him on the pitch, the better."

While many will expect Ronaldo to start at the King Power Stadium, he could potentially be joined in attack by Marcus Rashford for the first time.

England international Rashford has not played since Euro 2020 after undergoing surgery on a persistent shoulder injury in August.

Solskjaer confirmed the forward will be in the squad on Saturday and did not rule out him starting, though the game will come slightly too soon for captain Harry Maguire.

"[Rashford] is in the squad, yes. If he's starting or not, I can't tell you because it wouldn't be right, but he's been really bright this week.

"He had a 60-minute involvement in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week, so he's fit and raring to go.

"Harry's just joined us on the grass this morning, so that was the first time he's been on the grass."

Fellow England international Jesse Lingard has been the subject of significant speculation in recent months after a blistering loan spell with West Ham last season.

His contract expires at the end of the season and he has been linked with numerous clubs, including Barcelona, though Solskjaer was unequivocal in his desire to keep Lingard at Old Trafford.

"Jesse's had a good start to the season, come on and scored a few goals," Solskjaer said. "He's been important for us.

"We want to prolong his contract; we see him as an important player. It's up to him to get more playing time, and maybe it's up to me giving him more playing time because he deserves to [play], but I always have to leave players out.

"Hopefully we can get a deal sorted for Jesse, because we really rate him and value him around the club. He's a top player and a top person."

You wouldn't necessarily know it given some of the scrutiny, but things aren't going all that terribly at Manchester United.

With four wins and two draws from their first seven games of the Premier League season, they are just two points behind leaders Chelsea. It's a solid improvement from 2020-21, when, at the same stage of the campaign, they were four points worse off and with a negative goal difference.

Exiting the EFL Cup was frustrating, as was losing to Young Boys, but that last-gasp win over Villarreal means their Champions League fate remains firmly in their own hands. It also ensured their challenge for the two biggest trophies on offer are very much alive, and it's why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's job is not currently under threat.

Their next 10 games could change that. It's very hard to predict United results and quality of performances from week to week, but their coming fixture list looks seriously daunting on paper. Before the end of November, they must face league visits to Leicester City, Tottenham and Chelsea, home games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal, a Champions League double-header with Atalanta and a trip to Villarreal, LaLiga's only remaining unbeaten side.

Solskjaer could approach the third anniversary of his return to Old Trafford on the back of a buoyant run of results, with a renewed spring in his step ahead of the festive season. Alternatively, December may bring about a deafening clamour for a change of management, just as Jose Mourinho faced in 2018.

Hallowe'en season makes for scary reading

One thing that's marked Solskjaer's time in charge is a tendency to pull out big results when the pressure is on. He's lost just one of five league games against Pep Guardiola and is the only United manager to win all three of his first league visits to the Etihad Stadium. He is unbeaten in five against Chelsea and has been beaten just once by Tottenham.

With two wins in six matches before the international break, the Norwegian will need to summon something similar in the coming seven league fixtures. The trouble is, these games did not go according to plan last time.

United's next league fixtures are Leicester City away, Liverpool at home, Spurs away, Man City at home, Watford away, Chelsea away and Arsenal at home. Last season, the only one of those same games that resulted in a United victory was the trip to Spurs and the embattled Mourinho. Of course, Watford weren't in the top flight last season, but United's last visit to Vicarage Road in December 2019 ended in a miserable 2-0 defeat.

In the Champions League, Solskjaer's men face Atalanta at home and away before heading to Spain to play Villarreal. They edged out Unai Emery's side at home thanks to a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo goal at the end of a contest in which the visitors had 2.31 expected goals to United's 1.07 but were thwarted by goalkeeper David de Gea.

While that was an important result, it didn't gloss over wider concerns. United have kept only one clean sheet in 12 Champions League games under Solskjaer, losing seven of them in total. That's only one defeat less than predecessors David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho suffered in 30 matches combined in the competition.

In short, it would take a serious optimist to expect United to get through this run of matches in overwhelmingly positive fashion.

What's the plan, Ole?

But hang on: two points off the top, only one defeat... United's Premier League form isn't that bad, surely?

