Ralph Ragnik is unsure why Marcus Rashford is struggling to make an impact after leading Manchester United in a narrow 1-0 FA Cup win against Aston Villa on Monday.
Liverpool great Steven Gerrard’s first as a manager at Old Trafford was an entertaining occasion when it was decided by a header from Scott McTominay in the eighth minute.
Villa were denied two goals in the second half, the first after a lengthy video assistant referee review, but United had few opportunities to put the game to bed earlier.
Rashford was guilty of some poor decision-making in those moments and some faced his replacement with sarcastic cheers.
Asked why the Academy graduate was performing poorly, interim manager Rangnik said: “I really don’t know.
“I think he’s working hard. He’s been doing well in the last few days in training, so he was pretty good in the starting XI.
“I think we found him quite a few times in the first half, but we also tried to get him in the box.
“It didn’t happen often in the second half and so at the end of the game I decided to make two changes with Anthony Elanga and Jesse Lingard.
“It was very important to move on to the next round. Yes (confidence is important) especially for strikers – it is important that they score goals and goals, that there are moments of success.
“Of course it would be nice, for example, for Marcus if he can score a goal, but as long as he’s trying, as long as he’s training well, I don’t see that much of a problem.”
With Rashford far from the only bottom par in a match, Rangnick took some positives as United got back on their way to victory after a 1-0 home loss to Wolves last week.
“We knew from the start that it would be a challenging game for us with their rotation from a very flexible Villa side that they are doing all the time between their full-backs and their (number) eights during the game, ” They said. ,
“I think we saw some pros today. I think we were better, we had better framework.
“We had good energy in the team as well, we moved the ball, especially in the first half, well within our team, with some good diagonal balls.
“That was exactly what we intended to do against their central team and that’s exactly how we scored our first goal.
“But, as you absolutely right, we are still struggling in the center of the pitch. So Villa also had his moments where he could score.”
The helter-skelter encounter adds spice to Saturday evening’s rematch in the Premier League at Villa Park.
The marquee loan signing Philippe Coutinho could make his debut for Villa, whose manager Gerard on Monday wasted what could have happened.
“I thought the performance was good for the big period,” said the Villa boss.
“I thought we dominated, we could have scored two or three goals tonight.
“I haven’t received any complaints about what the players have given or performance, but we get frustrated because we’re out of the FA Cup and we see ourselves as the reasons.”
Villa scored two goals in the second half through Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins, but both were dismissed.
The second was a clear offside call but the first was more ambiguous to those inside Old Trafford, with Gerrard explaining that it was because Jacob Ramsey interrupted Edinson Cavani in the build-up.
“It took the officers three-and-a-half minutes to settle it,” Gerrard said. He said, ‘He has seen two-three things in it.
“When VaR happens and they make a decision you have to accept it. There’s nothing you can do to change it.
“The easy way out is to blame fate and the authorities, we won’t do that.”