Ralf Rangnick suggests scrapping Carabao Cup to help ease fixture congestion

Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick has suggested scrapping the Carabao Cup to ease fixture congestion in English football.

The domestic schedule is coming under huge pressure, with the impact of the Omicron variant of coronavirus sweeping through dressing rooms and forcing postponements throughout the country.

United, themselves, have not played since December 11 due to their own Covid-19 outbreak and had Premier League games against Brentford and Brighton postponed.

They are set to return to action at Newcastle on Monday and interim boss Rangnick said: “It is a big tradition in England to play on Boxing Day or the 27th, even on the 30th or the 2nd of January.

“I think we should stick to and respect this tradition, but there might be two other issues that have been discussed in the past.

“England is the only country in the top five leagues in Europe that plays two cup competitions.

“In France they abolished the second one a year or two ago, so we are the only country who plays two cup competitions.

“This is something we could once again speak about and discuss.

“I know the League Cup is still kept for the third and fourth division teams to improve the financial situations of those clubs. But if we speak about a tight calendar and having to play too many games, this is something to discuss.”

Rangnick welcomed the decision taken on Monday to scrap FA Cup third and fourth round replays.

Ties will now be played to a conclusion at the first attempt, with extra time and penalties if required.

However, the Football Association, which scrapped replays for the whole of last season’s competition, intends to restore them next year.

On the scrapping of FA Cup replays, Rangnick said: “This is a good idea. In cup competitions in other countries you play extra time and penalties. You have replays, those are topics you could speak about.”

United’s squad were reduced to eight fit outfield players and three goalkeepers before the Covid-19 outbreak that forced their Carrington training ground to be closed for four days.

But Rangnick defended United’s vaccination record, insisting it was “high” among his squad.

He said: “The Premier League will try everything to keep the league safe, to keep the situation around the players safe.

“We do that regularly and encourage players to behave in a disciplined way with regards to contacts.

“We also need to make sure we have most of the players vaccinated. I know we have a high record of vaccinated players in our club.

“The past two weeks shows that even if you have been vaccinated two or three times you can still be catching the virus, especially the new virus.

“At least you are being protected from severe symptoms, and most of our players who tested positive had very weak symptoms and didn’t suffer.”

Teenager Anthony Elanga has signed a new contract to stay at United until June 2026, with the option to extend for a further year.

The Sweden Under-21 forward has made five senior appearances, scoring one goal in a Premier League win at Wolves in May.

Elanga, 19, told the club website: “My ultimate ambition has always been to play for Manchester United. The standard is extremely high, but this contract is another important moment in my journey.

“This is the perfect environment to take the next step, with world-class players and coaches to learn from every day.”