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'family break' Manchester United did not approve Cristiano Ronaldo's trip to Portugal during derby defeat


Cristiano Ronaldo training at Carrington. Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo training at Carrington. Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo training at Carrington. Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Ralf Rangnick was not aware Cristiano Ronaldo had travelled to Portugal on the weekend of Manchester United’s derby defeat, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

Ronaldo missed the 4-1 capitulation to Manchester City on Sunday through injury and opted to return home to see family in Portugal.

United confirmed Rangnick was unaware that was the case at the time and that the trip had not been formally sanctioned.

But the club said it was not unusual for players to travel abroad to see family on days off and that there had been other instances in recent weeks of players doing so.

There was also no obligation for Ronaldo to be at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday because he was injured.

Ronaldo missed training on Friday after being diagnosed with a hip flexor problem that kept him out of the City game and is then thought to have flown to Portugal at the weekend and returned on Monday night.

The forward is understood to have had Monday off along with many of his United team-mates, although the non-playing members of the squad from the City defeat were at the club’s Carrington training ground on Monday.

Ronaldo was back at Carrington on Tuesday and yesterday but he did not train with the main group on either day amid doubts over whether he will be available for the potentially season-defining visit of Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Saturday evening.

The Portugal forward is understood to have been playing with some pain in his hip for the past couple of months and missed the back-to-back games against Aston Villa in January with the problem.

United appear to be fairly relaxed about the Portugal trip given that Ronaldo was unavailable for the game through injury and had a day off planned and was not going abroad to receive treatment. Rangnick has made a point of saying that he expects injured players to do their rehabilitation work at the club and not overseas.

When Ronaldo made a flying visit to Zurich in January to collect a Fifa award he requested authorisation from the club and was granted it and then played against Brentford 48 hours later.

With United’s game against Liverpool later this month having been postponed due to the Merseyside club’s involvement in the FA Cup, Spurs will be the last Premier League match Rangnick’s side play for three weeks before the visit of Leicester on April 2. Raphael Varane seems likely to return for the game after United confirmed he missed the City match after testing positive for coronavirus. Rangnick will also hope to have striker Edinson Cavani available.

If United lose to Tottenham, they could find themselves seven points behind Spurs by the time they face Leicester should Antonio Conte’s side beat Brighton and West Ham between times.

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Arsenal will also have the opportunity to open up a 10-point gap on United, and still have a game in hand, should they overcome Leicester, Liverpool and Aston Villa before the international break and United suffer defeat by Spurs.

The situation underlines why Rangnick claimed United had virtually no margin for error in the wake of their surrender to champions City.

“I didn’t actually expect Arsenal to lose at Watford, so for us it’s clear,” Rangnick said. “If we still want to have a chance to finish fourth at the end of the season, we can almost not drop any more points.”

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