Well, it's certainly not awful. United have scored more open-play goals than anyone else this season (14) and conceded four, a figure bettered only by Man City (three), Brighton and Hove Albion (two) and leaders Chelsea (zero).

There is often criticism around United's perceived lack of control over games, but that is perhaps not as bad as some think. Only Man City (63.4 per cent) average more possession per game than United (60.7 per cent), while their tally of 55 open-play shots against is the same as Liverpool's and only five down on Chelsea. Indeed, their expected goals against figure in open play (5.5) is slightly lower than that of Jurgen Klopp's men (5.9).

The problem is, as injury-time Ronaldo goals and De Gea penalty saves will tell you, United are treading a fine line between success and disappointment.

Those league-high 14 open-play goals came from 86 shots, a figure only bettered by Man City (94) and Liverpool (97), but one worth just 7.9 expected goals. That differential of 6.1 between goals scored and xG is by far the biggest in the league, and will almost certainly begin to level off at some stage.

That xG figure is in spite of United registering 1,256 passes ending in the final third, a tally only beaten by Man City (1,340). They also rank just fifth for passes into the box (234) and are well behind Liverpool (270) and Man City (273) for touches in the opponents' penalty area (206). Despite having lots of the ball, those clear-cut chances are scarce.

That relatively high possession figure apparently doesn't offer the security at the back that it should, either. But United have still faced 77 shots this season and are on an 11-game run without a clean sheet at home, their worst such sequence since 1964. Champions City, meanwhile, use keeping the ball as their first line of defence: they have only faced 42 shots, just 10 of which have been on target compared to United's 24.

At least United can't generally be accused of a want of trying. There are only two teams – Southampton (997) and Leeds United (1,210) – who have tallied more team sprints than United (991), which is impressive given the length of time they keep the ball rather than scurrying around trying to win it back.

Plus, only Liverpool (147) and Man City (127) have attempted more shots overall than United (120), while there are four United players among the top 18 in the division for attempts at goal this season. Those four – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba – have also created 50 goalscoring chances between them. In fact, Fernandes leads the league when it comes to shots attempted and chances created combined.

Solskjaer's ethos, it seems, continues to be based on individual inspiration: put enough talented attackers on the pitch, and, more often than not, they'll do enough to win you a game. But that tactic did not work against Everton, or Aston Villa, or Young Boys, or Southampton. Will it be enough against the rest of the 'big six' between now and December?

Will it be enough, indeed, to keep the wolves from Solskjaer's door?

Raphael Varane is set to be out for "a few weeks" after sustaining an injury in France's Nations League final win, Manchester United have confirmed.

Varane had to be replaced by Dayot Upamecano just before half-time in Les Bleus' 2-1 victory over Spain.

The centre-back went to ground off the ball and was quickly withdrawn from the match, with United now confirming he sustained a groin injury.

A brief statement read: "Raphael Varane sustained a groin muscle injury in the Nations League final and has commenced rehabilitation at the club.

"He will be out for a few weeks."

It comes as a massive blow to United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of a potentially pivotal few weeks.

While it is unclear exactly how many games Varane will miss, the central defender will be absent for a chunk of what looks set to be a gruelling run of matches.

United face Leicester City, Atalanta twice, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City all in the next four weeks.

After a rather erratic start to 2021-22 consisting of just five wins from 10 matches across all competitions, Solskjaer heads into the upcoming run under pressure.

To make matters worse, there was already uncertainty over the condition of captain – and Varane's regular centre-back partner – Harry Maguire, who missed the clashes with Villarreal and Everton due to a calf injury before the international break that prevented him from linking up with England.

Whether Maguire will be fit to face former club Leicester at the weekend is yet to be determined, meaning the rather haphazard Eric Bailly and the dislodged Victor Lindelof could form an unfamiliar partnership at the back.

Although United have come in for criticism so far this term, Varane's early form has largely been considered positive and he has performed an important function in getting the team on the front foot, with his 7.6 passes into the final third per 90 minutes the most among the club's defenders.

What does the future hold for Erling Haaland?

The Borussia Dortmund forward is wanted across Europe.

