Roy Keane admitted he was shocked to see Cristiano Ronaldo left out of the Manchester United team by Michael Carrick for the crunch clash with Chelsea.
Ronaldo has been prolific since his stunning return to Old Trafford in the summer and currently sits atop United's scoring charts with 10 goals in just 14 games.
But that hasn't saved him from being axed by interim boss Carrick for Sunday's Premier League clash with Thomas Tuchel 's side.
And former United icon Keane conceded that he was "surprised" to see the Portuguese superstar left out.
"I’m surprised. Ronaldo is one of the great players but the manager there said he has a plan that he took great," Keane told Sky Sports.
"Ronaldo has come back to play in these games. He’s a big player for the big occasions. His stats against Chelsea aren’t great but I’m surprised to see him being left out."
In his absence, United have set up with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford on either side of Bruno Fernandes, who has seemingly been deployed as a false nine.
United's work off the ball has been criticised in recent weeks and Keane queried whether that would change with Carrick's plan to overcome the current Premier League leaders.
"There’s not question about Rashford and Sancho’s pace but the problem has been their out of possession. Are they going to close them down against a confident Chelsea team," he added.
"I’d be worried about United today had Carrick chosen a defensive team but the back four would really worry me. I can see the reason behind it if you look recently they’re so open but they’ve tried different tactics and still being open. Players aren’t working hard enough. In possession, United are a good team but out of possession they’re all over the place."
There has been speculation that Ronaldo could be set for a bit-part role at Old Trafford if Ralph Rangnick does, as expected, arrive as United's interim manager until the end of the season.
Image:Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
But Carrick denied before the game that Rangnick or anyone else had any input into his starting XI - insisting that it was his call to bench Ronaldo and that the United star was "great" with the decision.
"I've had a good chat with him and he was great so we’ve decided to go like that today so really looking forward to the game," said Carrick.
"It’s a decision to just pick a team to be honest, no need for more drama than that. All the boys have been terrific Cristiano included supporting the boys and ready to come on if and when he's needed and hopefully to win the game like he did in midweek.
"We’ve come with a plan and we’re happy with the team we’ve selected. We’ve come here to win the game like we do every game. Tough game Chelsea are playing ever so well and had massive results and we know it’s a tough place to come but it’s one we’re relishing."