Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended his decision to replace Cristiano Ronaldo with Jesse Lingard during Manchester United’s lacklustre defeat at the hands of Young Boys in their Champions League opener on Tuesday evening. Jordan Siebatcheu’s injury-time winner secured all three points for the Swiss outfit, who mounted a remarkable comeback to seal a memorable victory on home soil.
United took an early lead through Ronaldo, who latched onto Bruno Fernandes’ inch-perfect pass to slot the ball home inside 13 minutes.
However, the momentum quickly shifted when Aaron Wan-Bissaka was shown a straight red card for a full-blooded lunge ten minutes before the interval.
Young Boys drew level when Moumi Ngamaleu found the net on 66 minutes before Siebatcheu’s last-gasp winner condemned United to a shocking defeat.
The American forward picked up the ball from Lingard’s misplaced pass and duly converted past the onrushing David de Gea to decide the outcome of the match with just seconds remaining.
United were far from their best throughout the encounter, with the Red Devils failing to have a shot on goal after the 25th minute and enjoying just 30.7 per cent of the ball in the second half.
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Solskjaer made a number of questionable calls from the touchline, with his decision to switch to a back five after Wan-Bissaka’s dismissal allowing Young Boys to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
Meanwhile, Lingard’s introduction to replace Ronaldo ultimately failed to help the visitors see the game out, with the former West Ham loanee responsible for the mistake that led to Siebatcheu’s winner.
However, Solskjaer explained after the final whistle that his decision to bring off the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was in order to keep him fresh, with plenty of important games on the horizon.
“We have to look after him as well,” said the United boss.
Solskjaer also jumped to the defence of Wan-Bissaka, suggesting that the artificial pitch was partly responsible for his mistimed challenge during the first-half.
“That’s a little bit the astroturf,” added the 48-year-old.
“Aaron gets a touch that’s too far and he gets the all but he follows through. It’s hard to argue against the referee.
“But then he didn’t go through his ankle, he hit him on the top of his foot.”
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