However, Haaland could remain in Germany…

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND SET FOR DORTMUND STAY?

Erling Haaland is a player in demand but he is not certain to leave Borussia Dortmund, according to Sport Bild.

Haaland has been tipped to depart Dortmund at the end of the season amid links with Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

But Norwegian pundit Jan Aage Fjortoft suggests Haaland could remain at the Bundesliga outfit for longer than many expect.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky Sports Italian claims Fiorentina chairman Rocco Commisso is concerned whether star forward Dusan Vlahovic intends to sign a new contract with Viola. Contracted until 2023, the Serbia international has been in talks regarding a new deal as the likes of City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal and Inter reportedly circle.

- United are still backing under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Tuttomercatoweb reports Atletico have joined the race to sign Chelsea's Timo Werner, who has found himself behind Romelu Lukaku at Stamford Bridge. Bayern and Dortmund are also reportedly eyeing Werner.

Madrid have been offered the chance to sign RB Leipzig Christopher Nkunku in 2022, says Mundo Deportivo.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is adamant he will be able to get the best out of his Manchester United squad this season despite an erratic start to 2021-22.

Solskjaer's time in charge at United has generally been seen in a positive light among supporters, with first-team recruitment improving and many players considered deadwood under previous managers finally offloaded.

Additionally, the Norwegian secured back-to-back Champions League qualifications in his two full seasons at the helm — Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal only managed one each, while David Moyes was sacked before the conclusion to 2013-14, with United ultimately finishing seventh.

But arguably for the first time since becoming United manager, Solskjaer is now under pressure to challenge for the biggest titles following the recent arrival of big-name recruits Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Performances so far in 2021-22 have fallen short of expectations, however, with United winning just five of their 10 matches across all competitions — only two were by more than a single goal, and those were against a Leeds United side that is notoriously open and Newcastle United, who have not won any of their first seven league games.

United's latest disappointing result was the 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday, which made it nine home league matches without a clean sheet, one shy of equalling a club record.

Everton were the more threatening team in that match, their 1.22 expected goals (xG) an improvement on United's 0.88 xG while the Toffees also had a goal disallowed, but Solskjaer retains belief in his team and staff.

Asked if he should be getting better results from the squad at his disposal, a prickly Solskjaer said: "That's the same question you asked on Wednesday night… Of course, I'm very confident we'll get the best out of this squad.

"A lot has happened this month. We've had Raphael, Cristiano and Jadon with us since August — well, Cristiano only September.

"We've loads to work on, we need to improve. We know that, I know that, but I do believe in this group of players and the coaching staff I've got. Yes, is the short answer."

A gruelling sequence of matches awaits after the international break, with United set to face Leicester City, Atalanta twice, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City in a six-game spell.

While Solskjaer's record against Liverpool is not great, with him yet to beat the Reds in the league, he has at least had some joy in meetings with City, against whom he has won more games (four) than lost (three) across all competitions.

But some consider this upcoming sequence to be a make-or-break run for Solskjaer, and he stresses that past results against those opponents need to be disregarded.

"I believe in these players, in the coaching staff. I believe we have something going," he continued. "But the proof is in the pudding, so we need results and you have to turn up.

"We can't say we did well against City and Tottenham last year, we need to do it during the 90 minutes, that's the challenge.

"Every game in the Premier League and Champions League is a big game against a good team, and every game at Man Utd is a potential banana skin because we're expected to win every one."

Could Darwin Nunez be the next Benfica star to make a big move?

Portuguese sensation Joao Felix swapped Benfica for Atletico Madrid in a club-record deal in 2019.

Now, Uruguay international Nunez is attracting interest from across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FRONT OF QUEUE FOR NUNEZ

Manchester City are leading the race to sign Darwin Nunez from Portuguese giants Benfica, according to the Daily Star.

Premier League champions City are desperate to sign a forward amid links with Tottenham's Harry Kane, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic.

