EPL

'There is a gap between the two teams' - Rangnick acknowledges City superiority after derby defeat

By Sports Desk March 06, 2022

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick acknowledged "there is a gap between the two teams" after suffering a 4-1 thrashing at local rivals Manchester City.

United headed to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday unbeaten in 11 games in normal time across all competitions, but came unstuck against Pep Guardiola's Premier League leaders.

Kevin De Bruyne needed just five minutes to open the scoring and became the first player to score a league brace in the Manchester derby since Sergio Aguero in April 2015, after Jadon Sancho's first-half equaliser.

De Bruyne then turned provider for Riyad Mahrez to put the game beyond doubt at 3-1, before the Algeria international capped a sumptuous derby display with a late fourth goal for City.

That leaves United a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who defeated Watford 3-2 on the same day and have played three games fewer than Rangnick's side.

Rangnick pointed to the difference in quality between his team and City as he looked ahead to an important period, with United vying for Champions League success and a top-four push in the league.

"I think we played a good, if not decent first half. We were competitive. It is difficult to concede an early goal," he told Sky Sports after the game.

"We came back, scored a brilliant goal ourselves then conceded another on the counter. It was a very difficult game against one of the best teams in the world. We conceded a fourth in the last minute of the game. It is a difficult game that shows we have a long way to go to close that gap."

Pressed for an answer on whether the gulf between the two Manchester clubs showed, Rangnick added: "In the second half it did but the first half was a competitive game.

"Everyone knows how good they are. They are one of the top teams in the world and there is a gap between the two teams.

"We are fully aware we need to win games. This is one of the most difficult. It is accepting they were the better team today.

"But we look ahead to the next games and we need to win the next two home games - they are essential to us."

United's first-half display did offer some hope, with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes acting as strikers and Scott McTominay, Fred, Sancho and Anthony Elanga doing the hard yards in behind the front pair.

But the Red Devils' task was already made more difficult before kick-off, when it was confirmed they would be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani.

"I don't know. I was hoping to have them available for this game," Rangnick responded when asked when Ronaldo and Cavani could return.

"We have two important games coming up against Spurs and Atletico and we have to put our full focus on that."

Meanwhile, City manager Guardiola was delighted with what he saw from the Citizens - who restored their six-point lead at the Premier League summit, albeit Liverpool do still boast a game in hand and make the trip to the Etihad in April.

"It was excellent from the first minute. We played really well and had to be patient in the first step," he told Sky Sports.

"Ralf [Rangnick] tried to change the mentality for Man United to be more aggressive but we made space, especially in the second half, to play behind [Scott] McTominay and Fred.

"Football is emotions. It's tactics, definitely, but it's also emotions. Without the ball, we are a team with desire and passion to regain the ball from the first minute to the 90th.

"We also want the ball as much as possible and, especially, second half we used it very well."

Guardiola also reserved special praise for Jack Grealish, who was preferred ahead of Raheem Sterling on the left flank.

"He was excellent. [At one] moment he will understand in the final third, 'this ball is from me'. He is very generous," Guardiola said of the former Aston Villa man.

"When you see Phil [Foden] and Riyad [Mahrez] in that moment, it is their ball. This is the next step for Jack, but in terms of decision-making, and using players in space, he was exceptional."

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