Solskjaer’s attack had looked set for the new season with Sancho arriving to bolster the manager’s options across the front line, but question marks remain over Edinson Cavani’s availabilty for large chunks of the campaign given his international commitments to Uruguay.
If Cavani decides to go against Premier League directives and join up with Uruguay for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers, he would have to quarantine upon returning to the UK – and that could see him end up missing a large number of games with a number of international breaks coming up.
Added to the Cavani situation is the fact that Anthony Martial continues to flatter to deceive as a striker, Marcus Rashford is on the comeback trail from shoulder surgery, and that would leave a lot of pressure on young Mason Greenwood’s shoulders.
Throw in the potential for rivals Manchester City to sign one of United’s club legends in Ronaldo, and it starts to make sense why the Red Devils would make a late play for a veteran player in a position that, at first glance, doesn’t necessarily need strengthening.
So, if United pull off a stunning transfer move to re-sign Ronaldo, how would they line up?
First things first – Ronaldo played on both flanks and through the middle during his first spell in Manchester, but at 36, it appears highly unlikely he will be tasked with tracking back on the wings. He will almost certainly be used as a target man through the middle given his aerial ability and lethal finishing, and it will be up to the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Sancho and Luke Shaw to create opportunities for him.
The defence picks itself at full strength, with Varane slotting in alongside Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Shaw. David de Gea has started the season as No1 goalkeeper with Dean Henderson sidelined by fatigue after contracting Covid-19, so that is likely to remain the back five until injuries strike.
Pogba has been deployed in a more attacking role on the left with Rashford out, but with Scott McTominay also sidelined after groin surgery, the World Cup winner could be shifted slightly deeper alongside Fred to accommodate Solskjaer’s other attacking options.
Fernandes is almost certain to start in attacking midfield behind Ronaldo, while Greenwood is more of a threat from the right than the left – and that could see Sancho played out on the left flank.
If Cavani ends up staying at United, there also remains the option of playing both up front together – but Solskjaer is unlikely to deploy two veteran forwards in the same XI given the extra defensive burden this would place on the rest of the team.
So, with the current injury list, this is how Manchester United are likely to line up with Cristiano Ronaldo…
Manchester United lineup: (4-2-3-1) De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, Pogba; Greenwood, Fernandes, Sancho; Ronaldo