Man Utd players have ‘no place to hide’ since Ronaldo arrival – Solskjaer

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s original debut for Manchester United in 2003

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says there is “no place to hide” for his players following the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.

His arrival, and that of France defender Raphael Varane, has raised expectation levels at a club which last won the league title in 2013.

Solskjaer said: “He will get on the pitch at some point, that’s for sure.”

The Norwegian added: “There is no place to hide with winners like that. You can’t give 95% in training and not be focused. That is what he demands of himself and everyone else.”

It is a measure of the standards Ronaldo has to live up to that in his last appearance against Newcastle at Old Trafford, in January 2008, the Portugal forward scored a second-half hat-trick in a 6-0 win.

At that time, Ronaldo’s performances were characterised by decisive running with the ball at his feet and an ability to beat defenders on either side.

Now he is a more direct attacker. His two recent goals against the Republic of Ireland were straight out of the centre-forward’s playbook, as he used his legendary leap to get above defenders before steering headers into the net.

“Everyone evolves and develops throughout their career,” said Solskjaer.

“You won’t see 18, 19, 20 stepovers before he goes past you. But what he has developed in his years at Real Madrid impressed us all.

“He is one of the best in the air and his timing and desire to get on the end of crosses is second to none. He still hits the target 99 times out of 100 when he shoots from outside the box. He knows the game more and which positions to run into and is still as quick from the statistics.

“Everyone is going to look up to him. He is going to be a leader in this dressing room.”

In an interview with former team-mate Wes Brown on MUTV, Ronaldo said he had not returned to Manchester “for a vacation”.

He has signed a two-year contract, with the option of an additional season. That would take Ronaldo to 39 and Solskjaer feels he may continue beyond that.

“Cristiano doesn’t need me to tell him what to do,” said the Norwegian.

“He has always had this desire and determination to be the best. He is the one I have seen in my career that prepared and took the steps they needed to.

“He is in such good nick still and will be looking at the next few years to play as much as he can and score as many goals as he can.

“Ryan Giggs played until he was 40. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cristiano gets to the same age.”

BBC Radio 5 Live is the only place to follow every moment of Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford on Saturday wherever you are in the UK. Manchester United v Newcastle kicks off at 15:00 BST.

Build-up to that and all of Saturday’s matches will start from 12:00, with Ian Dennis and Chris Waddle the live commentary team.

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