Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick insists he has no reason to dispute the cause behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence for the 4-1 thrashing by City and insisted it would be unhelpful to be ‘frustrated’ by the continued absence of Edinson Cavani.
Ronaldo, 37, was driven home from training on Friday due to an issue with his hip flexor that ruled him out for two games against Aston Villa in January and did not train on Saturday.
Cavani, 35, has missed the last six games with a groin problem but had been declared fit by Rangnick on Friday. Cavani played one game in nine at the same stage last season, when the Manchester Evening News first revealed United’s frustration at Cavani’s tendency to declare himself unfit for games.
United great Roy Keane suggested before kick-off ‘there seems to be more to the Ronaldo story when a manager comes out and talks about a hip flexor’ and his absence ‘doesn’t add up’.
“I have to believe my medical department,” Rangnick said. “Our doctor came to see me Friday morning before training and told me that Cristiano could not train because of some problems with his hip flexor and the same was true on Saturday and that’s why he couldn’t be a part of the squad.
When asked about the infamously brittle Cavani, Rangnick replied: “What does it help if I tell you it is frustrating? It is just a fact. If players tell the doctor and the medical department they are injured and cannot play I have to accept it. I cannot force a player to play if he’s not available because of an injury.
“Edi trained in the last three days, he trained well but he still felt after those three training sessions yesterday afternoon that he is still not fit to play. This is a fact. As a manager, I cannot force a player if he does not feel fit enough or well enough to play.
“We have to be – and I am – happy with the players we have. This is clear. We lost two, if not three strikers since Christmas, everybody knows. But this is a fact and we have to deal with it. I am not complaining about that.”
United performed respectably in an even first-half at City, equalising through Jadon Sancho only to concede to Kevin de Bruyne again and trail 2-1 at the pause. Their second-half performance was so unrecognisable United had eight per cent possession in the last 15 minutes of the game as a contest descened into an exhibition match.
“We played a good first-half but we were still 2-1 down,” Rangnick noted, “so it was clear in the second-half we still had to try and score one or two goals to have a chance to win the game. We didn’t.
“In the second-half, it was difficult for us to keep them away from our own goal so we then decided to bring on Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, two offensive players, one of the few offensive players we had available today.
And then they scored a brilliant goal from a corner, it’s difficult to defend that one, and from then on it was a very difficult and frustrating game for us because if you chase them high up the pitch in their half you risk conceding one, two, if not three goals.”
Keane described United’s performance as ‘shameful’ while Gary Neville, on co-commentary, remarked United ‘have given up’.
“To be honest, I didn’t have the impression that they didn’t try,” Rangnick opined, “but it is difficult against a team like Man City when you are 3-1 down against the best team in possession of the ball on the planet, it’s difficult. I cannot blame anyone for not having tried in that game but it was difficult after the third goal”