Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick defended his medical team after Roy Keane questioned Cristiano Ronaldo's absence for Sunday's crushing 4-1 derby defeat to Manchester City.

Reports late on Saturday suggested Ronaldo would not feature at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, with Rangnick confirming before kick-off that the Portugal forward was suffering from a hip problem.

United were also without Edinson Cavani, who was missing for a sixth consecutive game due to injury as they fell to a humiliating loss at neighbours City.

Former United captain Keane, speaking on Sky Sports before the game, suggested Ronaldo's omission may be down to other reasons after being left out for such an important fixture.

Keane insisted the decision did not "add up", with Rangnick citing a hip flexor problem that kept the forward out of training on Friday, and the German responded to the comments after the match.

"I have to believe my medical department," Rangnick told reporters when asked about Keane's thoughts on the Ronaldo situation.

"Our doctor came to see me Friday morning before training and told me that Cristiano could not train because of some problems with his hip flexor and the same was true on Saturday and that's why he couldn't be a part of the squad."

Rangnick appeared frustrated to be without Cavani once more ahead of the clash with Pep Guardiola's side, suggesting the Uruguay international ruled himself out of contention.

After the game, the former RB Leipzig boss again commented on Cavani being ruled out of the derby, insisting he could not make a player feature if they did not feel fit enough.

"What does it help if I tell you it is frustrating? It is just a fact. If players tell the doctor and the medical department they are injured and cannot play, I have to accept it," he added. 

"I cannot force a player to play if he's not available because of an injury."

Pressed for an answer on whether Cavani decides when he is available, Rangnick responded: "Edi trained in the last three days, he trained well but he still felt after those three training sessions yesterday afternoon that he is still not fit to play.

"This is a fact. As a manager, I cannot force a player if he does not feel fit enough or well enough to play.

"We have to be – and I am – happy with the players we have. This is clear. We lost two, if not three strikers since Christmas, everybody knows.

"But this is a fact and we have to deal with it. I am not complaining about that."

The defeat at local rivals City leaves United a point adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal, who were 3-2 victors at Watford earlier in the day and have played three games fewer.

But Rangnick wants to focus on his team's push in the Champions League and hunt for a place in England's top four in the coming weeks, despite continued questions over who will take over at Old Trafford when his short-term contract concludes.

"Look, I'm still the manager of this team for another 10 games in the Premier League and hopefully a few more games in the Champions League," he continued.

"It doesn't make sense now to start speculation about how many players would we need and in what positions, this is my issue.

"Right now it's about preparing the team for the Tottenham game and after that, for a very important game against Atletico [Madrid] in the Champions League."

Roy Keane called for Manchester United to dump their derby flops as he attacked "shameful" effort levels in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.

Along with fellow 1999 treble winners Gary Neville and Peter Schmeichel, Keane said the performance from United was unacceptable at the Etihad Stadium.

Doubles from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez left United to reflect on a wretched afternoon at the home of their neighbours.

A first-half strike from Jadon Sancho had briefly brought United level, as they began the game well enough before fading alarmingly.

Keane said on Sky Sports: "They did give up, and for a player in any game to give up, it's unforgivable really.

"The beauty of top-level sport is there's no hiding place. I know United have done well here the last couple of years. We saw all the United shortcomings today.

"There's ways to lose football matches. We've all lost football matches. But the way United lost it today, they stopped running, they gave up. There are players not running back, that's what I don't understand."

Ralf Rangnick, the interim manager, had led United on an eight-game unbeaten run in the Premier League before this crushing blow.

"The manager will be criticised, and the tactics," said Keane. "But players not running back when you're playing for Man United, it's really unacceptable, it really is. They threw the towel in, which is shameful.

"It's hard when you're out there and you're up against a really good team and they're keeping the ball and you can't get it back, but I go back to it, we see some of the goals and you've got to run back, you've got to tackle.

"United players have shown quality over the years but we've just seen a reflection of where the team is and where the club is. It's just so far behind the other teams."

Sunday's results saw United slip to fifth, as Arsenal went above them with a 3-2 win at Watford earlier in the day.

Keane suspects there is more to United's troubles than may meet the eye, casting a degree of doubt before kick-off on the reason for Cristiano Ronaldo's absence, which was put down to a hip problem.

But he sees no excuse for United's players letting their focus drift.

"Whatever's gone in the dressing room, and we hear noises all the time, and we hear about problems obviously with the new manager maybe coming in, and recruitment," he said.

