Ralf Rangnick admits he is dealing with some unhappy players but downplayed the situation as Manchester United look to get back to winning ways in the FA Cup.
The interim manager lost his first match in charge on Monday night, when Wolves inflicted a 1-0 home loss that was far more one-sided than the scoreline suggests.
United’s meek performance was followed by reports about a poor mood inside the dressing room, with as many as 17 players said to be unhappy.
A number of those are fringe players but there are supposedly some star names among the dissatisfied, yet Rangnick seemed unperturbed by such talk.
“Well, I mean this is not only an issue with a club like Manchester United,” he said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup third-round clash against Aston Villa.
“When you have a big squad, in the last two games we had most players available.
“Yes, we had an issue with three centre-backs missing out against Wolves but – in general – we had most players available, apart from Paul Pogba.
“If you have that many players and 10 outfield players can play and three being substituted, then of course you have quite a number of players – in our case 12, 13, 14 players who don’t even play, or not even being in the squad.
“Then those players are not happy about that situation. It’s obvious, it’s clear.
“In total, we have a big squad. I tend to explain to players every two or three weeks why they are not playing but obviously I cannot do that every game and that is an issue in our team as well as in other clubs.”
Midfielder Fred this afternoon took to social media to make clear he is not unhappy at Old Trafford and distance himself from “fake news”.
The Brazilian said on Twitter: “Over the past few days, I have read several fake news (stories) involving my name and other MUFC athletes. I’m not in the habit of answering controversial stuff publicly, but this time I will have to.
“I just want to say that I am very happy here and I have never expressed any dissatisfaction and the possibility of leaving the club. Don’t get misled by fake news. We will continue to work with great dedication to pursue our goals.”
Frustration is understandable given the current plight of the 20-time league champions on top of any background concerns, with United facing a key decision about their next permanent manager.
Interim boss Rangnick has not ruled himself out of the running but talk about the likes of Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag and long-admired Mauricio Pochettino at Paris St Germain continues.
Asked if the fact players do not know about his future could be impacting performances, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s successor said: “I mean, we have players with contracts expiring in the summer.
“We have maybe also one or two players who still want to leave, although they are under contract.
“It’s about the players dealing with that in a professional way. Everybody has the chance and the option to show in training, to show up and then get chance to play.
“If this is not the case, then of course the player together with club and the agents, they need to discuss the situation.
“But as far as I can tell so far, the players have been dealing with that in a professional way, so I cannot say anything else.
“If I realise that this is not the case I will address that with the players directly.”
United’s immediate focus is reacting to the Wolves loss by keeping alive one of their two remaining routes to potential silverware.
“Everybody was very disappointed after the game – not only about the result but the performance, especially the first half,” Rangnick said.
“Now we have four days of training before the Aston Villa game and my job, our job is to make sure we show a different performance on Monday against Aston Villa.
“They’re at least trying (to buy into my plans)
“I’m sure that they are listening and I think we showed in the last games against Palace, Burnley and in parts in the away games against Norwich and Newcastle that they are trying to follow the advice we give them, I give them.
“We conceded less goals than before. We had an average of 1.7 per game that we have conceded so far. 0.6 in those six games.
“But, yes, still, it’s about balance. We need to find the best possible balance between offence and defence and we still have something to do and to get better on.”