Manchester United must avoid conceding the first goal in their Champions League round-of-16 second leg against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, according to Ralf Rangnick.
In the first encounter, the Red Devils set themselves an uphill job by allowing Atletico Madrid attacker Joao Felix to break the deadlock after only seven minutes, but a nervous United were able to salvage a 1-1 draw thanks to a late Anthony Elanga equalizer.
Rangnick, on the other hand, has reminded his players that they might not be so lucky this time, with a quarter-final spot on the line for two sides who have had terrible domestic seasons.
In his pre-match press conference, the interim manager stated, “It’s really crucial [not to surrender first], especially against a team like Atletico, who don’t mind the opposing team having the ball.”
“They had less than 50% control of the ball in the last four or five games they played, including their league games.
“We are conscious of it, and we must ensure that we do not concede at all if at all possible, but it is unquestionably important for us to score the first goal.”
Rangnick, though, has confessed that the Red Devils will require assistance to defeat Diego Simeone’s team, who won La Liga last season but are again battling for a top-four finish this season.
The famed German coach wants the Old Trafford audience to be “in top form” – exactly as Cristiano Ronaldo did in Saturday’s dramatic 3-2 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, in which he scored a stunning hat-trick.
“Yes, I think we need both our players and our supporters to be on top form tomorrow night, just like we did against Spurs,” Rangnick said.
“Our fans play an important role; it’s always a wonderful atmosphere at Old Trafford, especially during international games, and in the end, they can be our 12th, 13th, and 14th players on the pitch, making it a once-in-a-lifetime event for everyone.
“But, in the end, it’s clearly up to us; we have to create those moments, and then I believe our incredible supporters will take care of the rest.”
United have been cheered by the return to action of star midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who missed the win over Tottenham owing to a positive Covid-19 test, but there is still one question for Rangnick and co.
“At the moment, we have all of the players available for tomorrow’s game, but there is a slight question mark behind Luke Shaw,” the 63-year-old stated.
“He has been exercising yesterday and today, but we will have to wait and see if he is totally fit to play tomorrow; all of the other players have returned to training and are ready to go.”