Asked about Fernandes’ reaction to Dewsbury-Hall’s tackle, Rangnick said: “The same was true with Fred and he is one of our physical and aggressive players but I am not only talking about this specific moment. There were quite a few other moments where I just felt we could have been more dynamic, more physical, more aggressive but we weren’t.”
Rangnick questioned whether that physicality was in the DNA of a number of players in United’s existing squad. “It has to be a bit in the DNA of a player to be honest,” he said. “It is difficult to challenge a technically great player into a physical, aggressive one and we have a lot of people who are technical players.
“On a day when we are fluid and in our rhythm we have shown in the past we can outplay other teams but [Saturday] was difficult. Leicester were aggressive and physical in many parts of the game and we had problems with them. It is difficult to change. I do not think it is to do with mindset – it is to do with the DNA of the players.”
Rangnick defended his decision not to start with Marcus Rashford and instead play Fernandes and Pogba upfront after Cristiano Ronaldo missed the game through illness and revealed that Luke Shaw was substituted at half-time with issues related to the operation he had on a broken leg in 2015 .
“He had some problems even last week when he was with the England team with his old injury when he had an operation with the broken leg and this showed up today and that is why we had to substitute him at half-time,” Rangnick said .
Analysis: Rashford’s alarming drop in form remains a concern
It was one thing for Marcus Rashford to be dropped for the Manchester derby last month, despite being the only recognized striker available to Ralf Rangnick, and watch the interim manager instead deploy midfielders Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba upfront.
But for Rangnick to go with the same plan at Rashford’s expense in a home game against Leicester they had to win, even though the experiment had crashed and burned at Manchester City, offered the clearest indication yet of just how big a hole the England forward finds himself in.
Rangnick invited criticism for his selection and system in Saturday’s dismal 1-1 draw and not without some justification given the gaping void in attack that a centre-forward would traditionally have occupied.
But anyone who has watched Rashford in recent months – or witnessed his contribution after coming on as a 55th minute substitute against Leicester – will understand why the German was so reluctant to start with the 24-year-old despite again missing Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani , in addition to Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial.
For a manager who was one of the architects of the gegenpressing movement to overlook a forward who would, ordinarily, appear well suited to the demands of such an approach in favor of two midfielders for whom pressing is not their natural habitat is quite something. It is not as if Pogba and Fernandes are exactly in good form themselves, either, but it was revealing that Rangnick felt it a better bet to go with that pair in unfamiliar roles than Rashford against Leicester after Ronaldo had fallen ill on Friday and created a dilemma.
After his derby omission, stories emerged the next morning that Rashford was considering his Old Trafford future and, four weeks on, his situation has worsened further: dropped by England and now so far down the pecking order at his club that he cannot be trusted to start even when his manager is starved of attacking options.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.