Nunez has also reportedly attracted interest from BarcelonaLiverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

– United forward Edinson Cavani could join Real Madrid in January, claims Mundo Deportivo. It comes as Cavani finds himself battling Cristiano Ronaldo for regular game time at Old Trafford, where the club's hierarchy are concerned amid their form under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- The Daily Star reports Arsenal are weighing up a move for out-of-favour City forward Raheem SterlingBarca are also believed to be interested in Sterling, according to The Sun, as they face the prospect of missing out on Leipzig's Dani Olmo. The Spain international has been linked with United, Juventus and Bayern.

Liverpool are eyeing Pogon Szczecin midfielder Kacper Kozlowski, says the Mirror. The 17-year-old has been linked with Bayer Leverkusen, Milan, RB Leipzig and Salzburg.

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."

Bruno Fernandes vented his frustration at Manchester United's form after their draw with Everton, acknowledging silverware will be a pipe dream unless they improve.

Fernandes became the joint-fourth quickest player to reach the 50 goals involvements landmark in the Premier League as he teed up Anthony Martial for United's opener on Saturday.

But Everton were good value for their second-half equaliser, as Demarai Gray twice shrugged off Fred before feeding Abdoulaye Doucoure, who then teed up Andros Townsend for a straightforward finish.

United have now won just two of their past seven home league games, while their run of nine successive top-flight matches at Old Trafford without a clean sheet is the second-worst in the club's history (10, 1970-71).

Everton created better quality chances as well, with Rafael Benitez's men recording 1.22 expected goals (xG) to United's 0.88, which suggests the hosts were perhaps slightly lucky to even score once.

Understandably, Fernandes was frustrated.

"We should win this game," the Portugal international told BBC Sport.

"We should create more chances, we should not concede that kind of goal. It's not the first time and we have to look at our mistakes and see what we can do."

Victory for United would have taken them top, even if just temporarily. Despite such fine margins, Fernandes is concerned about their form, having also lost to Aston Villa last time out in the Premier League.

In his opinion, their silverware chances will be in doubt if they do not improve.

"We don't look at the league table at this moment but of course we should have more points," he continued.

"We drop points at home and we should not do that. These last two games at home were not good enough in the Premier League.

"If we want silverware at the end of the season, we have to do much better."

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come under pressure in recent weeks, with some once again suggesting he is not the right man to turn the Red Devils into title contenders.

And his comments may increase the cause for concern among some fans, with the Norwegian suggesting United did not afford Everton many chances despite the Toffees managing 10 shots inside the box – the hosts managed nine.

"We didn't concede many chances today but we conceded a goal, so sometimes you have to deal with one or two moments and we didn't," he told BT Sport. "In that break we got outmuscled, we should've cleared it.

"We gave them a few counterattacks. I don't know the stats but I know we had the ball most of the time. They didn't play through us at all really. How not to be counterattacked is the key lesson here.

"Every game in the Premier League, you can work on a system, on defending, but that [counter] has to be dealt with."

Manchester United playmaker Bruno Fernandes has become the joint-fourth quickest Premier League player to reach 50 goal involvements after achieving the feat in 58 appearances.

Fernandes reached the milestone towards the end of the first half of United's meeting with Everton, turning before feeding Anthony Martial into the left side of the box for the Frenchman to convert.

Only three players have reached the 50 involvements mark quicker than Fernandes.

Former Red Devil Andy Cole leads the way after recording the half-century in 43 games. Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona both reached the landmark in 54 matches, while Fernandes slots in alongside Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, who also took 58 matches.

The 27-year-old's half-century in the competition breaks down into 30 goals and 20 assists, with no player appearing more times for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since his debut in February 2020.

Indeed, 13 of those goals have come from the penalty spot, ranking him top of the Premier League for spot-kicks in the same time period, with Jamie Vardy and Jorginho next with nine.

The signing of the former Sporting CP playmaker has revolutionised Solskjaer's side, who finished second behind Manchester City last season.

Before Fernandes' move, United won 22 (47.8 per cent) and lost 13 of 46 league games under the Norwegian, which changed to 33 wins in 57 games (57.9 per cent) after his introduction at Old Trafford.

Last term, the Portugal midfielder led the English top flight for chances created with 95, while no player created more than his 20 big chances (a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, according to Opta), perhaps explaining United's improved conversion rate with Fernandes in the team.

