Sir Alex Ferguson appeared to slam Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to start Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench for Manchester United’s draw with Everton in a chat with UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Ronaldo was surprisingly named as a substitute for last Saturday’s Old Trafford clash and while Solskjaer brought him off the bench after 57 minutes, the Red Devils were held to a stalemate by Rafa Benitez’s Toffees.
Norwegian boss Solskjaer was criticised for not starting Ronaldo, who has five goals in six games since returning to Old Trafford earlier this year, and the United boss’ former coach Ferguson has also condemned the tactical decision.
In a video posted on retired MMA star Khabib’s Instagram, Sir Alex was seen speaking to the Dagestani fighter after the Old Trafford match and when the topic of the game came up, the Scot said: ‘But I also think that when they (Everton) saw that Ronaldo wasn’t playing, it was a bit…’
Khabib replied: ‘He came on in the second half…’ – but Ferguson dismissed that claim.
The legendary Manchester United manager responded: ‘I know, but you should always start with your best players.’
After the final whistle went at Old Trafford, Ronaldo was seen storming down the tunnel in frustration, while Solskjaer defended his call to leave the Portuguese sensation on the bench.
‘You make decisions throughout a long, long season and you’ve got to manage the players’ workload. The decision was, for me, the correct one today,’ said Solskjaer in his post-match press conference.
‘Anthony Martial did well and scored a good goal. Edinson (Cavani) needed minutes and got an hour. We have to make those decisions sometimes.
‘With the result today, I understand they go away disappointed. We have started better than last season but it’s still not what we wanted.’
Khabib, meanwhile, was a guest at Old Trafford for United’s clash against Everton as he continues his life away from the octagon following his retirement from the sport last year.
The 33-year-old revealed he turned down the chance to have a glass of wine with legendary coach Ferguson – with Khabib a devout Muslim and therefore tee-total – before joking a drink could make him ‘smash’ the former United boss, Usain Bolt and Patrice Evra – who were also in attendance for Saturday’s game.
‘I had to explain to him [Ferguson],’ Khabib said, as quoted by RT. ‘There are two things: you can be straight [with him] and say “no, no, no – I am Muslim, I never drink.”
‘But I also told him, “This is not good because if I drink, I can smash all of you guys. It’s not a good idea.”
‘Patrice Evra and Usain Bolt understand. Alex Ferguson asked me about wine. For him, it’s good – I don’t judge him.
‘[Ferguson] understands because he doesn’t think I should smash everybody, so he said, “OK, don’t drink”.’
Khabib later posted a photo of himself and Ferguson on Instagram, alongside the caption: ‘It was a great honour to speak with a legend.’
The former MMA fighter is a Real Madrid fan but his friendship with Ronaldo brought him to Old Trafford.
He was pictured holding a United shirt with ‘Khabib – 7’ on the back. His friendship with the Portugal star goes back to Ronaldo’s days at Madrid.
They posed together for a picture when Ronaldo was still at the club, with Khabib again holding a Los Blancos shirt, again with the No 7. He admitted earlier this year that the two ‘speak almost every day’.
Following confirmation of Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford after 12 years away, Khabib revealed that he had known about the move a month before.
‘A month ago, he told me that he was moving to Manchester United,’ Nurmagomedov told reporters at the New Knowledge Marathon in Moscow.
‘I expected this deal to take place. I think that Manchester United is more suitable for him than Juventus. For me, the transition was not a surprise.’