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Ralf Rangnick was left frustrated by Manchester United's own profligacy in front of goal as his side stuttered to a 0-0 draw at home to Watford.
The Red Devils took control of the game early on and rarely took their foot off the gas but simply could not find the killer touch in front of goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s misfortune continued as he hit the woodwork early on, before finding the back of the net only to be denied by the offside flag.
The hosts were well on top and dominated the opening proceedings as Watford struggled to cope, but could not find the opener before the break.
It was a similar tale in the second half as the home side continued to create chances without truly testing Ben Foster in the Watford goal.
Anthony Elanga and Paul Pogba both went close in the second half, while Rangnick sent on Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford in search of a late winner.
But their failure to find the net against the relegation-threatened side will feel like two points dropped and make a large dent in their hopes of finishing in the top four.
Daily Star Sport looks at three things Rangnick got wrong on a frustrating afternoon at Old Trafford.
What Rangnick got wrong
Man Utd lack killer touch
Rangnick would have had some bittersweet emotions heading to into the dressing room at the interval. In one aspect, his team had performed superbly and played the fluid, fast-paced football he has demanded from day one.
And yet, they were unable to find a way past Ben Foster in the first half, doing everything but score.
Ronaldo was more unlucky rather wasteful, hitting the post and seeing a goal chalked off for a marginal offside. Fernandes should have done better with his two big chances, while Anthony Elanga was a creative menace with his direct runs at the Watford defence.
But the 19-year-old really should have taken his chance after a neat flick from Pogba, only to blaze wide from 10 yards out.
At this point in the season, results matter more than performances — especially considering that Man United are facing a four-way battle for top-four spot with Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham.
And after their latest failure to win at home, they can ill-afford to continue missing big chances like they had today if they are to qualify for the Champions League next season.
Ambitious Ronaldo frustrated again
Earlier this week, talk had surrounded the future of Cristiano Ronaldo and whether the Portuguese superstar had it in him to continue playing at the top level for much longer.
The 37-year-old responded with defiance, hinting he may have to leave if the Red Devils prove they are incapable of challenging for honours, such is his hunger for more success.
Rangnick opted to retain the striker as the focal point in his 4-2-3-1 setup, accompanied by Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Anthony Elanga swapping positions behind him.
And Ronaldo wasted no time in making an impression, taking a wonderful first touch to cushion Elanga’s cross before striking against the post.
Then, just after the quarter-hour mark, the veteran star could not have been more than half an inch ahead of play when he tapped home from Fernandes’ cross, only to see the offside flag correctly raised.
He kept working to try and find the opener, being sent through on goal and rounded Ben Foster before unselfishly crossing to Fernandes, only for his compatriot to head over the bar.
He threw everything at Watford but could not find the goal that would have given himself and his team a much-needed boost. But this was a reminder again that his powers are simply not what they once were – and Ronaldo perhaps needs to recognise that.
Subs fail to make impact
Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw were all brought off the bench late on in order to find a winner as Rangnick ripped up the tactics book and threw the kitchen sink at Watford.
But what resulted was a desperation from the home side, combined with the groans from the home support.
Sancho and Rashford could not get into the game, while Shaw did not possess the same energy as Alex Telles down the left.
So often, Rangnick has relied upon his substitutes to save his blushes – but not today.
What Rangnick got right
Lindelof comfortable in Maguire absence
Call it rotation, call it a message. Either way, Rangnick left his captain Harry Maguire out of the starting XI against Watford after the central defender’s mixed performances of late.
As a contrast, Victor Lindelof had displays signs of improvement of late and warranted his place. There is a school of thought that the Swede compliments Raphael Varane better as a defensive partner due to his pace — and their performances suggest the theory has some credibility.
Watford barely had a sniff in the first half as Varane and Lindelof held position on the edge of their box, although United’s clear domination of the ball was another factor in the visitors’ non-existent goal threat.
Lindelof made a crucial challenge on Emmanuel Dennis late in the first half when Watford made a rare foray into their half and the tackle was greeted with a loud cheer from the home crowd.
Clearly, his inclusion proved popular with the home faithful — and Maguire may face a battle to win back his place at this rate.
Fred repays faith
Rangnick’s inability to sign a new centre midfielder in January was regarded as a disappointing failure by the club. But the recent displays of Brazilian midfielder Fred indicate that their decision was justified.
The 27-year-old can be erratic and unpredictable, but for the most part he provides energy and a tireless work ethic in the centre of the park that Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba simply do not have in their repertoire.
With Scott McTominay out with injury, it was down to Fred to collect the ball from deep and carry the ball forward as the link man. He patrolled the spaces in front of the back four expertly and quashed most of the danger that was in front of him.
It certainly helped to have a conservative Matic next to him, allowing Fred to burst forward at will, when McTominay usually takes up that role in the side.
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Manchester United FC
- Ralf Rangnick
- Premier League
- Watford FC
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