On five occasions, Fernandes has been directly involved in three goals in a single game, including twice against rivals Leeds United.

Cristiano Ronaldo will have to wait for his 200th Premier League appearance after being named on Manchester United's bench for Everton's visit on Saturday, with Edinson Cavani making his first start of the season.

Cavani has had to be patient at the start of 2021-22, with the experienced Uruguayan absent for much of the first six weeks of the season.

His pre-season was delayed by his Copa America duties and subsequent extended holiday, while he has also missed games due to injury.

Cavani appeared as a substitute in last weekend's defeat to Aston Villa and Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League win over Villarreal, taking his appearances tally to three for the season.

But he looked sharp against the Yellow Submarine, with his trademark tirelessness key to winning the ball back in the build-up to Ronaldo's dramatic late winner, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has rewarded him.

For Ronaldo, this will be the first time since returning to United that he has had to contend with a spot on the bench in the Premier League, having previous started three games and scored as many goals.

Should he appear as a substitute, the 36-year-old will clock up a landmark double century of outings in the Premier League.  

Ronaldo first appeared in England's top flight in 2003 after joining United from Sporting CP as a teenager, with this first spell at Old Trafford seeing him establish himself among the world's best.

He returned to United in August after 12 years at Real Madrid and Juventus, and he has hit the ground running for Solskjaer's men.

While United themselves have been rather erratic, winning three and losing three of their six games since Ronaldo returned, the Portugal great has proven a typically reliable source of goals.

He has scored five times already, including that late winner against Villarreal.

His goalscoring form has helped Ronaldo overtake Solskjaer in the standings for most goals scored at the club as of their first 200 Premier League matches.

Ronaldo is on 87 heading into the Everton game, with Solskjaer having scored 84 in his first 200 league games for United.

But it will take something special if Ronaldo is to be top of the pile in that respect after the Everton game given Rooney holds the record with 93 goals. No other play managed more than 47 (Paul Scholes).

Joining Ronaldo on the bench are Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho, the latter of whom has endured a difficult start to life at United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has dismissed Gareth Southgate's assessment of Jadon Sancho's form for Manchester United, insisting the winger was "electric" against Villarreal as he continues to settle in at Old Trafford.

Sancho has yet to either score a goal or provide an assist since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund, with his arrival somewhat overshadowed by the stunning return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the club.

The 21-year-old’s sedate start to life with United has not cost him his place in the England squad, though national boss Southgate admitted his form perhaps did not warrant selection for the upcoming fixtures against Andorra and Hungary.

"Does he deserve to be in on these performances over the last few weeks? Well, probably not," Southgate said on Thursday, though he did make clear England believe the player can reach a "high level".

Solskjaer, however, pointed to Sancho’s performance in the 2-1 Champions League win on Wednesday as an example of what he can produce, both for club and country.

"Was that interview done before Wednesday night?" Solskjaer said when Southgate's comments were raised during a media conference ahead of United’s home game against Everton in the Premier League.

"Jadon was exceptional, he was electric. The crowd loved him and I think he felt that connection.

"He was direct, positive, he went past the full-back numerous times. Yes, he's not scored yet, but I thought, 'that's Jadon and we're going to see lots of that'."

Sancho has created five chances in open play in his outings so far, while his dribble success rate in those appearances stands at 28.57 per cent.

He played 75 minutes against Villarreal, completing 90.7 per cent of his passes and managing one shot from his 59 touches. United grabbed a late winner after his departure from the pitch, Ronaldo scoring in the fifth additional minute.

Mason Greenwood also played in that game but will not be involved for England as the Three Lions continue their World Cup qualifying campaign, Southgate leaving him out due to concerns over the young forward’s heavy workload.

Solskjaer has backed the decision as Greenwood has already made eight appearances in the campaign, scoring three times.

"Gareth is understanding that the boy is only 20 - he turned 20 today (Friday). He's going to be a top player for England and for Manchester United, but he has to be managed in the right way,” Solskjaer said.

"It gives us a chance to work on his fitness but also to give him a rest because he has been playing in many, many games at a high intensity."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended his decision to leave Donny van de Beek on the bench during Manchester United's dramatic 2-1 win over Villarreal in the Champions League.

