Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo should be dropped by Manchester United for Sunday’s derby against Manchester City, live on Sky Sports, according to Paul Merson.
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick insisted last month there was no need to strip Maguire of the United captaincy despite admitting the defender has had “some weaker moments” in recent matches.
Maguire has come under scrutiny for several below-par performances this term and a section of United supporters have suggested the armband should be taken away from him. A report in The Times this week claimed there were tensions behind the scenes at United due to Rangnick’s continued selection of Maguire.
City are six points clear of Liverpool, who have a game in hand, and Pep Guardiola’s side have been top of the table since early December ahead of facing United.
United face a battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League, and they have not been helped by Ronaldo’s recent goal drought.
The Portuguese has scored just one goal in his last 10 appearances having scored 14 goals in his first 20 games this season. Despite his recent struggles, Ronaldo has had 79 shots in Premier League this season – only Mohamed Salah has had more (99).
With just a solitary strike and two red cards in his last three visits to the Eithad with United, Merson believes he and captain Maguire should be omitted from Rangnick’s starting line-up on Super Sunday…
Merson: I’d leave Ronaldo out of this game
Paul Merson speaking on Soccer Saturday:
“If the reports are accurate [of players wanting Maguire dropped], that’s not nice because Maguire is a top bloke and a good professional who looks after the players. He’s not really worried about himself and he’s a team player.
“But for me, I don’t think he plays in this game and I’d also play [Marcus] Rashford and [Anthony] Elanga. If they’ve got any chance of winning this game, they have to play on the counter-attack with plenty of pace, skill and energy.
“Personally, I’d leave Ronaldo out of this game. Against Watford, they dominated the game and had something like 80 per cent possession, but they’re not going to have the ball as much against City.
“How many times are they going to be in City’s half dominating the ball? If you’re John Stones or Aymeric Laporte, they would rather play against Ronaldo than mark someone like Rashford. They don’t want to play up against pace.
“City are finding it harder as everybody is sitting back now against them – 10 behind the ball and breaking like Tottenham and Everton did.
“They’ve got to be careful because if United get it right this weekend, they and Liverpool are the two teams I can confidently say could go to the Etihad and win.
“They have the firepower and we’ve seen it before with the way they play but Rangnick has to get it right, otherwise it could be four or five the other way.”
Rangnick says United need continuity off the pitch to find their identity like rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.
United’s interim manager is the seventh occupant of the Old Trafford dugout – including caretaker spells by Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick – since legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
They are searching for another permanent manager once more while trying to secure a top-four finish and progress into the latter stages of the Champions League.
Ahead of their clash with City live on Sky Sports Super Sunday, Rangnick believes the “secret” to the success of their rivals is consistency in the hot seat.
“What is obvious, not only with Manchester City but also with Liverpool, they’ve had continuity and consistency on their position of manager and head coach for five or six years,” said Rangnick.
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