Claudio Ranieri concedes he withdrew Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez at half-time of Leicester City’s Premier League thrashing at Manchester United with one eye on the Champions League.
The champions of England were 4-0 down at Old Trafford in Saturday’s early kick-off as a United side shorn of captain Wayne Rooney hit top gear, goals from Chris Smalling, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba putting Ranieri’s men to the sword.
The Italian responded by withdrawing Vardy and Mahrez at half-time, substitute Demarai Gray lashing in a sublime consolation goal as the Foxes went down 4-1.
Leicester won their Champions League opener 3-0 against Club Brugge and face 2004 winners Porto at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday – a factor Ranieri admits was too strong to ignore.
“At that time the match was gone and I preferred to reserve them for the next match on Tuesday against Porto,” he told Sky Sports.
“I told them this in the dressing room – okay, we lost, it is a pity because the first 20 minutes was good but now it is important to clean our minds because now we arrive in the Champions League.
“It is our first match at home and we want to show our best.”
Three of United’s four goals were scored from corner kicks, Rashford’s especially galling for Ranieri as his side failed to react sharply enough to a quickly taken set-piece.
“It is not possible to concede three goals from corners. That means you are not concentrating,” he said.
“We are usually very solid at corners and free-kicks, it was very strange. Until now we have been very strong, we have made some mistakes. I can understand that they score with headers, that they are very tall, but to score a smart goal from a corner is not possible.
“It is important to clean our mind and get ready for the Champions League on Tuesday.”