Ralf Rangnick insists he “would have loved” to have Jesse Lingard in the Manchester United squad for the FA Cup clash with Middlesbrough.
Lingard was left out as United were dumped out of the FA Cup after Rangnick claimed the forward had asked for time off to “clear up his mind”, a claim Lingard himself has denied.
Jadon Sancho put United into a deserved lead after Cristiano Ronaldo uncharacteristically missed a penalty, but their continued profligacy in front of goal gave the visitors a chance to claw their way back.
Matt Crooks, a former United youth player and lifelong fan, levelled in the second half – a controversial goal given Duncan Watmore handled before he crossed – and Bruno Fernandes then somehow hit the post when he looked certain to score.
The match ended 1-1 and remained so after extra time, with United striker Anthony Elanga’s missed penalty eventually sealing Boro an 8-7 shoot-out win to the delight of the 9,500 visiting fans.
Elanga was consoled by Ronaldo, among others, after his penalty miss, with supportive fans singing his name at the end of a night when Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard were absent.
Asked if he regretted the decsion to make do without the pair, the United boss said: “No, because he played for Uruguay on Wednesday.
“With the jet lag and the travel arrangements, I don’t think it would have made sense. He would not have been in the squad anyway.
“And with regard to Jesse, I told you what my information was and my knowledge was, and of course I would have loved to have Jesse in the squad.
“We were one outfield player less on the team sheet today, so why should I have allowed him to have four or five days off?
“I would have loved to have had him in the squad and be in the squad, but it was not the case and therefore it doesn’t make sense to speak about players who were not available.”
Rangnick admitted that United only had themselves to blame for their exit.
“We gave away too many chances, especially in the first half,” United interim manager Rangnick said.
“We should and could have easily been up 3-0 after 45 minutes and even in the second half we missed some great opportunities, even after they scored their goal that shouldn’t have stood.
“But Bruno’s chance was almost like a penalty as well, so we have to blame ourselves for giving away and wasting too many opportunities in the game.
“And, in the end, if it’s on penalties it’s also a question of luck and in the end we lost that game and we are all incredibly disappointed.”
United’s FA Cup exit means they now only have an outside chance of ending their five-year wait for a trophy with the Champions League their only route to silverware.