Ralf Rangnick has defended his Manchester United players following scathing attacks from former captains Roy Keane and Gary Neville after Sunday's 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.
Keane accused United of "throwing in the towel" during Sunday's capitulation at the Etihad Stadium, while fellow Sky Sports pundit Neville labelled his old club a "disgrace".
Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions ran amok against their neighbours, regaining their six-point advantage over second-placed Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Kevin de Bruyne scored either side of a fine Jadon Sancho leveller in a frantic opening period that made way for a second-half cakewalk as City put their foot on the gas and United retreated into their shell.
Riyad Mahrez scored twice to wrap up a 4-1 win, but asked what he thought of the character and attitude of his players in the second half, interim United boss Rangnick said: “To be honest, I didn’t have the impression that they didn’t try.
“But it’s difficult against a team like Man City once you are 3-1 down [against] the best team in possession of the ball on the planet it’s difficult.
“I cannot blame anyone for not having tried and put effort into that game, but it was difficult after the third goal.”
Keane, who made more than 300 United appearances during a distinguished playing career, attacked several United players he accused of neglecting their defensive duties, and United's shortcomings - they are 22 points behind their neighbours in fifth place - were on display for all to see.
“I think the worst thing you could say about United is they did give up,” Keane told Sky Sports. “For a player in a derby, or any game, to give up, it’s unforgivable really.
“The beauty of top-level sport is there is no hiding place. We saw all United’s shortcomings today.
“There’s ways to lose football matches, we’ve all lost football matches, but the way United lost today. They stopped running. They gave up. There’s players out there not running back.
“It’s shameful. A couple of lads in midfield, [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka, Fred, [Marcus] Rashford came on. I could go on. And City weren’t even at their best. They didn’t have to be.
“They gave up, Shame on them!”
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With United out of both domestic English cup competitions Rangnick - who will remain in charge of the first team until the end of the season - only has the league and Champions League to focus on.
The German’s frustration was clear in the post-match press conference and extended beyond those on display, with Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo unavailable through injury.
But it is hard to say how much difference the veterans would have made at the Etihad Stadium.
“Look, I am still the manager for another 10 games in the Premier League and for hopefully a few more games in the Champions League and it doesn’t make sense now to start some speculations about how many players would we need, on which positions would we need them," he said.
“This is not my issue. Right now it’s about preparing the team for the Tottenham game and after that for a very important game against Atletico in the Champions League.
“Right now, we have to be – and I am – happy with the players that we have. This is clear.”
City counterpart Pep Guardiola was positively purring over his side's display, particularly in the second half when they continually carved United open.
“Well, if the second half is not our best I don’t know what we have to do, honestly,” the City boss said. “I’m such a demanding man, but I know my limits and I know the players’ limits and the second half in all terms [was excellent].
“United were eight games without defeat, we had I don’t know how many shots in the second half, so the display was excellent.
“I’m the biggest critic to my team, but when we play good, we play good and today we played really good.”