Ralf Rangnick reaffirmed his faith in Manchester United’s medical department and insisted he could not select a player he felt unable to play following Cristiano Ronaldo’s conspicuous absence from Sunday’s loss to Manchester City.
Rangnick confirmed that Ronaldo, who did not travel with the United squad to the Etihad Stadium, was ruled out of Manchester derby 187 due to a hip flexor injury.
Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane questioned the veracity of Ronaldo’s injury before kick-off, saying: “We talk about Ronaldo being a machine and he rarely gets injured… it doesn’t fit me.”
Ronaldo’s sister, Katia Aveiro, also appeared to question the 37-year-old’s absence before the match by liking an Instagram post claiming he is not injured and Rangnick left him out.
Speaking after United’s 4-1 loss to City, Rangnick responded to Keane’s claims.
“I have to believe my medical department,” United’s caretaker manager explained. “My doctor came to see me on Friday morning before training and told me that Cristiano Ronaldo can’t train due to problems with his hip flexor and the same thing happened to me on Saturday and that’s why he couldn’t be part of the squad” .
Rangnick, who put Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in a false nine position in Ronaldo’s absence, also faced questions about the availability of striker Edinson Cavani.
Rangnick: I can’t force a player to play.
The Uruguayan international was absent for the sixth match in a row, with Rangnick expressing frustration before the match after being told by the player that he did not feel he could play. In his absence, United put on a toothless attacking display, not registering a single effort in the second half.
“What good is it if I tell you it’s frustrating?” Rannick added. “It’s just a fact, if the players tell the doctor and the medical department that they are injured and can’t play. I have to accept it as a coach.”
“I can’t force a player to play if he thinks he’s unavailable because he has an injury.”
Asked if Cavani decides when he plays, Rangnick continued: “Edi trained the last three days, he trained well, but he still felt after those three training sessions that he was still not fit to play.
“This is a fact and as a manager I cannot force a player to play if he does not feel fit or well enough to play.”
The defeat, United’s second under Rangnick and their first away from home since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s last game as manager at Watford, saw City regain their six-point lead at the top of the Premier League, thanks to braces from Kevin DeBruyne and Riyadh Mahrez.
The gap between the champions and their city rivals is 22 points. The scale of the task United have to fill that gap was not lost on Rangnick, though he refused to pinpoint the precise areas where improvement is needed.
“The second part showed that if they [City] They have momentum, and they’re 3-1 up, that it’s almost impossible to keep them from your own goal, at least for our team.”
“Look, I’m still the manager of this team for another 10 games in the Premier League and hopefully a few more games in the Champions League.
“It doesn’t make sense now to start speculating about how many players we would need and in what positions, that’s my problem. Right now it’s about preparing the team for the Tottenham game and after that, for a very important game against Atletico.” in the champions league.
“Right now I’m happy with the players we have, that’s for sure. For us it is important to look forward, to develop the team that we have in the last weeks and months.
“We don’t always play against Manchester City, we have shown that we are capable of winning other games. This is my main job in the next two and a half months.”
Pep praises one of City’s best performances
City’s emphatic and commanding victory was the perfect response for Liverpool to cut their lead at the top to three points with victory over West Ham.
Pep Guardiola hailed the performance as one of the best of his tenure and called for more of the same as the champions try to repel the best opponent the Spaniard has faced during his managerial career.
“In the first half it was difficult for us to get going, but from the first minute of the second half we felt we had the game in our hands,” said Pep Guardiola.
“I am very demanding, but I know the limits of my players. If the second half was not our best level, then I don’t know what we have to do.”
“The biggest success of this team is to be there again to fight against the best opponents I have ever faced in my life in Liverpool.”