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stalemate Rio Ferdinand's verdict as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's selection gamble backfires


Cristiano Ronaldo was left on the bench against Everton (Martin Rickett/PA)

Cristiano Ronaldo was left on the bench against Everton (Martin Rickett/PA)

Cristiano Ronaldo was left on the bench against Everton (Martin Rickett/PA)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's selection gamble backfired as Manchester United could only draw 1-1 with Everton at Old Trafford, with Rio Ferdinand among those questioning his decision to leave Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.

Ronaldo would have been keen to start after his thrilling 95th-minute winner in the Champions League game against Villarreal on Wednesday night, but Solskjaer opted to leave the 36-year-old on the bench as he started with Antony Martial and Edinson Cavani up front.

That selection was justified as Martial scored United's opener, but a second half equaliser from Andros Townsend ensured scrutiny over Solskjaer's team that was also lacking Paul Pogba would be a talking point and United great Ferdinand offered up his verdict.

"It's a big call to make five changes," Ferdinand told BT Sport, with Ronaldo storming off the field at the end as he appeared to be annoyed by his delayed entry to the game as a second half substitute.

"He had lost three out of four games (before the Villarreal game), so it wasn't like they were coming into this one in a rich vein of form.

"In today's game, you see people shuffling the pack, but five in one game is a big call to make. I think you see the reaction of players walking off disappointed and frustrated with the result, it is big points dropped.

"On the other hand, they are bringing in Cavani, bringing in Martial, people that score goals and big names. They should be able to get it done.

"The thing is Ronaldo had scored five in five. He is in a rich vein of form. Would you see other people take out their top goalscorer who is in a rich vein of form? Is Harry Kane not playing for Spurs, Aguero when he was at City?

"He's 36 so you've got to manage his load, but if they had a game on Tuesday and another game next week I would understand and be convinced it was the right decision.

"I understand frustrations (for Ronaldo) and it comes out sometimes like that. Pogba was straight down the tunnel after him, both probably disappointed.

"But you have to say a club like Manchester United with the depth they have in their squad should be still able to get this game done.

"The question mark is that Cristiano is going on international duty against Qatar and Luxembourg, games he could pick and choose to play in and rest up."

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Solskjaer insisted he had no regrets over his decision to rest Ronaldo, as he suggested his side's inability to deal with Everton's counter-attacks cost them.

"Part of it was really good. I thought we started well, high energy, created some good openings and scored a fantastic goal and coming in to half-time 1-0, you're pleased," he said.

"Second half, we lacked that cutting edge to get the second, which is vital in a game like this because from a corner that we have, you concede five seconds later, so that was the disappointing bit.

"We gave them a few counter-attacks. I don't know the stats – I know that we had the ball most of the time. They didn't play through us at all really, they counter-attacked, and that was the same on Wednesday night.

"We need to be better at when to risk it, how not to be counter-attacked. That's the key lesson today because they do create big chances on quick breaks."

Asked after the game if he regretted leaving Ronaldo out, Solskjaer added: "No. You make decisions throughout a long, long season; you have to manage the players' workload and the decision for me was the correct one.

"Anthony Martial did well, scored a good goal. Edinson (Cavani) needed minutes and could have had a goal. We have to make those decisions at the time."

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