Cristiano Ronaldo “is a player who really needs to play” insisted Portugal head coach Fernando Santos, who appeared to criticise Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Ronaldo scored for the ninth time in seven Portugal appearances as the Selecao eased past Qatar 3-0 in Saturday’s international friendly.
The all-time leading men’s international scorer with 112, Ronaldo started and played 45 minutes after he was benched by United boss Solskjaer in the Premier League last week.
Ronaldo – who has scored against a record 46 nations for Portugal – was rested as Solskjaer opted to start Edinson Cavani before introducing the Portuguese superstar for the final 33 minutes in a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Everton.
After Portugal’s routine win, Santos seemingly aimed a subtle dig at Solskjaer in Ronaldo’s historic 181st international appearance.
“It was important to give him some playing time and I understood that it would be better to give him 45 minutes,” Santos said post-match.
“Ronaldo is a player who really needs to play, to have contact with the ball. Training is not the same thing. In the last match, he had played 20 minutes [it was 33 minutes].”
Ronaldo has hit the ground running in his second stint with United, the 36-year-old having returned from Juventus before the end of the transfer window.
Named September’s Player of the Month in the Premier League, Ronaldo has scored five goals for United, including three in the Premier League.
Ronaldo has outperformed his expected goals (xG – 1.03), expected goals on target (xGOT – 0.9) and goals (0.89) – all three topping the Premier League list.