The Dutch central midfielder was filmed throwing his chewing gum and having to be calmed down by team-mates as Fred and Jesse Lingard were chosen to come on with the scores tied at 1-1 and one minute of normal time remaining at Old Trafford.

The 24-year-old has played just 141 minutes of football this season after being denied the chance to leave the club in the most recent transfer window.

Solskjaer argues, however, that with a squad so stacked full of talent, it is impossible for him to keep everyone happy, and insists that he is satisfied with Van de Beek's professional conduct.

"You know, I manage a squad full of international footballers, competitive footballers who want to make a difference, who want to play," Solskjaer said to the media. "They all want to be on the pitch, of course they do.

"Donny was ready to come on, as all players should be. I've been a sub more than anyone in this club probably - I must have a record [for] appearances as a sub - and you have to be ready all the time. I've been not very happy a few times but that is the decision the manager makes.

"Alex [Telles] was coming off as a left-back and Fred did that job well. So I understand the frustration, of course, every player is keen to play, that's got to be built into energy and determination for when you get on and show me.

"It's not just Donny, I've got a squad of internationals and if we're going to be successful we need positive energy, no energy sappers or soakers.

"Donny has never affected his team-mates negatively. As soon as I see players affecting the team negatively then that's a different scenario and I'll probably be firmer."

United's next challenge is their upcoming fixture with Everton at Old Trafford on October 2.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed David de Gea as the "best goalkeeper in the world" following his heroics in the stunning Champions League win over Villarreal.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck in the 95th minute to lift United past Villarreal 2-1 in a last-gasp comeback at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

United were fortunate to be on level terms at half-time – De Gea producing a number of saves to thwart Villarreal in a rematch of last season's Europa League final.

Paco Alcacer did find a way past De Gea in the second half, but Alex Telles' sublime volley and Ronaldo's stoppage-time winner ensured United opened their Group F account following the club's matchday one defeat.

Following a difficult 2020-21 campaign, criticism in the wake of the Europa League final loss to Villarreal and doubts over his future after Dean Henderson's return to the Theatre of Dreams, Solskjaer lauded De Gea.

"A very difficult game against a very good team. First half, we had lots of possession, but they counter-attack really well, transition, attack quickly and created some big, big moments in the game," Solskjaer said during his post-match news conference.

"Thankfully, we had the best goalkeeper in the world tonight. David was fantastic and very happy with his performance. Second half. They had more of the ball. It was still open and they deserved to lead.

"But, you know, Old Trafford is magic, Champions League, Old Trafford, sometimes that history can help us. And tonight, Cristiano [Ronaldo], of course, came up with a good goal. And Alex [Telles] scored a fantastic goal."

On De Gea, who made six saves, Solskjaer added: "You are probably right that he had a difficult summer after that [final with Villarreal]. Of course, he went to the Euros, didn't play there, but he's really come back with a determination and work rate that I've enjoyed. And today he got this again.

"He got a deserved outcome because he's saved us. Tonight, we have to be realistic and say that without David, of course, we've got two very good keepers with Tom [Heaton] and Dean [Henderson], but today David deserves the man of the match."

United have lost only once in their last 13 home games in all European competition (W10 D2), with Ronaldo the first Red Devils player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Champions League since Marouane Fellaini against Young Boys in November 2018.

Ronaldo (36 years and 236 days) became the second oldest United player to score a goal in European competition at Old Trafford after Bryan Robson (36y 282d) against Galatasaray in 1993.

No player has scored more 90th-minute winning goals in Champions League history than Ronaldo (three) – level with Sergio Aguero.

It comes after United superstar Ronaldo, who made his 178th Champions League appearance, broke the record for most games played by a single player.

Diogo Dalot said: "When you add Cristiano to the team, it's always a plus. Like I said, many times, he's a fantastic player on and outside the pitch. He gives us energy. But we are a proper team.

"We give to Cristiano as well to help have these moments. Like we saw many times he can be very decisive until the end. But today was a team effort until the end. And we're so glad that Cristiano could score that goal at the end."

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