Football: Skipper Maguire denies reports of Ronaldo rift at Man United amid tough fight for fourth spot

Manchester United's Harry Maguire (right) coming on as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo during their match against Brentford on Jan 19, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has denied reports of a power struggle with Cristiano Ronaldo as the club battle to end the season in the Premier League's top four.

The defender has been well below his best this season and it has been reported that he feels undermined by Ronaldo's influence, with his continued role as captain questioned.

United forward Marcus Rashford dismissed talk of a dressing room divide involving Ronaldo earlier this week and Maguire has rejected the latest reports.

"I've seen a lot of reports about this club that aren't true and this is another," he posted on Twitter on Friday (Feb 18) ahead of Sunday's Premier League match at Leeds.

"Not going to start posting about everything that is written but I needed to make this one clear. We're united and focused on Sunday. Enjoy your day everyone."

United's 2-0 win against Brighton on Tuesday lifted them back into fourth place in the English top flight - the top four teams qualify for next season's Champions League.

But the club, under interim manager Ralf Rangnick, face a tough battle, with a number of other sides also in the mix, most of whom have games in hand.

Rangnick has reportedly added to the tension between Maguire and Ronaldo by asking the former Juventus and Real Madrid star to mentor United's younger players.

Maguire, 28, is said to believe that request has undermined his position as captain, leaving him marginalised.

Ronaldo, 37, was vocal in his support of Maguire after returning for his second spell at United in August, but his backing is reported to have waned as the season has gone on.

The two players are believed to have spoken to Rangnick about the possibility of Ronaldo taking the captain's armband so Maguire can focus on improving his erratic form.

But the England centre-back is understood to be concerned about the prospect of losing the captaincy permanently.

While Maguire has made a number of high-profile mistakes this season, Ronaldo has also suffered notable dips in form.

There have been several reports Ronaldo is unimpressed by Rangnick's management style, with the striker stomping off the pitch and exchanging words with the German after being substituted in a victory at Brentford in January.

The 37-year-old went six games without a goal before finally getting back on the scoresheet against Brighton in midweek.

That victory stopped a dismal run of three successive games in which United had blown a first-half lead.

Rangnick said earlier this week United's self-belief had been dented by their recent habit of throwing away leads, admitting that finishing fourth in the Premier League was the best they could now hope for.

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