Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likened Cristiano Ronaldo to Michael Jordan after the Portugal star bailed out Manchester United yet again this week in the Champions League.
The United manager could use a bit of Phil Jackson – the “Zen master” former coach of the Chicago Bulls – when they play host to Manchester City on Saturday in the marquee matchup of weekend games in the English Premier League.
It’s been more chaotic than calm lately for Solskjaer, whose leadership of England’s biggest team was called into question after a crushing 5-0 loss to Liverpool on Oct. 24. United responded with a 3-0 victory over Tottenham before Ronaldo’s two goals – including a stoppage-time effort – salvaged a 2-2 draw at Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday.
City visits Old Trafford coming off a 4-1 win over Club Brugge in the Champions League on Wednesday. Postmatch, manager Pep Guardiola was already looking ahead to the derby – and Ronaldo.
“They have one of the best players in all history, a guy who is able for himself to do unique things – a scoring machine – we know it,” Guardiola said. “Of course we will have a plan we are going to impose to try to do our game, that’s for sure.”
Raheem Sterling ended his scoring drought – netting his first City goal since August in the midweek game in a potential boost for a team that lacks a striker.
The news was worse for United, which lost centre-back Raphael Varane, who left Tuesday’s game in the first half. The club confirmed Wednesday that Varane had a hamstring injury that “is expected to keep him out of action for around a month.”
Solskjaer was questioned postmatch about finding more minutes for England winger Jadon Sancho, for whom United paid US$100-million in the offseason.
“I commit a crime every time I pick a team because there’s always players that get left out,” Solskjaer said. “Jadon will come good. Jadon has got a great work rate and attitude. He’ll have many, many years as a good player here.”
United is in fifth place, eight points back of league leader Chelsea and three behind third-place City.
Tottenham visits Everton on Sunday in what will mark the return of manager Antonio Conte to the Premier League. He was hired Tuesday. First though, Spurs were playing host to Vitesse on Thursday in the third-tier Europa Conference League.
Conte is Tottenham’s third manager in seven months. He was hired a day after the firing of Nuno Espirito Santo, who was dismissed for losing half of his 10 Premier League matches in charge.
Conte, who had been out of work since leaving Inter Milan after winning Serie A in May, won the Premier League title and the FA Cup in his two seasons at Chelsea before leaving in 2018.
“Now it’s a new era, a new chapter, it’s a massive opportunity for us,” goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said of Conte’s hiring.
Chelsea, three points ahead of second-place Liverpool, plays host to Burnley on Saturday. Liverpool visits fourth-place West Ham a day later.