Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Cristiano Ronaldo almost guarantees goals as Manchester United prepare to face Villarreal in the Champions League.
United have drawn their last five meetings with Villarreal, including the 2021 Europa League final which they went on to lose on penalties, while managing to score just once.
Therefore, the Premier League club will be hoping the 36-year-old, who is the Champions League’s all-time leading scorer, can help them halt that barren run.
Ronaldo has never netted against Villarreal in four previous appearances against them for United in the competition, only facing Lille and Benfica as often without finding the net.
However, he scored 13 times against the Spanish side during his time with Real Madrid, a factor Solskjaer hopes will work in United’s favour.
Ronaldo has four goals in as many games for United, though he failed to strike for the first time since re-joining the club in the Premier League defeat to Aston Villa last time out.
“Of course Cristiano, you can almost say when he starts it is one guaranteed goal,” Solskjaer said at his pre-match news conference when asked if Ronaldo could be the difference.
“He has that record and he will score goals.
“It is not going to be easy for us, but it is not going to be easy [for Villarreal] to play against Cristiano.
“He has 13 goals in 15 against Villarreal [for Madrid] which means he enjoys playing against them.
“He knows Raul Albiol, Pau Torres, top defenders. He is determined to score every time he is on the pitch. We have to play well to create chances.”
Ronaldo will break former Madrid team-mate Iker Casillas’ record for Champions League appearances if he plays, setting a new record of 178 games.
It will be the Portugal international’s first Champions League game at Old Trafford for United since April 2009 against Arsenal. He was directly involved in 12 goals in his final 15 home games in his first spell for the Red Devils in the competition, netting seven and providing five assists.
With Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka out, and Luke Shaw’s status uncertain, United are poised for a defensive reshuffle, so Solskjaer will hope Ronaldo and the attack can carry the load with his team under pressure after losing the Group F opener to Young Boys.
The United manager added: “It is a group stage, there are only six games and you need 10 or maybe 12 points to go through.
“We lost three points last time. If you end up with zero or one point after two games you need to win the last four games probably, so not a must-win game but it is a very important one.”