Ralf Rangnick is confident Cristiano Ronaldo can help fire Manchester United into the Champions League quarter-finals just 72 hours after the veteran’s superb hat-trick against Tottenham.
All eyes will be on Old Trafford as Atletico Madrid come to town on Tuesday, when the round-of-16 encounter will resume at 1-1 thanks to Anthony Elanga’s late goal for the fortunate Red Devils in Spain.
United are attempting to reach the Champions League last eight for just the third time since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, who was in the stands on Saturday as Ronaldo scored his first Premier League hat-trick since 2008.
The 37-year-old’s treble sealed a crucial 3-2 victory against top-four rivals Spurs and Rangnick has dismissed any suggestion that the Portuguese would be unable to handle the swift turnaround.
“Well, I’m not worried that he has not been able to recover,” the interim United manager said.
“So far he’s always been a person who looks quite a lot after himself, his body and he exactly knows what to do, so I’m not worried about that.
“If he can score another three goals, we will see. I mean, it’s not so easy to score three goals against this team at all.
“I think his overall performance was just good, if not even very good and this is obviously what we hope to get from him again tomorrow night.
“But it’s not just about Cristiano, it’s about the whole team.”
Whilst that is true, Ronaldo is synonymous with the Champions League and stepping up on the biggest occasions – plus he has proven the scourge of Atleti on a number of occasions down the years.
His display against Spurs will have surely struck fear into all connected to Diego Simeone’s side, having bounced back from the hip flexor issue that ruled him out of the loss at Manchester City in style.
“There was a lot of discussion before that game but I just think he showed what kind of professional player he is, (at) what kind of level he can still play,” Rangnick said.
“For us it’s important with performances like the one that he showed, he’s still a very important player in this team.
Football's all-time leading goalscorer 👑— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 12, 2022
“He can make the difference and also tomorrow for us it would be good to show a similar performance that he did against Tottenham.”
United are not only buoyed by that much-needed Premier League win but the news that Bruno Fernandes has tested negative for Covid-19, having been ruled out on Saturday through a positive result.
Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw also trained alongside Fernandes on the eve of the game.
“Well, as it is right now we have all of the players available for the game tomorrow,” Rangnick said.
“There is a question mark, a small question mark, behind Luke Shaw. He has been training yesterday and today but we have to wait and see if he’s fully fit in order to be available for the game.
“All the other players are back in training and available for tomorrow.”
Everyone will be desperate to be involved on Tuesday evening, when Rangnick says United’s fans “cannot only be our 12th but also our 13th player on the pitch and make the difference”.
But the German knows it will be about more than passion, saying lessons have been learned from their poor performance at the Wanda Metropolitano three weeks ago.
“We saw in the first half in Madrid what we shouldn’t do, how we should not play,” he said.
“This was obviously a big topic for us yesterday and today when we spoke pre-match about tomorrow’s game, so we have to know what it takes and what it tactically takes and the rest is all about energy.
“I think we were the team on Saturday against Spurs who just wanted to win that game and that was obvious, became obvious.
“Our supporters played a vital role, they realised how much we wanted to win that game and tomorrow it will be similar.”
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