MANCHESTER UNITED stars have been left stunned after Cristiano Ronaldo failed to show up for their pre-match meet on Saturday night.
Ronaldo was ruled out of the mammoth clash against Manchester City on Sunday afternoon with a hip flexor injury.
SunSport understands United stars were left shocked after Ronaldo failed to join his team-mates for their one-night stay at The Lowry.
He was ruled out of the derby clash at the Etihad after picking up a knock and opted not to travel with the team.
But members of the squad believed a player as senior as Ronaldo should have joined them for support ahead of such a massive game.
The decision not to travel with the squad follows reports last month that United's stars were involved in a dressing room rift over whether it was right to ditch Mason Greenwood.
Another well-placed United source said in January that a number of players feel certain senior team-mates have too much sway with interim boss Ralf Rangnick on big decision.
A source said: "The players have their own cliques, one of which is making the others feel like they need to step up a level when it is the whole team that’s struggling."
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Ronaldo was absent as Rangnick and the Manchester United squad met up at The Lowry hotel as part of their pre-match routine.
As Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Co reported for duty on Saturday night, Ronaldo was nowhere to be seen.
Edinson Cavani, Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw were also missing as United players entered the plush hotel in Manchester city centre.
Ronaldo did take part in full training on Wednesday, but his last minute injury picked up on Friday leaves United short of options up front for the mouthwatering clash.
Speaking on the reason for CR7's absence, Rangnick said: "Cristiano had some problems with his hip flexor on Friday and since then didn't play."
Greenwood's arrest and Cavani's injury woes leaves Rangnick looks weak in attack for a game that could make or break United's season.
Club legend Gary Neville though reckons Ronaldo's absence is 'not a big loss' against Manchester City.
He said on Sky Sports: "Actually Cristiano not being in the team, I could never say it's a positive, but actually I don't see it as the big loss that I might do in other games.
"Because I actually think on the counter attack Manchester United need to be dangerous today, and they're better off with Rashford up front counter attacking than they would be with Cristiano I think."
Three draws in five Premier League games have hampered United's grip on a prized Champions League place.
But a morale boosting win against City this afternoon could be the start of a winning run between now and the end of the season, with 11 Premier League games left to play.
Although Rangnick and his shocked stars will have to do it without top scorer and star man Ronaldo.
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