Ralf Rangnick maintained his faith in Manchester United’s medical staff and insisted he could not select a player who felt unable to play following Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-profile absence in Sunday’s defeat at Manchester City.
Before the game, Sky Sports analyst Roy Keane questioned Ronaldo’s ailment, saying, “We talk about Ronaldo being a machine and very rarely getting injured… it doesn’t stack up to me.”
Katia Aveiro, Ronaldo’s sister, seemed to raise doubts about the 37-year-absence old’s before the match by liking an Instagram post stating he was not injured and was dropped by Rangnick.
Rangnick responded to Keane’s comments following United’s humiliating 4-1 loss to City.
“I have to have faith in my medical department,” the interim United CEO remarked. “My doctor came to visit me before training on Friday morning and told me Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t train due to hip flexor problems, and the same was true on Saturday, so he couldn’t be part of the squad.”
Rangnick, who used Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba as a false nine in Ronaldo’s absence, was also questioned about striker Edinson Cavani’s availability.
Ralf Rangnick: I can’t make someone play
The Uruguayan international was absent for the sixth time in as many games, with Rangnick expressing his displeasure before to the game after being told by the player that he did not believe he could participate. United’s offense was ineffective in his absence, with the team failing to register a single shot in the second half.
“How does telling you it’s frustrating help?” Rangnick continued. “If athletes notify the doctor and the medical department that they are wounded and unable to participate, it is a fact. As a manager, I have to accept it.
“I can’t make a guy play if he believes he can’t due to an ailment.”
Rangnick went on to say that Cavani chooses when he plays: “Edi has been practicing for the past three days and has done a good job, but he still feels he isn’t ready to play after those three sessions.
“This is a fact, and as a manager, I cannot compel a player to play if he is not fit or well enough.”
With goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez, City regained their six-point advantage at the top of the Premier League, their first away from home since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s penultimate game as manager at Watford.
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The champs have a 22-point lead over their cross-city opponents. Rangnick was well aware of the enormity of United’s challenge in closing that deficit, albeit he declined to be drawn on specific areas where improvement is required.
“The second half proved that if they [City] have momentum and are up 3-1, it’s practically impossible to keep them away from your own goal,” he continued.
“Look, I’m still in charge of this team for another 10 Premier League games and perhaps a couple more Champions League games.”
“This is my issue: it doesn’t make sense to start speculating on how many players we’ll need and in which roles. The club is currently preparing for the Tottenham game, followed by a crucial Champions League match against Atletico Madrid.
“For the time being, I am pleased with the guys we have. Looking ahead and developing the team, which we have in the last several weeks and months, is critical for us.
“We don’t always play Manchester City, and we’ve demonstrated that we can win other games. In the next two and a half months, this will be my main work.”