The experiment has finally reached its inevitable conclusion. Manchester United have announced that Ralf Rangnick will not be taking up his consultancy role from 2022-23. The news was not a big surprise, given the buildup to it.
Ralf Rangnick announces that he will not be staying on at United as a consultant.#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 29, 2022
Moreover, Rangnick had already taken up the managerial role with the Austrian national team.
None, as it turns out, with the club entrusting the full responsibility of players to the new manager and his coaching staff. So, what was the whole ‘Ralf Rangnick era?’ In short, unnecessary. In more words…
Official. Ralf Rangnick has been appointed as new Austria coach until 2024. 🇦🇹🤝 #MUFC
“I will take over as national team manager of Austria at the end of the season but will continue consultancy with Man United. I’m looking forward to helping United become a real force again”. pic.twitter.com/XGGYF8Utla
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 29, 2022
What was the rationale?
When Manchester United sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they were in dire straits. They had lost four of their previous five games, with the last one coming to now-relegated Watford.
The favorite candidate to replace him seemed to be former Chelsea and Inter boss Antonio Conte. Erik ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino were also possibilities, though neither was likely to come mid-season.
Official. Ralf Rangnick has been appointed as new Manchester United manager. 🔴 #MUFC
“Following this period, Ralf and the club have agreed that he will continue in a consultancy role for a further two years”, club statement confirms. pic.twitter.com/m0YhW6PfL2
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 29, 2021
Therefore, it would have made sense to focus on Conte or promote an assistant coach (Michael Carrick) till the end of the campaign. Carrick did get to manage the team…for one game. The board finally selected an interim manager to steady the ship.
Ralf Rangnick was not an unknown in football. He was serving as director of football at Lokomotiv Moscow, having been appointed at the start of the season. However, the allure of United proved to be too strong.
Michael Carrick as Manchester United’s temporary interim manager:
✅ 2-0 win vs. Villarreal
🤝 1-1 vs. Chelsea
✅ 3-2 win vs. Arsenal (not Man Utd 🤦♂️) pic.twitter.com/beZ42XsP4H
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) December 2, 2021
There was genuine excitement and hope surrounding Rangnick. He had worked wonders with Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig in transforming their footballing model. Moreover, Rangnick had mentored Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, Ralph Hassenhuttl, among others with his gegenpressing style being used worldwide.
🗣 Ralf Rangnick on his Gegenpressing style in 2020: "Well, it's very simple. A very proactive style of football, similar to the way in which Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool have been playing under Klopp. We like to press high, with a very intense counter-pressure." [@ESPNFC]
— UtdDistrict (@UtdDistrict) November 25, 2021
However, some skeptics pointed out his long time out of the managerial game. His first game was a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, which would serve as a theme for the rest of his tenure.
Europe lost; frustrations on high
The one goal scored would become a theme for Ralf Rangnick and United. The Red Devils would net only once in nine of their Premier League matches, two FA Cup matches, and two Champions League matches. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Middlesbrough on penalties.
𝐔𝐏𝐒𝐄𝐓 𝐀𝐓 𝐎𝐋𝐃 𝐓𝐑𝐀𝐅𝐅𝐎𝐑𝐃 ❌
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) February 4, 2022
Moreover, United struggled in their final group stage match in Europe, managing a 1-1 draw with Young Boys. That would see them qualify as winners, facing Atletico Madrid. United would rescue the first leg in Spain, before losing at home.
Meanwhile, the battle for the top four was getting ever intense, with Spurs (managed by Antonio Conte) and Arsenal winning regularly.
🗣 "All of his credibility as a manager has gone out the window." @MicahRichards and @GNev2 argue about why Ralf Rangnick was brought in as a interim manager and not the likes of Antonio Conte pic.twitter.com/1FCikJCB80
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 6, 2022
Fans were losing their patience with Rangnick, as the squad looked demoralized every time they took the pitch. The season was slowly slipping away, with hopes of Champions League football hanging on by a thread.
A humiliating end for all
Heading into April, United still controlled their destiny. However, the month and May would be disastrous for all involved. It began with a limp draw against Leicester City before the wheels fell off completely.
Facing a relegation-threatened Everton, the Red Devils put in one of their worst performances. A demoralizing 1-0 loss knocked the wind out of the sails.
🗣️ "United are a joke."
Gary Neville has his say following Man Utd's 1-0 loss at Everton…
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 9, 2022
United were powerless to stop the slide with defeats against Liverpool, Arsenal, Brighton, and Crystal Palace to finish in sixth place. Rangnick was a bystander to the collapse, unable to regroup the players in any way, shape, or form. Manchester United missed out on the Champions League season at the end of their worst ever Premier League season.
Officially Manchester United's WORST EVER Premier League season… pic.twitter.com/2uduwARYwO
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) May 7, 2022
Supporters were clinging on to the hope of a new manager in the summer, with most openly questioning the appointment of Rangnick in the first place.
Lowest of lows
The Manchester United board has been criticized for being one of the worst in the league. The amount of dividends taken out of the club ever since the takeover, coupled with poor managerial appointments, poor signings, and the crumbling condition of Old Trafford has won them no fans.
In that sea of bad decisions and questionable moves, the Rangnick experiment stands out. Going after a candidate who has spent years without a managerial role, instead of a serial winner was unfathomable.
Manchester United board does commit to pay the Glazers and other shareholders £11m dividends in January. They refuse to give lowest paid staff a 58p an hour pay increase to match the real living wage. #MUFC pic.twitter.com/0qlcIf1fmi
— Kieran Maguire (@KieranMaguire) November 12, 2020
Some supporters have lauded Rangnick for “exposing” the board, as they failed to back him in the January transfer window. However, his tactics and implementation on the field left a lot to be desired.
United were listless all over the pitch, with players struggling to influence matches. Bruno Fernandes had a subpar season after his heroics in 2020-21. Marcus Rashford had the worst season of his young career. Harry Maguire was simply atrocious.
Ralf Rangnick reveals he wanted a new striker at Man Utd in January: “But the answer from the board was: ‘No’. There were Luís Díaz, who is now at Liverpool; Julián Álvarez, who will be at Man City in the summer; and Vlahovic, who at the time was still with Fiorentina”. 🔴 #MUFC pic.twitter.com/gjV0FR0FCD
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) May 6, 2022
The defence looked softer than jelly, with every team cutting through at will. Rangnick spoke of mentality issues, players not pressing enough, and the team needed several new players soon.
While everything was correct off the field, on it, the team had no motivation. Hell, United needed a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo to see off 20th-placed Norwich City. All the bad things cannot be on the players only. Rangnick tried his best, but the squad was just not responding.
🤨 𝗗𝗦: “Those players at #MUFC are unmanageable! Pogba got Jose the sack.”
❌ 𝗝𝗢’𝗛: “I disagree!! Conte would get them top four. They saw through Rangnick!”
🤬 𝗔𝗠: “I’M NOT HAVING IT!!”
Things got 𝙁𝙀𝙄𝙎𝙏𝙔 between Saunders, O’Hara & McCoist over Man United! 🔥👀 pic.twitter.com/nhziIQD49m
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) May 30, 2022
He tried a rarely-used 4-2-2-2 in the beginning but discarded it quickly. No matter what he did, five at the back, three at the back, Victor Lindelof at right-back, Phil Jones coming back, nothing worked.
For his part, Rangnick knew his days were numbered, taking the Austria job. United tried to put on a brave face, saying how he will split his responsibilities.
However, Ten Hag’s arrival had made it clear that he would not appreciate a consultant above or alongside him. History will not look approvingly or happily on this chapter of Manchester United’s incredible legacy.