LONDON (AFP) – Ralf Rangnick defended Cristiano Ronaldo after the Manchester United star’s reaction to his substitution cast a shadow over their 3-1 win at Brentford early yesterday.
Rangnick’s side were indebted to David de Gea for a superb first-half display that kept Brentford at bay before United finally sprang to life in west London.
Anthony Elanga put United in front early in the second half before Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford wrapped up their first win in three Premier League games.
But it was Ronaldo’s grumpy response to Rangnick’s decision to haul him off in the 71st minute that could prove the evening’s lasting image.
Shaking his head and muttering to himself, Ronaldo appeared to say something to Rangnick as he brushed past him.
Angrily throwing his coat to the floor, Ronaldo pointed at his chest while his teammates on the bench nervously looked away.
Rangnick initially ignored Ronaldo before sitting next to him and patting the Portugal forward on the leg as he attempted to placate him.
The 36-year-old’s strop will raise fresh questions about his willingness to fit into Rangnick’s system after his latest display.
However, Rangnick refused to criticise Ronaldo when asked about his behaviour.
“It’s normal, he’s a striker and wants to score goals. He came back from a little injury and for me it is important to bear in mind we have another game in a few days’ time,” Rangnick said.
“We were 2-0 up, the same as at Aston Villa. I decided to defend that lead this time and it was the right decision to switch to a back five.”
United at least avoided another embarrassing result after losing at home to Wolves and letting a two-goal lead slip in a draw at Aston Villa in their previous two league games.
They sit seventh in the table, two points adrift of the top four as they chase qualification for next season’s Champions League.
“I wouldn’t say a strong conversation but obviously we had to change a few things; first half we were not good in all aspects of the game,” Rangnick said of his half-time message to his players.
“We gave away almost every second ball. In the second half we were more urgent, we were attacking them high up the pitch.”