United’s caretaker manager, Michael Carrick, surprisingly benched Ronaldo for the match, despite his crucial goal against Villarreal in midweek, opting to start Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford up front as split strikers.
Sancho repaid Carrick’s faith with a goal, while Rashford struggled to get into the game. Ronaldo came on with United winning 1-0, only for Jorginho’s penalty to earn the home side a deserved share of the spoils.
Post-match, Keane was adamant that Ronaldo should have started, while ex-Liverpool defender Carragher voiced his different opinion and it sparked a wider debate over his signing.
Join the debate! Has Ronaldo made Man Utd worse? Let us know your thoughts here.
Action Images via Reuters)
Keane began on Sky Sports: “Ronaldo’s not one to come off the bench. Ronaldo has not come back to sit on the bench.
“His overall play he knew the ref was going to blow the whistle. Why Carrick is trying to give him a high-five, I don’t know let him get down the tunnel.
“[There’s] nothing wrong with a player being upset but Ronaldo has not come back to sit on the bench.
“He’s a world class player, the idea Ronaldo will close people down he’s not. But sometimes you have to work around the superstar.
“I played with players who don’t do their bit you’d hope, the Cantonas of the world but you forgive him because they will score and win the matches. He could’ve played easily.”
Carragher had his say, countering: “I think going away to big games I can understand why Carrick didn’t start him. He’s 36.
“Ronaldo’s not the player he was – he’s still obviously delivering for Manchester United in terms of goals – but I don’t think it should be a big story if he doesn’t start every game or, at times, comes off.”
Keane replied: “Not every game, Jamie, but this is a big game for Man United today. I’d forgive some of the Champions League group games when I still ‘United are gonna get through’.
“But Ronaldo, if you bumped into him in the car park, you see a guy who’s won everything in the game, who’s come back to United to try and lift the club – of course he wants to play in these games, of course he wants to play.”
At which point, things stepped up a notch.
Carragher asked: “That’s every player, Roy, doesn’t every player wanna play every game?
Keane noted: “But they’re not all world class, Jamie. Not everyone’s played 800 games in their career.
“If you’re watching Man United today and Man United are poor, you’re still looking and thinking you still think if Ronaldo is on the pitch, whatever your feelings are, if the ball falls to anybody in world football – even now at 36 – it’s Ronaldo.
“It’s not as if he’s come back to the club and he’s not scored, and you go ‘he can’t get up to speed, he looks off it, he’s as if he’s not interested,’ – he looks on it, he looks interested.
“But then this idea that he’s getting the blame for the high press.”
Carragher interjected: “But he doesn’t press, does he?”
That immediately drew the ire of Keane, who bit back: “He’s not pressed for 5 or 6 years. I said when he came back: ‘He’s not going to fix United’s problems’.
“But you don’t bring Ronaldo back to Man United to sit on the bench.
“Of course he’s not gonna start every game, but it’s Chelsea away, there’s gonna be counter attacks, you might get one or two balls into the box.”
After Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (also in the Sky Sports studio) attempted to calm the conversation down, Keane continued, asking: “Do you think Rashford pressed today? Rashford did nothing today.”
Carragher then attempted a change of tact, stating: “Why did Manchester United sign Ronaldo in the summer? They signed him because they were terrified of him going to Man City.
“There was no plan to sign him.”
Keane swiftly cut in: “But he was always gonna play, Jamie, did they sign him not to go to City and sit with us on the bench?”
Just as quickly, Carragher said: “Is a Manchester United manager not allowed to put Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench?
“They’ve come here and the guy who played has scored the goals.”
Keane then lamented: “Stats have obviously taken over the world – his stats since coming back to Man United are good.”
Things then became quicker as Carragher responded: “Goalscoring-wise, yeah, definitely!”
Keane fired back: “Alright yeah, what’s the game about? Scoring goals! You talk about [Mohamed] Salah, the game’s about goals, Jamie! Ian Rush – what did he do? He scored goals.”
Carragher, sensing an in, quizzed: “Did he press as well?”
Keane responded.”Yeah but he didn’t score as many as Ronaldo!”
Carragher then hit back again by saying: “I’m not criticising Ronaldo as a player. He’s a phenomenon in terms of goals.
“Are Man United closer to the title right now than they were last season? No.
“Are PSG closer to the Champions League with Messi in the team? No.
“We speak about goalscorers, or whatever position you are, it’s a team game.”
Things looked to have calmed… until host David Jones asked the trio of pundits again if the signing was a mistake, it all kicked off, faster and with more aggression.
Have your say! How did Man Utd fare at Chelsea? Rate the players below.
Keane: “Ronaldo was never going to get United back to winning titles.”
Carragher: “What was the point in signing him then?! He’s 37!”
Keane: “Did you win the FA Cup?”
Carragher: “Yeah, I did, I did!”
Keane: “Yeah so go back to winning the FA Cup. They got through to the next round of the Champions League, how much you think that’s worth to the club. The Glazers and share prices- that’s what he’s come back for!”
Carragher: “If you finish 2nd and you then sign Ronaldo at 36, you’re not going to win the League in four years. If you sign someone at 36 it’s to win right now.
“If you sign Varane a four-time Champions League winner and World Cup, it’s to win right now. Are they any closer to winning the league?”
Keane: “No. He’s not come back to win the league.”
Carragher: “So what’s he come back for?! What’s he here for then?”
Keane: “Well, Mourinho didn’t win the league but won one or two trophies. When you won the FA Cup were you not buzzing with that? United are a cup team at the moment.”
Carragher: “You said Ronaldo hasn’t come to win the League, what is he here for?!”
Keane: “For cups.”
Carragher: “Is that where Man United have gone?”
Carragher: “You’re happy with cups?
Keane: “I’m not but thats where they are as a club. Look at the team look at the league, look at the last two or three years they won’t win the league for the two or three years, I’ll tell you that.”
Carragher: “Why sign Ronaldo at 36 if they’re not going to win for the next two or three years? Start getting Greenwood on the pitch, start getting Sancho on the pitch.”
Keane: “They were never going to win the league with Ronaldo.”
Carragher: “So what was the point?”
Keane: “I’ll say it one more time. To win some trophies, FA Cups, that’s where they are.”
At that point, it was all over.