An impassioned Cristiano Ronaldo has called on his Manchester United team-mates to hit back at their critics and ‘prove themselves to the world’ in their Champions League clash with Atalanta.
The Red Devils head into the Group F tie on the back of a dismal 4-2 loss away to Leicester in the Premier League, the club’s fourth defeat in seven games in all competitions.
Ronaldo has scored five goals in seven appearances since rejoining United in the summer, but was widely criticised for his underwhelming display at the King Power Stadium and will be desperate to respond tomorrow evening.
Speaking ahead of the Old Trafford encounter, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended Ronaldo’s performance versus the Foxes and hit back at questions over the Portuguese’s perceived lack of pressing in recent games.
‘We’ve got 11 players out there on the pitch,’ the United head coach told reporters at his pre-match press conference.
‘We have different roles and responsibilities and we have a team out there that we really think is going to win that game.
‘We didn’t against Leicester so there is always going to be criticism.
‘And Cristiano is an absolute top player, we know what he can do for us, he is doing everything he can do to help the team.’
Ronaldo – the Champions League’s all-time top scorer – netted a crucial last-gasp winner in United’s last match in the competition, their 2-1 victory at home to Villarreal.
And the ex-Real Madrid and Juventus superstar is clearly itching to return to action to put things right after such a miserable afternoon in Leicester.
‘Our time is coming!’ Ronaldo posted on his Instagram page on Tuesday night.
‘We have to show what we are made of and the Champions League is the perfect competition to prove ourselves to the world.
‘No excuses! Let’s go!’
Gary Neville – Ronaldo’s team-mate for six years at the Theatre of Dreams – was disappointed with the forward’s showing at Leicester at the weekend.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, the former United right-back urged Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes to stop ‘flailing their arms’ at their team-mates and to focus on improving their own performances.
‘I don’t think this is a Paul Pogba problem,’ Neville said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
‘The reason I say that is that on Saturday I watched Ronaldo and Fernandes up front, nothing.
‘I saw them flailing their arms a few times at a couple of their team-mates which I didn’t like. That needs to stop!
‘I saw wide players with no intensity in their pressing. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t go back to [Scott] McTominay and Fred and he can’t go back to [Nemanja] Matic and Fred because the reality is we know what that delivers. It won’t deliver Manchester United success.’