The Portugal star spent more than an hour sat freezing on the bench at Stamford Bridge on Sunday followed by an entirely forgettable 26-minute appearance as a substitute.
‘Of course, Cristiano is the standout name,’ said Carrick of his team selection beforehand. ‘I had a good chat with Cristiano and actually he was great.’
Really? By the end of it all, Ronaldo was so great he was first off down the tunnel once again and barely hesitated to acknowledge an outstretched hand from his manager.
Carrick insisted that the decisions were entirely his, and bristled at suggestions that Rangnick’s fingerprints were on United’s game plan.
But ever since Rangnick – the so-called godfather of gegenpressing – was identified as United’s manager until the end of the season, the Ronaldo question has been on everybody’s lips.
How does a coach who insists on pressing accommodate a 36-year-old player who doesn’t press? Maybe this was the answer. And if it is, how long will Ronaldo put up with a bit-part role after a career spent on centre-stage?
Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher fell out over the Ronaldo question on Sky Sports.
‘Ronaldo’s not come back to Man United to sit on the bench. This is frustration, he’s angry,’ said Keane.
‘This idea he’s going to start closing people down is not going to happen, but sometimes you need to work around your superstar.’
That problem now falls to Rangnick whose appointment was confirmed to the United players in the dressing-room after Sunday’s game, according to Eric Bailly.
Gary Neville felt the German may have had an influence over events. Others suggested technical director Darren Fletcher may even have been on the phone to Rangnick during the game. Either way, the idea that United pressed harder because of his imminent arrival rankled with Carrick.
‘I think there’s a lot made of that question to be honest,’ he said. ‘When something gets thrown out there, it’s easy for everyone to agree and repeat what’s been said. That’s the nature of the beast, but it’s not true.
‘Pretty much every game bar two or three we’ve set out to press. We did that today and won balls high up the pitch. We always looked to get on the front foot in some way.’
It was pressing that led to United’s goal, and Carrick disagreed with Anthony Taylor’s decision to penalise Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a challenge on Thiago Silva.
‘I don’t think it was a penalty at all,’ he added. ‘When you are in front in a game like this, to have it taken away is disappointing.’
Jorginho equalised from the spot and Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel claimed the Italian had been dazzled by the floodlights when he lost control of the ball, allowing Jadon Sancho to break away for the opening goal.
‘A mistake like this is very unusual, especially with Jorgi,’ said Tuchel. ‘He misjudged the situation and was heavily disturbed by the lights so he did not see the ball.
‘It takes a lot of courage and personality to take the penalty for the equaliser.’