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ManUnited boss Ralf Rangnick explains Cristiano Ronaldo's absence from Manchester derby

The Manchester United manager confirmed that he is unable to call upon his talismanic top scorer for the trip to local rivals and 'noisy neighbours' Manchester City

Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick has revealed why Cristiano Ronaldo is absent for Sunday afternoon's local derby against Manchester City.

The Red Devils already have the daunting task of taking on the reigning champions at the Etihad, but will now have to do so without their iconic number seven.

Reports of Ronaldo's absence first emerged after the 37-year-old was not spotted with the rest of the United squad at The Lowry Hotel on Saturday night.

Prior to the derby, Ronaldo had only missed just one game for the Red Devils through injury but is now out of action for arguably United's biggest game of the season so far as they aim to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive.

Rangnick updated fans on the reasons behind Ronaldo's omission prior to kick-off, along with mention of a number of other first-team stars.

"Rapha Varane and Luke Shaw tested positive with COVID unfortunately in midweek.," the German explained.

Edi [Cavani] trained well in the last three days but, at the end, he didn’t feel quite well enough to be able to play.

"And Cristiano had some problems with his hip flexor on Friday and since then, he didn’t train."

The Portugal skipper has struggled for form since the turn of the calendar year, with just one goal to show for his efforts and this injury is now the latest set-back.

Rangnick did not give any indicator as to when the 37-year-old may return to action or how long he will be unavailable for.

While some sections of the United faithful may fear a trip to Etihad without Ronaldo, Old Trafford legend Gary Neville thinks this news could actually suit Rangnick's men.

Before the game, Neville told Sky Sports that United will be aiming to hurt their local rivals by playing on the counter-attack - a system that would favour someone like Marcus Rashford leading the line instead.

" Manchester United will be playing on the counter, United over the last three or four seasons - particularly under Ole - were a counter attacking team, really comfortable sitting back and punching out through Rashford and others on the break. That will be exactly the same today," Neville explained.

"Cristiano not being in the team, I can’t say it’s a negative, but it’s not the big loss that it could be in other games because on the counter-attack they need to be dangerous today and they are better off with Rashford counter attacking than Ronaldo."