Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford in the summer of 2021, 12 years after he first left for Real Madrid. At the time, Solskjaer was in charge of United. The Portuguese got off to a great start, scoring twice in his home debut against Newcastle. However, United's form gradually deteriorated, and Solskjaer was eventually fired four months into the 2021-22 season.
The Norwegian manager has now admitted that re-signing Ronaldo was a mistake and provided an explanation for the circumstances that ultimately led to the disastrous end of his tenure.
"It was a decision that was very difficult to turn down and I felt we had to take it, but it turned out wrong. It felt so right when he signed and the fans felt that at that Newcastle game when Old Trafford was rocking (after Ronaldo scored twice in a 4-1 win). He was still one of the best goalscorers in the world, he was looking strong," Solskjaer told The Athletic.
"When I looked at the fixtures it was going to be a deciding period: Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham, and Leicester away. Then Chelsea and Arsenal, plus Champions League games. Things went against us. It started with Aston Villa at home (a 1-0 defeat) and a late penalty miss."
"When you have a group you need everyone to pull in the same direction. When things didn't go right, you could see certain players and egos came out. We beat Tottenham convincingly 3-0 away, but then we lost two games," he added.
Ronaldo scored 24 goals and added three assists in 38 games during his first season back at United, but the club still finished with its fewest points in Premier League history.
The club then hired Erik ten Hag to take over for Solskjaer, but he benched Ronaldo early in the 2022–23 season.
The Portugal forward's behaviour on and off the pitch caused controversy as he vented his frustration over his lack of regular playing time. His contract was mutually terminated after he gave an ill-advised interview to Piers Morgan in which he criticised Ten Hag and his teammates.
In the wake of Ronaldo's move to Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, many of Europe's best athletes and performers headed for the Middle East.