Manchester United interim head coach Ralf Rangnick has explained why he dropped Cristiano Ronaldo for the narrow victory over Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round on Monday night.
Rangnick sprung a surprise by leaving the legendary forward out of his matchday squad altogether for the visit of Steven Gerrard’s side – a decision that amplified rumours of dressing room unrest at Old Trafford.
Fortunately, Ronaldo’s absence was not too keenly felt as Man Utd edged Villa 1-0 despite another underwhelming performance, courtesy of a fine first-half header from Scott McTominay.
Asked about his decision to leave 36-year-old Ronaldo out of his plans – as well as Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire and Phil Jones – Rangnick told MUTV it was simply precautionary.
“They are having problems,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that they are injured, but they have muscular problems.
“I spoke with Cristiano yesterday before training, he told me that he’s had some problems for the last couple of days. Minor problems, but in the end, we decided that it made more sense to not take any risks in a game that could easily last 120 minutes, so we just decided to rest him, not play him at all.”
Speaking to the BBC, he added: “I suppose he will be in the stadium but he had some problems with his hip, with his hip muscle, and we just decided that it would be better for him not to play this game.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious. He’s told me that he’s had that problem for the last couple of days. Again, in a cup game when you can play 120 minutes, I thought it would be better to not take any risks.”
On Maguire, Sancho and Jones, he continued: “He’s [Maguire] still suffering a little bit from his rib contusion and again I hope to have him back for the Villa [Premier League] game on Saturday, but for tonight he was not available.
“With Phil Jones, he’s having some minor problems on the calf. Again in a cup game like the one tonight it doesn’t make any sense [to risk him] – even more so if it’s the calf muscle.
“He [Sancho] had some issues with hamstrings on both sides so again it doesn’t make sense to take any risks.”