Jesse Lingard was left out of Friday’s FA Cup fourth-round defeat against Middlesbrough; Ralf Rangnick said Man Utd forward needed time off to “clear up his mind”; Lingard contradicted Rangnick’s comments on social media; Lingard and Edinson Cavani both in squad to face Burnley on Tuesday
Tuesday 8 February 2022 21:19, UK
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Ralf Rangnick has revealed he never reads social media and encouraged his Manchester United players to communicate with him in person instead.
The United interim boss’ comments came in the wake of Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial posting contradictory messages surrounding their respective omissions from first-team matches in January as the pair were linked with exits from Old Trafford.
Martial secured a loan move to Sevilla last month but Lingard’s departure was vetoed, and his subsequent absence from Friday’s FA Cup exit to Middlesbrough saw him take to social media to reject his manager’s claims he had requested some time off to “clear up his mind”.
The club advised me to have time off due to personal reasons! But my headspace is clear and I’ll always be professional when called upon and give 100 percent
Speaking in his press conference ahead of United’s Premier League trip to Burnley, Rangnick was keen to draw a line under the affair and extolled the importance of in-person conversations.
“It’s always better [to communicate in person],” Rangnick said. “I never, ever read or communicate by social media accounts, I don’t even exist there, to be honest, I wouldn’t have time to do that.
“Therefore it’s always better [to communicate in person]. I always communicate with the players directly, like I did with Anthony Martial and with Jesse. But maybe I am a different generation, my generation never grew up with these kinds of things.
For me, it’s always better to communicate directly, but again it’s time to look ahead. I know in both cases what I said to the players, and what happened, so for me, there is no reason to discuss this anymore.”
Rangnick’s powers of communication will be tested again come the end of the season when the expiration of the contracts of Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Juan Mata, and Lingard coincide with the end of his interim period in charge of the club.
Asked whether he expected any of the quartet to leave Old Trafford, Rangnick added: “I don’t know. It’s far too early to speak about that, and in the end, it’s also a question of what the players want and how the club see it.
“But these are not interesting topics for us right now, right now it is to get the best out of the season and these players.
“Even if they want to leave at the end of the season, the chance to get an offer from any club, including Manchester United, is to play well.”
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Fourth-placed United travel to Turf Moor a point ahead of West Ham – who host Watford also on Tuesday – having played one game fewer, but in the knowledge that anything other than a victory will open the door to the Hammers in the race for Champions League qualification.
For Rangnick, maintaining that advantage is crucial, especially after Friday’s cup exit to Championship Middlesbrough on penalties.
“Right now, we are fourth in the league, and everyone in the club, including myself, would be happy if we finish fourth at the end of this season,” he said.
“We are still in the Champions League, unfortunately not in the FA Cup, and our full focus is getting the best out of this season. It is the only thing we can do, and it will be more likely to achieve that if we improve our performances.”
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Despite the public disagreement, Rangnick insists he and Lingard have a “very good relationship” and the 29-year-old is now back in the squad, along with Cavani for Tuesday’s visit to Burnley in the Premier League.
Asked about Lingard and Cavani’s availability for the trip to Turf Moor, the German said: “Both are available and they will both be part of the squad for tomorrow’s game at Burnley. Both are top professionals and both have been training well.
“With regard to Jesse, I have a very good relationship with him. He knows that I would’ve been willing to let him go, at least until the issue with Mason (Greenwood) came up. All the other things have been spoken about, he [Lingard] mentioned some personal issues.
“But we have to look forward now. There are no problems whatsoever between myself and Jesse, and vice versa. I’m happy to have him in the squad and he will be a member of the squad for tomorrow’s game.”
Part of the reason for Lingard remaining at Old Trafford is the situation involving Mason Greenwood, which Rangnick alluded to in his pre-match news conference.
Greenwood, who was arrested last month on suspicion of the rape and assault of a woman, has been released on bail pending further investigation and remains suspended by United.
Lingard and Manchester United’s differences should never have entered the public domain, according to David Ornstein of The Athletic, who still believes there is a role for the 29-year-old to play at Old Trafford despite falling out with his manager.
“I’m not surprised to see Lingard respond the way he did because the initial shot was made when Rangnick went public. Lingard is perfectly entitled to stick up for himself and if he feels his situation needs to be clarified he’s going to do so,” Ornstein said.
“This is an absolute mess. After the Martial comments, we have another senior Manchester United player and international seemingly at loggerheads with his club, in particular the manager, although I’m not sure the manager is the clear target, it’s the hierarchy above Rangnick who blocked Lingard’s proposed loan before the transfer deadline.
“This public disagreement is not healthy for anybody at United, it really should be sorted out behind the scenes. If there are personal or mental health reasons at play, this really should be going on and being sorted out in the background.
“To all intents and purposes, Lingard will be leaving Manchester United as a free agent in the summer. He wanted to go in January, it probably should have been sorted out then. Perhaps United are now seeing the repercussions and it’s pretty ugly.
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“With Donny van de Beek and Martial having left on loan, and the issues surrounding Mason Greenwood, there is a very good chance Lingard will get game time.
“We don’t know exactly what has gone on behind the scenes but if Lingard is to stay at United until the summer before some sort of termination it would suit all parties to reintegrate him, build bridges, repair some of the damage, and get him back in the team.
“He is a valuable asset to Manchester United, he’s got a unique skillset they could do with. This doesn’t need to be as acrimonious as it has been so far. It’s really up to Manchester United to step up to the plate, speak to Lingard, and hopefully come to an amicable solution.”
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