By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Ralf Rangnick believes Manchester United’s injury record is “an issue that needs to be taken care of for the future” as the interim manager heads to high-flying Liverpool without five key players.
Tuesday’s Anfield encounter sees Jurgen Klopp’s men attempt to continue their Premier League title push as the Red Devils look to inject further life into their top-four tilt.
United head into the match fresh from Saturday’s unconvincing 3-2 win against rock-bottom Norwich, where they were without Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw, Fred, Scott McTominay and Edinson Cavani through injury.
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 18, 2022
The quintet will be absent again at Anfield and Rangnick says injuries are one of the matters the stumbling club needs to improve moving forwards.
“Well, a few things happened (since I arrived) – we also have to be honest with that,” said the interim United boss, who is able to call upon Bruno Fernandes despite his car crash on Monday.
“We lost a few players that we shouldn’t have lost. I spoke about that last week that bearing in mind what kind of offensive players we had available against West Ham (in January), which substitutions I could make in the last 15 minutes. Three of them are no longer here or injured, continuously injured.
“We lost a few other players. Right now we have a few injury problems with important players who should normally be in the starting XI but, again, this is no excuse, no alibi. Things happen.
“This is also an issue that worries me a little bit, the number of injuries that we currently have.
“If I compare that with Liverpool, although they’re still competing in four competitions I think they have no injury problems at all.
“We only play in the Premier League and we have five, six players injured.
“This is also an issue that needs to be taken care of for the future, to analyse why is that the case, why does that happen?
“But, again, for us now it is about travelling to Liverpool tomorrow, show our very, very best performance that we can show on the pitch.
“This is what I expect from all the players involved (on Tuesday), that we are good enough and that we want to win the game.”
United’s injury record is being compounded by the fixture schedule.
The PA news agency understands that Rangnick was unhappy to see the match with Chelsea brought forward to next Thursday after Thomas Tuchel’s men reached the FA Cup final.
The club are believed to have spoken to the Premier League about the decision – one that leaves a giant gap in their schedule and them now facing Liverpool, Arsenal and the Blues in a 10-day period.
Fred could be absent for those three make-or-break fixtures in the top-four race for a club that has failed to launch a sustained title challenge since last winning the league in 2013.
Manchester City and Liverpool appear in a different stratosphere right now, but Rangnick believes the gap can be cut with joined-up thinking and recruitment.
“I don’t think a club like Manchester United can afford to take three or four years in order to achieve that – and I don’t think that it is necessary,” he said of the work required to get United fighting for the league.
“We spoke about Liverpool earlier on, how long it took for them.
“After two or three windows, if you know what you are looking for – I mean, if you don’t know what you’ll always be looking for the needle in a haystack – if you know what kind of football you want to play, what kind of profiles for each individual position, then it is about finding them. Not only finding them but convincing them to come.
“Liverpool at the time they finished eighth. The year after they didn’t play (European) football at all, so the full focus in the second season of Jurgen was on the Premier League and the national cup competitions.
“Then it took, I don’t know, two transfer windows. But even in the other transfer windows that came later on they just made a lot of very, very good transfers and signings. This is what it’s all about.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) April 18, 2022
“It is not that complicated, it’s not rocket science but in order to have the best possible wind, you need to know where your destination haven is.
“If you don’t know that, it’s always difficult.”
Asked if United do not get things right whether it is feasible there could be a 30-year title drought like Liverpool, Rangnick retorted: “What do you mean? Without a title?
“I suppose that this will not happen because it’s pretty obvious what needs to be changed and that there needs to be a rebuild for the future, so I don’t think that this will happen.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s participation for the foreseeable future is unclear after he and his partner Georgina Rodriguez, who had been expecting twins, announced on Monday evening that their baby son had tragically died.