"But your own bit of pride eventually has to kick in at some stage. There were five or six players who should never play for Manchester United again. Just shameful, shameful that you can't run back and put your body on the line.

"I thought City had a couple of gears to go. They toyed with them. They [United] gave up, and shame on them."

Schmeichel, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, felt United were ripe for being picked off and need to look at themselves.

The former goalkeeper said: "I thought Rangnick should have changed things at half-time. He may have had words, but the second half was worse; at no point were United in the game apart from on the scoreline.

"Far too many players are either not good enough, or don't care enough. Having an interim manager means he can't do much; he knows he's not going to be there, so what can he change?

"There are players whose contracts are running down. [Paul] Pogba started the game, big question marks over whether he's going to stay. [Substitute Jesse] Lingard has said he doesn't want to be there. But for all that, Man City showed, in difficult circumstances, that they are the best in the country."

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."

Kevin De Bruyne was pleased with how Manchester City responded to Liverpool's win against West Ham, after a "different" Manchester United derby challenge on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp's side closed the gap on Pep Guardiola's Premier League leaders to three points with a 1-0 victory over West Ham on Saturday.

But any sense of concern was quickly quashed when De Bruyne opened the scoring in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium after just five minutes.

That was his 50th goal in the competition, and he soon added a 51st to his name, albeit after Jadon Sancho had levelled up for Ralf Rangnick's visitors.

Belgium international De Bruyne, who became the first City player to score a brace in this league fixture since Sergio Aguero in April 2015, then teed up Riyad Mahrez to put the hosts 3-1 up.

With that assist, De Bruyne recorded his 89th goal involvement in just 100 Premier League home games, spread across his time with Chelsea and predominantly City, and the midfielder was satisfied with his side's 4-1 win. Mahrez had added gloss to the scoreline in the closing stages, firing in off the face of David de Gea.

"I think Man United played differently to other occasions. They tried to press us and did well in the first half," De Bruyne told Sky Sports.

"We had a few more difficulties to get the ball around, but in the second half we created more opportunities."

De Bruyne was unable to explain why City have previously struggled at home to United but done well away, though he was delighted with this result against Rangnick's side.

"I can't explain why we always win over there [Old Trafford] but have more difficulty at home," he said. "Today, we played really well and deserved the three points.

"It's about winning game by game. They [Liverpool] won yesterday, but we responded in the right way. Sometimes we don't get the result, but we always play the right way and we will fight until the end of the season."

Mahrez sealed the derby success with the late strike that took him to 101 goal involvements for City across all competitions. It was his 21st goal of the campaign.

But the Algeria international acknowledged he had to stay patient for his opportunities, after a limited first-half display that saw the majority of chances come down City's left side.

"I think I touched four balls in the first 30 minutes, but in my head, I had to stay focused," Mahrez told Sky Sports.

"The first half was good and they [Man Utd] tried to play on the counter. Second half, we were more patient and more controlled and made the difference."

Discussing his goals, Mahrez added: "The first one, you just have to try and hit the target and the second one, I tried to put it high and it hit his face and went in. I will take both of them."

Guardiola's side will look to protect their lead at the Premier League summit when they travel to Crystal Palace in their next league outing, though Liverpool do still have a game in hand on City.

It was deemed a pivotal match in the title race. Liverpool would have been able to go top of the Premier League table – or at least within a point of it – with a win in their game in hand if Manchester City slipped up in the Manchester derby.

But upon its conclusion at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, it was difficult to imagine Liverpool players doing anything but lifting their jaws off the floor after City blew Manchester United away in stunning fashion, beating Ralf Rangnick's side 4-1.

Not that it always looked likely to be so one-sided. A Cristiano Ronaldo-less United certainly made things interesting at the start, and the absence of the Portuguese forward – due to a hip injury – gave them an enigmatic aura, to some degree.

It emerged on Saturday night that Ronaldo was a doubt when reports began to suggest the Portugal captain had not been present with the rest of the squad at their team hotel.

City would surely have been preparing to face Ronaldo all week, and so United's set-up will have come as something of a shock – even more so when in the early exchanges it looked like the visitors were attempting to go punch-for-punch with the champions, something few teams survive.

In fact, early on there were signs of role reversal. United had spells of possession, City were playing for counters. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, counter-attacking became something of a staple for the Red Devils in these fixtures.

But in the absence of Ronaldo, it was as if United were finally playing with a full complement of players, such has been his lack of influence outside the penalty area – you could potentially include inside the area as well given his recent wastefulness.

With Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba supporting wide forwards Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga, United looked fluid, intricate and generally dangerous in attack, almost mimicking City's striker-less style for 2021-22, the hosts' fifth-minute opener from Kevin De Bruyne not appearing to upset the away side's flow a great deal.

Jadon Sancho's excellent equaliser showed precisely what United were capable of, as they cut through City and the England international exhibited great composure by skipping around Rodri and curling into the bottom-right corner.

Though by that point, in the 22nd minute, City had already started to get to grips with United's slightly surprising set-up, as Rangnick's men started to show cracks.

In the first 15 minutes, the share of possession was almost 50/50 – over the course of a derby during Pep Guardiola's time in Manchester, United haven't had more than 40 per cent at the Etihad Stadium. But over the following third of the first half, City's share increased to 72.5 per cent, and it was unsurprising to see them regain the lead through De Bruyne just six minutes after Sancho's leveller.

If United were trying to mimic City, the latter were proving themselves to be the real deal.

Pep Guardiola seemingly targeted Aaron Wan-Bissaka – or United's right flank in general – as the weak link, with the right-back struggling to cope as Joao Cancelo, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva – even Phil Foden too at times – ganged up on him. City's first two goals originated from that area of the pitch and, in truth, even more could have.

United reached the break just one goal behind, and given their promising start and the open nature of the first period, there was reason to believe a way back wasn't out of the question.

But City were on a different planet after half-time.

Their control of the ball found another level, as did their cohesion when pressing, with United having immense difficulty passing through the City midfield.

Pogba faded into anonymity, Fernandes and Sancho too, while Grealish galloped with joy and De Bruyne ran the show, out-crafting and out-muscling his counterparts at almost every opportunity.

Adding to his brace, the Belgian also played the inch-perfect corner delivery that led to Riyad Mahrez's gorgeous half-volleyed third, which most would have accepted was game over for United. Though fans would have hoped the players weren't of the same opinion.

Yet the response to that 68th-minute goal was non-existent. City had 87 per cent of the ball between the 76th minute and full-time as United just seemed to throw in the towel – the concession of a late fourth to Mahrez was a just punishment for their reaction.

City's performance was a timely and fitting reminder that their superiority cannot be simply copied and pasted.

Rangnick said on Friday that City are an example because every decision in the club revolves around certain ideals and a joint-up philosophical approach to football – the second half on Sunday embodied that as they played United off the park playing the ferocious football they are known for.

Before this weekend, United had been reduced to the role of prospective party-poopers – it's a damning indictment of where they are now that even this was evidently way beyond their capacity.

Gary Neville labelled Manchester United "a disgrace" after their feeble second-half surrender in the 4-1 derby defeat to Manchester City.

After an exciting first half saw City edge 2-1 in front thanks to a Kevin De Bruyne double, the fizz went out of United's performance and they barely saw the ball in the closing stages.

Riyad Mahrez helped himself to two goals and United were out-shot 14-0 in the second half by a rampant home side at the Etihad Stadium.

It became a drubbing as United folded, and former club captain Neville said Ralf Rangnick's team let themselves down dreadfully.

During the final minutes of the game, Neville – now a commentator for Sky Sports – offered a string of stinging assessments.

"They've given up... they're walking around the pitch... nowhere near good enough," he said.

"They've absolutely thrown the towel in. The intensity and effort in the last 20 minutes has been non-existent."

United had just 21.1 per cent of possession in the second half, and their passing accuracy after the break was a poor 75 per cent. City's accuracy across the 90 minutes was a precise 92.7 per cent, underlining the quality they displayed.

Neville continued to be stinging as City's win was confirmed, adding: "Manchester United finished like an absolute shower.

"They were a disgrace in that last 25 minutes."

He spared Rangnick the most excoriating of his criticism, with the interim manager filling a gap between full-time appointments.

United had been unbeaten in eight Premier League games prior to this crushing setback.

The performance must have come as a shock to Rangnick, and Neville said: "The first time he's come up against a proper team, they've been given a proper doing."

Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez hit doubles as Manchester City thumped derby rivals Manchester United 4-1 to restore their six-point lead over Liverpool at the Premier League summit.

United had won their previous three games at the Etihad Stadium in all competitions but, without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, they were behind inside five minutes to a close-range De Bruyne strike.

After Jadon Sancho temporarily levelled up against his former club, De Bruyne struck a second to put City back in front before half-time, and then teed up Mahrez for a superb City third in the second half.

