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HomeSportsFootballRalf Rangnick left compromised as Man United circus exposes ultimate waste

Ralf Rangnick left compromised as Man United circus exposes ultimate waste


After Manchester United had again been humiliated in the Premier League’s prime-time slot, Scott McTominay was asked about potential issues “behind the scenes” that may have contributed to that.

The most notable was the intrigue around Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence.

“Whatever goes on behind the scenes is completely irrelevant to me,” McTominay said, inadvertently indicating something may have gone on behind the scenes. He wasn’t the only one, to be fair.

Ralf Rangnick had stressed that Ronaldo was missing with an injury, only for word to quickly spread that the Portuguese’s sister, Katia Aveiro, had “liked” an Instagram post claiming that the manager had left him out.

The latter part of that is a farcical sentence, but then that’s the modern game. That’s also the modern Manchester United.

Even if there is nothing in this story, the very fact there is noise around it reflects the sense of a circus at the club, and reinforces the reality that Rangnick has had problems with this squad.

The fading coherence that United did have under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at one point has now vanished.

Fernandes during United’s heavy defeat to City

(Getty)

The Norwegian was too soft on them for that to persevere, and Rangnick’s hardness has seen it go altogether.

That has led to another new debate at a club where there is doubt in virtually every area. It is how much of the current malaise is down to Rangnick himself; whether he is having any positive effect on the squad he’s got.

Some of the players do doubt the German’s credentials, which naturally affects his authority, to go with the fact he is “just the interim”.

The chorus against him is growing, as the chances of a return to the Champions League recede.

The caveat is that it’s a fairly moot argument.

Rangnick is indeed just the interim, but the alternative options were figures like Steve Bruce or Laurent Blanc. Any interim is never going be the sort of class that is worth getting too exercised about. It was the best they could get, and the appointment of Rangnick at least had some deeper logic to it given the designs on a new future and his status as an ideologue.

That nevertheless means we return to the real issue at United, which is the wider decision-making process and what that says about how the Glazers run the club.

David de Gea reacts after Riyad Mahrez scores City’s third

(Action)

Much depends on the rationale behind the appointment, or at least the conviction behind that rationale.

The German maintained the conviction to his approach against Manchester City, insisting on a pressing game in a fixture better suited to sitting back.

That just leads to bigger questions.

Even if his record indicates he obviously isn’t a top-class manager, the decision makes sense if they were prepared for the season to be a write-off, so that he could introduce an under-coached squad to a new ideology for the next appointment.

It’s just that United still have no idea who that appointment is going to be, negating that logic. They still don’t know if it’s going to be Erik ten Hag, or Mauricio Pochettino, or someone else. Rangnick’s brand of pressing may not even suit the next appointment.

In that case, it was probably better to go with a pragmatist, who could navigate the squad through such a season to try and get them back into the Champions League. A pragmatist might well have gone for a more hard-bitten approach against City.

They didn’t go for pragmatism, so Rangnick didn’t. It all ensures that this appointment instead feels yet another halfway house of a decision, of the type that has so badly afflicted the club over the past few seasons.

Cristiano Ronaldo was omitted from United’s squad to face City

(Reuters)

That isn’t actually a reflection on Rangnick, who is in a thankless situation, caught between many poles. United want some of the tactical ideology for the long-term but also some of the tactical compromises necessary for the short-term, meaning they may well get neither.

They have a very tough run of fixtures now, with no momentum, while Arsenal have all the initiative and the games in hand.

It would be an indictment of United to not make the top four. That would not be a reflection on Arsenal, who are beginning to get things right, and are now overperforming.

It’s just that United remain so much wealthier than them, so much more expensive. The squad is of such value that it is scarcely believable they can produce a team this bad, that is so far off Manchester City.

They are the ultimate example of football waste, only matched in the Premier League by Everton.

That is just the cumulative effect of a decade of bad decisions. Rangnick is merely trying to navigate his way through the wreckage of that.

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