Aston Villa will ponder how they did not enjoy a rout. Steven Gerrard’s men attacked when they wanted from the first minute to the last. Somehow United hung on and , while they remain in the Champions League, Rangnick’s brightest hope of ensuring the club do not match their longest sequence for 40 years of no silverware remains a 13th FA Cup triumph.
The big issue for him, however, concerns a group of players who are flatlining: Victor Lindelöf, Marcus Rashford and Raphael Varane were tonight’s chief culprits but this is a team-wide malaise.
For the seventh game of his interim tenure Rangnick left out Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, Nemanja Matic and Cristiano Ronaldo from the 1-0 loss to Wolves, as Rashford, Diogo Dalot, Lindelöf, Fred and Bruno Fernandes started.
Sancho and Ronaldo had “muscular problems”, the German said, providing a first chance to see United without the latter in a game they must win, the ageing Portuguese’s previous exclusion under Rangnick a meaningless Champions League outing versus Young Boys. In the absence of the 36-year-old might the lesser-spotted gegenpress from the team tutored by the so-called “godfather” of the function be more evident? The answer, in the first half at least, would be no .
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