United were previously unbeaten in 11 games in normal time in all competitions but conceded a fourth when Mahrez doubled his tally late on, seeing City give themselves some breathing space at the top, albeit with Liverpool holding a game in hand and still having to travel to the Etihad next month.

De Bruyne was left in plenty of space to drill Bernardo Silva's low pass away from David de Gea early on, the Belgium international registering his 50th goal in the competition.

United otherwise made a positive start, despite also being without Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani, and they were level with 22 minutes played.

Sancho was played into space by Paul Pogba and cut inside before sending a delightful curled finish past Ederson from the edge of the 18-yard box.

City restored their lead just six minutes later through De Bruyne, who blasted in after Phil Foden's initial shot was well saved by De Gea and not dealt with by United's defenders.

De Bruyne was again involved when picking out Mahrez from a corner to volley in a third goal for City, and the Algeria international rounded off the scoring in the 90th minute with another crisp finish after VAR judged Alex Telles had played him onside.

Roy Keane has questioned why Cristiano Ronaldo was omitted from Manchester United's squad for Sunday's derby showdown with Manchester City.

Ronaldo leads the scoring charts for United this term with 15 goals across all competitions, but he played no part against Premier League leaders City at the Etihad Stadium.

Ralf Rangnick put the Portugal international's absence for the contest down to a hip flexor injury that kept him out of training on Friday.

But former United midfielder Keane suggested there may be other reasons behind the five-time Ballon d'Or winner being left out by Rangnick for such an important game.

"There seems to be more to the Ronaldo story when a manager comes out and talks about a hip flexor... I don't get it," Keane told Sky Sports ahead of the match. 

"We talk about Ronaldo being a machine and very rarely getting injured but every now and again he comes out with that... a hip flexor? It doesn't add up to me.

"It's a surprise to hear Ronaldo has a hip injury but United have pace, quality. They still have important players and they still have to come out and play with pride."

Ronaldo had played in 30 of United's 37 games this term prior to the City game, a tally bettered only by Jadon Sancho (31), David de Gea (35) and Bruno Fernandes (36).

United had won 11 of the 20 Premier League games Ronaldo had featured in before Sunday, compared to two wins from the seven games he has not played a part in.

Luke Shaw and Raphael Varane also missed the City match after testing positive for coronavirus, while Edinson Cavani failed to recover from injury in time.

UFC star Conor McGregor has reiterated his desire to buy a football club, with Manchester United, Celtic and Chelsea all on his radar.

The 33-year-old said on social media this week that he would like to "explore" the prospect of purchasing Chelsea after Roman Abramovich confirmed his intention to sell up.

He has also previously signalled his interest in purchasing United from the Glazer family and the stake of fellow Irishman Dermot Desmond in Celtic.

McGregor's latest comments were met with scepticism given Abramovich's reported £3billion valuation of Chelsea, but he insisted he is serious about his interest.

"I do not speak in jest," he posted on his personal Twitter account on Sunday in tweets that were seemingly deleted soon after. "I am exploring this, as I said.

"Celtic from Dermot Desmond, Manchester United from the Glaziers [sic], and now the recently up for sale Chelsea football club. All being explored. 

"A football franchise purchase is in my future make no mistake about it."

McGregor has accumulated significant wealth through a number of high-profile bouts, including a crossover into boxing when taking on Floyd Mayweather in 2017.

He moved into the world of business when launching a whiskey brand in 2018 and the Irishman is determined to add a sports team to his profile.

"Everyday I ball," he added. "How wouldn't I lead a team of young, dedicated athletes to glory. I'm perfect for the job. Pray it's your team."

McGregor has been joined by several others in showing an interest in purchasing Chelsea, with Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak reportedly already in talks with Abramovich.

Long-serving owner Abramovich announced on Wednesday he had taken the "incredibly difficult" decision to put the club up for sale.

In a statement, he said the sale "will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process", adding he will not be asking for loans to be repaid by the club.

That decision came amid the threat of sanctions against further Russian businesses and high-profile individuals following the country's invasion of Ukraine last week.

Manchester United stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Raphael Varane were all ruled out of Sunday's derby clash with Manchester City.

Ronaldo, who is United's top scorer with 15 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions, was absent for the trip to the Etihad Stadium, while Cavani was also not fit enough to make the squad.

While the Portugal star leads the scoring charts for the Red Devils, he has managed just one goal in 2022 – a second-half strike against Brighton and Hove Albion on February 15.

Earlier reports suggested injuries were behind the absences of Cavani and Ronaldo, and Ralf Rangnick confirmed the latter hurt his hip in training on Friday.

