Ralf Rangnick said he ‘has to accept it’ when his Manchester United players are unavailable, following the double injury blow to Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani on Sunday.
Ronaldo, it was claimed by his manager, is suffering from a recurrence of the hip flexor injury that caused him to miss two games in January.
However, Roy Keane said that something ‘didn’t add up’ regarding the absence, while The Athletic reported on Sunday night that Ronaldo actually flew to Portugal once it became apparent he would not be fit for the game, a decision which they say ‘caused surprise among the United dressing room’.
However, speaking after Sunday’s loss in Eastlands, Rangnick said there is little he can do if a player is unavailable.
"Well, I have to believe my medical department,” the German explained. “Our doctor came to see me on Friday morning, before training, and told me Cristiano cannot train because of some problems with his hip flexor.
“The same was true on Saturday and that’s why he couldn’t be part of the squad."
No calling on Cavani
Rangnick had a similar stance when asked about Cavani in his post-match press conference.
The striker has missed the last six games in all competitions due to a groin injury, and there was hope he could be involved at the Etihad after returning to training last week.
However, Rangnick said ahead of the 4-1 loss that Cavani had ruled himself off of proceedings, and there’s been a suggestion the 35-year-old is too willing to decide he’s not able to play games for the Red Devils.
But again, United’s interim manager said his hands are tied if a player informs him that he is not fit enough to feature.
Asked if he found the situation with Cavani irritating, Rangnick responded: "What does it help if I told you it was frustrating? It’s just a fact.
“If players tell the doctor and the medical department that they are injured and cannot play, I have to accept it as a manager. I cannot force a player to play if he thinks he’s not available because he’s got an injury.
"Look, Edi trained well in the last three days and he trained well, but he still felt those three training sessions, yesterday afternoon, that he was still not fit to play.
“This is a fact. As a manager, I cannot force a player to play if he doesn’t feel fit enough and well enough to play."
Asked what he thought of the game, Rangnick added: “I think we played a good first half, we were still 2-1 down so it was clear in the second half we still had to try and score one or two goals to win the game.
“It was difficult in the second half for us to keep them away from our goal, so we decided to bring on Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, two of the few offensive players I had available.
“Then they scored a brilliant goal off a corner, it’s difficult to defend that one. Then it was a very difficult and frustrating game for us because if you keep chasing them high up in their half you have the risk of conceding one, two or three goals.”