Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Cristiano Ronaldo’s “immense” impact at Manchester United and insisted that the idea of the Portuguese wearing a blue City shirt on derby day was simply impossible.
Ronaldo looked set to move to Manchester City in the dying days of the August transfer window before making a moving return to the club he left 12 years earlier for Real Madrid.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner may be three months away from his 37th birthday, but the addition of Ronaldo is nothing but a smart United deal.
Although United’s damaging inconsistencies left serious question marks over Solskjaer’s future, Ronaldo has risen to the task on his return to English football.
Ronaldo heads to Saturday’s derby at Old Trafford with nine goals in 11 games, his latest effort being a stunning brace and a brilliant face-saving equalizer in the Champions League game against Atalanta on Tuesday.
“The good thing is that would never happen,” Solskjaer said when asked if he plans to play with Ronaldo for City in a Manchester derby.
“There was no way that would happen. I’m happy he’s wearing red and hope he can make a difference again.
“He’s one of the best players to ever walk on this planet.
“His impact so far on and off the pitch has been absolutely immense, the goals he scores, the way he behaves in and around the place.
“How people can say it’s negative, I can’t see it.
“We’re really happy he started the way he did.
“That’s what he does, he scores goals, he works for his team and he’s a very great professional.”
Ronaldo could join Edinson Cavani again in a 3-5-2 lineup that Solskjaer has turned to since United were beaten 5-0 by Liverpool in their last appearance at Old Trafford almost two weeks ago.
But Solskjaer has defensive issues, with Raphael Varane being ruled out for next month with a hamstring injury and Victor Lindelof troubled by a blow that ruled him out of the game against Atalanta.
Lindelof faces a fitness test ahead of City’s visit as Solskjaer looks to build a stronger foundation in the Premier League after last weekend’s 3-0 win at Tottenham.
He said: “We took the flak (from the Liverpool game) and put our hands up because it was nowhere near good enough in a lot of ways.
“It’s an important game, of course. With a victory, we still have the opportunity to get closer to the teams in front of us.
“We just have to keep scoring points and get away from what we did against Liverpool.
“The Tottenham game was much better, but we need to improve in every aspect of the game.
“It’s up to us to show if we have it, it’s football. Too many people are talking about a good game, we will have to play a good game.
The balance of power has changed dramatically over the past decade, with City winning five of the last 10 Premier League titles.
During that time United have only been crowned English champions once, Sir Alex Ferguson’s 2012-13 title swansong.
Solskjaer said: “You have to respect them for what they’ve done in the last 10 years, even more the last four or five with their dominance in England and Europe.
“But we are Man United. We still believe that we are the number one club in Manchester and probably in the world as well.