While that left Marcus Rashford as Rangnick's only recognised striker, the England international was named on the bench with Bruno Fernandes leading the line and flanked by Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga.

Rangnick also was again without Luke Shaw, with Alex Telles operating at left-back, while Scott McTominay replaced Nemanja Matic, and Harry Maguire came in for Varane from their last outing against Watford.

Shaw and Varane were missing due to testing positive for COVID-19.

Ralf Rangnick has not spoken to Manchester United about his replacement, though the German has an opinion on who his successor should be.

The German takes charge of the Red Devils in his first derby against Manchester City on Sunday, after succeeding Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in December on a short-term deal through to the end of the season. 

Several names have been floated about as the next permanent occupant of the managerial hot seat at Old Trafford, including Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax's Erik ten Hag.

But speaking ahead of his side's trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Pep Guardiola's Premier League leaders, Rangnick told Sky Sports: "So far, we've not spoken about that.

"Not with [sporting director] John Murtough or anyone else, we've not spoken about this topic over the last weeks and months since I've been here.

"I know my opinion but so far we've not spoken about that so it's all I can tell you."

On Ajax boss Ten Hag, the German had nothing but kind words, adding: "I don't know him to start with as a person, but I've seen how Ajax have developed since he's been there.

"I know about the work he did while he was at Bayern Munich and it's obvious he's one of the top coaches in Europe but there are a few others.

"We've not spoken about any new manager so far and therefore we've not spoken about him."

United face City in a contest that could seriously shake up both of their respective campaigns, with the former seeking to strengthen their top-four hopes and the latter needing to consolidate their spot at the summit.

Rangnick is under no illusions over the magnitude of the match, and drew comparisons to his own previous experience with local rivalries.

"One of the biggest derbies is Schalke against Dortmund and I managed in quite a few of them in the two times I was head coach at Schalke," he added.

"I'm fully aware of what that means for the supporters of both teams. Similarly, the Manchester derby is a game of high importance for both teams and we'll be ready.

"We want another good away performance as so far we are unbeaten in three months away from home. We're fully aware we will need a top performance to get anything out of this game."

Manchester United's search for a new manager continues after axing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.

The Red Devils are taking their time with the appointment, with Ralf Rangnick in an interim role until the end of the season.

United hope the next man in can turn their fortunes around, having struggled to be Premier League contenders since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.


Manchester United have added Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl to their shortlist, according to The Mirror.

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag remain the front-runners, but United face a battle to persuade either to head to Old Trafford.

Current United interim manager Ralf Rangnick worked with Hasenhuttl at RB Leipzig and the club are admirers of the Austrian.


- Atletico Madrid are considering making a move for Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, reports Mundo Deportivo. Wijnaldum is weighing up his future at PSG despite moving to France only last year.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea's Andreas Christensen has turned down offers from other Premier League clubs and is on the verge of agreeing to a deal with Barcelona.

Lazio could make a loan move for Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, with manager Maurizio Sarri keen to be reunited with the Spain international, reports Corriere dello Sport.

- The Sun claims West Ham are plotting a move for Lille's 20-year-old midfielder Amadou Onana, who is valued at £20m by the French club.

Crystal Palace have joined the pursuit for Marseille's out-of-contract midfielder Boubacar Kamara, alongside Newcastle United and West Ham, according to the Sun.

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick says the club's transfer strategy needs to improve and is one of the key reasons why they have fallen behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

United trail Sunday's Premier League opponents Manchester City by 19 points and have not finished above their Mancunian neighbours on the table since 2012-13 when Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

The Red Devils have spent more than £1 billion on players since Ferguson's departure yet have not been genuine title contenders in that time.

"It’s a question of consistency, continuity, knowing exactly how I want to play as a club, as a manager," former RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg head coach Rangnick told reporters.

"Having a clear transfer strategy, signing players who fit into that system and that’s what both clubs have been doing in the last five or six years.

"If I look at their transfer success, they haven’t had many players who after one or two years somebody would have said, ‘maybe that wasn’t the right signing’. They’re pretty successful, both clubs and this is where I think Manchester United has to go again.

"Under Sir Alex they were there until 10 years ago but since then, there’s been quite a few different managers here at the club and in order to close the gap towards those two clubs, I wouldn’t say we have to do the same thing.

"We have our own identity, Manchester United as a club, we should always go down our own pathway but in total, professional football is pretty easy.

