Ralf Rangnick isn’t sure why Marcus Rashford is struggling to make an impact after the Manchester United striker worked on Monday’s narrow 1-0 FA Cup win over Aston Villa.
Liverpool star Steven Gerrard’s first game as coach at Old Trafford was an entertaining opportunity by Scott McTominay’s header in the eighth minute.
Villa had ruled out two goals in the second half, the first after a lengthy video assistant review, but United had some chances to end the game early.
Rashford was guilty of poor decision-making at some of these moments, and some met his substitution with sarcastic cheers.
When asked why the academy graduate was underperforming, interim manager Rangnick said: “Actually, I don’t know.
“I think he’s trying hard. He has done well in training over the past few days, so he was right in the starting line-up.
“I think we found him a lot in the first half, but we also tried to get him into the box.
“That wasn’t the case very often in the second half so at the end of the game I decided to make two changes with Anthony Elanga and Jesse Lingard.
“It was very important to get to the next round. Yes (confidence is important) especially for strikers – it is important that they score goals every now and then, that there are moments of success. “
“Of course it would be good for Marcus if he could score a goal, for example, but as long as he tries, as long as he trains well, I don’t see such a big problem.”
Rashford was far from the only underperforming player in a game Rangnick made some positive experiences when United returned to winning ways after losing 1-0 at home to Wolves last week.
“We knew from the start that it would be a challenging game for us against a very flexible Villa team with their rotations that they do between their full-backs and their (number) eight during the game,” he said.
“I think we saw some professionals today. I think we were better, we had a better structure.
“We also had good energy in the team, we moved the ball well within our team, especially in the first half, with some good diagonal balls.
“That’s exactly what we wanted to do against their rather central team and that’s exactly how we created our first goal.
“But, as you rightly said, we are still fighting in the middle of the field. That’s why Villa had her moments when they could have met. “
The wild encounter gives flavor to the rematch on Saturday evening in the Premier League at Villa Park.
Philippe Coutinho, on loan from Marquee, could make his debut for Villa, whose manager Gerrard had to regret on Monday for what could have been.
“I found the performance to be good over a long period of time,” said the villa boss.
“I thought we would dominate, we could have scored two or three goals tonight.
“I have no complaints about what the players did or how they performed, but we walk away in frustration because we were eliminated from the FA Cup and we look at the reasons why.”
Villa scored two goals in the second half through Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins but both were disfellowshipped.
The second was a clear offside, but the first was less clear to the Old Trafford players as Gerrard said Jacob Ramsey was hindering Edinson Cavani in build-up.
“It took the officers three and a half minutes to sort this out,” said Gerrard. “You looked at two or three things in it.
“When VAR is there and they make a decision, you have to accept it. There is nothing you can do to change it.
“The easy way out is to blame luck and officials, we won’t do that.”