Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal as Man Utd suffer derby defeat
Jadon Sancho equalised for United in the first half after Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring, but City ended up comfortable winners.
Manchester United fans slumped on their sofas on Sunday afternoon as they read the starting eleven to face league leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Defenders Raphaël Varane and Luke Shaw were ruled out due to covid-19, and club legend Cristiano Ronaldo was also missing from the squad.
It was already a mammoth task for United, facing their superior cross-city rivals, who stood 19 points ahead of them in the Premier League table.
It meant United were up against it at the Etihad from the off, with Bruno Fernandes playing in a false nine position and Paul Pogba offering support in behind. Jadon Sancho equalised for United in the first half after Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring, but City ended up comfortable winners.
It has been reported that Ronaldo flew to Portugal when he knew he would miss the Manchester derby. The Portuguese forward complained of a recurrence of the hip flexor problem that troubled him earlier in the year.
The trip to Portugal has reportedly caused surprise in the United dressing room. Ronaldo is a senior member of the squad that many of the younger players look to for advice, and his presence is felt on and off the pitch.
Former Manchester United captain, Roy Keane, said on Sky Sports: "There seems to be something more with the Ronaldo situation, the manager coming out talking about his hip flexor but the man is a machine and is rarely injured. Every now and again he comes out with that about his hip flexor, it doesn’t add up to me. It's a surprise to hear Ronaldo has a hip injury."
Speaking after the 4-1 derby defeat, United manager Ralf Rangnick, when questioned about Ronaldo's absence, said: "I have to believe our medical department. Our doctor came to me on Friday morning to say Cristiano couldn’t train because of some problems with his hip flexor and the same on Saturday."
Ronaldo had played in 30 of United's 37 games this season prior to the Manchester City game on Sunday. Only Jadon Sancho (31), David de Gea (35) and Bruno Fernandes (36) have played more.