"You have to have a clear identity of how you want to play, how even the supporters want to see you play and this has always been attractive, offensive, proactive, entertaining football and then from there, make sure that the recruitment is right, that you get the best possible players, that you’re quick enough in the transfer market, knowing the transfer market and then signing the right players at the right moment.

"Then, on top of that, having the best possible manager, head coach, coaching staff who can develop those players.”

Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Donny van de Beek, Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire are among the big-money transfers United have made since Ferguson's exit.

Pep Guardiola has acknowledged that Manchester City are in need of a striker.

The Citizens have not had an out-and-out attacker in the traditional sense since Sergio Aguero left the club at the end of last season.

Attempts to recruit a quality replacement last summer ultimately proved to be thwarted for Guardiola, with multiple offers for Harry Kane knocked back, among others.

An approach to Cristiano Ronaldo was also hijacked by neighbours Manchester United, who sealed a homecoming for the Portuguese from Juventus.

Since then, a host of players including Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus have helped to plug the gap up front, while Ferran Torres was occasionally used before his move to Barcelona

While the lack of a traditional player in that role has not dented City's prospects this season, nor hindered their grip on the summit, Guardiola has admitted that City will look to recruit for the role again at the end of the campaign.

"I think the club needs a striker, definitely," the Spaniard said ahead of Sunday's derby clash with United.

"You say we play fantastically well without a striker because we are winning. When we are not winning, you say we need a striker.

"[You say] 'how do these guys play without a striker? In the Premier League you have to play with a striker'. So, we need a striker, I think the club is going to try [to buy one]."

City did purchase Julian Alvarez in January, before loaning him immediately back to River Plate, but it remains to be seen whether the Argentina international could be a long-term solution.

Pep Guardiola hailed the "attractive" high-intensity philosophy that German-influenced managers have implemented in the Premier League, but insists he will stick with his own principles.

There are several Premier League bosses whose experiences include coaching stints in Germany, with Jesse Marsch, Ralf Rangnick, Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp and Ralph Hasenhuttl among them.

The fast-paced style of play, designed to profit from regaining possession high up the pitch, has many advocates, with current Manchester United interim boss Rangnick a key figure behind its success.

New Leeds United head coach Marsch was Rangnick's assistant at RB Leipzig, where Southampton's Hasenhuttl took charge when the current short-term Old Trafford chief departed in 2016.

Chelsea boss Tuchel pinpointed Rangnick as a mentor after playing under him at Ulm, while Liverpool's Klopp has utilised similar ideas to challenge Guardiola's Manchester City for the Premier League title.

Going into the weekend, City sat six points clear of Liverpool, who had the chance to cut the gap to three when they played West Ham on Saturday. The Manchester derby awaits City on Sunday.

"With Jesse Marsch arriving at Leeds it is already a tendency," Guardiola told Sky Sports of the Bundesliga influence. "Five teams, important ones, playing this way, it is because what happened in Germany arrived here.

"Five important teams and managers all playing this way. Transitions, playing inside, high pressing, everybody together, it doesn't matter if we lose the ball because I recover the second one and attack you again, you lose it again and you lose it again.

"This incredibly good methodology, it is the deep tendency here in England."

Asked whether the approach was for him, the Spaniard said: "It is so attractive when they do it well. It is so attractive for the spectators, and they have had success.

"Of course, I learn a lot in Germany. I adapt. Listen, I am from Catalunya, you know. My education, my football education, comes from there. And I learn a lot here, I learn a lot in Germany, but my principles come from there."

Guardiola's emergence through the Barcelona system means he is indoctrinated in that way of playing. Regardless of the trophy achievements of the likes of Klopp, the Spaniard says that when it comes to his method, he "cannot change it because they have success".

He expects a difficult task against United, who entered the weekend on the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League (eight games), as City eye a league double over the Red Devils for just the second time under Guardiola.

But the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona chief insists he is learning that, whatever the result, he must be more patient on the touchline whichever way the game goes.

"I understand more that the players can make mistakes," he said. "Before, I was more anxious, more angry. Sometimes I am, but I understand because I know they want to do well. I know they want to win against Manchester United.

"I know they want to win the Premier League. I know they want to win the Champions League."

He spoke of always being "anxious and angry".

"But after the action is done, it is gone. I cannot correct this action. So why am I shouting about how they have behaved?" Guardiola said.

The 51-year-old City boss is learning that his players are not automatons, and that while he might complain that "they don't listen to me", he is reconciled to the limitations of his pitchside influence.

Guardiola added: "I have to understand at the end that as much as I want to change, I will not change."

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