By Ian Parker, PA
Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has dismissed criticism that it was “classless” to deny Jesse Lingard an Old Trafford send-off earlier this week.
Lingard is one of several players due to leave United this summer as his contract expires in June, but although Rangnick gave Juan Mata and Phil Jones farewell home appearances in the 3-0 win over Brentford on Monday night, Edinson Cavani got the nod ahead of Lingard with 15 minutes to go.
That prompted Lingard’s brother Louie Scott to hit out at Rangnick on social media, pointing to Lingard’s two decades of service since he joined United aged seven in 2000.
Lingard has been a frustrated figure at Old Trafford this season. He was promised the opportunity of more first-team football after impressing on loan at West Ham last term, but has only made only four starts all season.
Rangnick said: “To start with, in the last couple of weeks under my tenure he has played far more games than he used to.
“Secondly, on game day against Chelsea (on April 28) he asked me to release him from the game and training the following day for personal family reasons.
“And this was the reason. With only three substitutes I had to take a decision between Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard, or the young (Alejandro Garnacho), who I would have loved to have brought on and given a chance to play.
“I took the decision to bring on Edinson. Had I not brought on Edinson someone else might have asked if it’s classless not to bring on Cavani or Garnacho. You have to take a decision and this will not be to the liking of everybody – and this is part of the game.”
Lingard could come into contention for Saturday’s trip to Brighton, with Marcus Rashford ruled out as he has bronchitis and Jadon Sancho rated as doubtful.
Rangnick also revealed Eric Bailly is out with a back problem, joining Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba on the sidelines, but Harry Maguire is back in training.
The club captain was dropped for the visit of Arsenal on April 23 after his performances attracted criticism, and he had not featured since due to a knee problem.
“Harry is back in training,” Rangnick said. “He trained the whole week since the second day after the Brentford game so he will be available for tomorrow and part of the group…
“(If he starts) is a decision I have to take after training today. I don’t want to tell our opponents the make-up of the team but he will definitely be part of the group.”
Rangnick is yet to speak to incoming manager Erik ten Hag to pass on his thoughts regarding the United squad, but said this will take place at the end of the season.
United have one fixture remaining after Brighton, away to Crystal Palace on the final day of the campaign in two weeks’ time, while Ten Hag’s Ajax have three games left as they try to retain their four-point advantage over PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie title race.
“We will definitely speak at the end of the season,” he said. “Both Erik and myself want to have our full focus on the outstanding games, he has three to play and will do everything to win the title in the Netherlands.
“We have agreed we will have a chat and speak about everything at the end of the season.”