A video of Ferguson speaking to mixed martial artist Khabib Nurmagomedov in the directors’ lounge at Old Trafford emerged on social media on Monday. After being asked about Solskjaer’s team selection, Ferguson says: “I think that when they [Everton] saw Ronaldo wasn’t playing …”
After Nurmagomedov references Ronaldo being brought on after 57 minutes, Ferguson adds: “You should always start with your best player.”
United struggled throughout the 1-1 draw, with Andros Townsend scoring a magnificent equaliser for Everton eight minutes after Ronaldo was introduced. The 36-year-old stormed straight down the tunnel at the sound of the final whistle without speaking to any of his teammates or opposition players.
Asked about his decision to bench Ronaldo after the match, Solskjaer said he wanted to rotate his squad after starting the Portuguese in five of United’s last six matches. “The thinking is that we have 60 games throughout the long season,” the head coach said. “These players play at a high, high, high intensity every three days. Wednesday night [the 2-1 win over Villarreal in the Champions League] was a tough game for us and you need to manage the minutes. You have to rotate and everyone would understand that no player can play every game in a long, long season.”
United, who trail leaders Chelsea by two points heading into the international break, continued to show their faith in Solskjaer by handing his assistant, Mike Phelan, a new three-year contract yesterday.
The 59-year-old, who spent five years as Ferguson’s assistant manager between 2008-2013, will now remain at the club until the end of the 2023-24 season, when Solskjaer’s contract is also set to expire.