The 2021-22 season is not getting any better for Manchester United and their supporters. The team were hammered 4-0 away to Brighton & Hove Albion in their penultimate match. A lot of the blame has rightly fallen on the players, with the fans chanting, “you are not fit to wear the shirt.”
Bruno Fernandes responds to Man United fans chanting “you are not worthy to wear the shirt” 😬 pic.twitter.com/KjRkGj0t6a
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 7, 2022
They have been lethargic, lacking spirit, and just overall meandering in their approach. However, fingers should also be pointed at Ralf Rangnick who has been a mixed character. The interim manager has gotten a few noteworthy results but United have played listless football in the other matches.
Ralf Rangnick believes his players do care after Brighton drubbing 😳 pic.twitter.com/PFRrFkIJOO
— Man United News (@ManUtdMEN) May 8, 2022
The decision to appoint him after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking has divided the fanbase ever since. Was it the right call for the present or was it to bring stability in the future? The questions have been endless.
Right decision with Ralf?
Ralf Rangnick will not want to watch the highlights reel of his time as interim manager. But did United miss a trick by hiring him in the first place? It was certainly a left-field move. The Red Devils were strongly linked with Antonio Conte, who had left Inter last summer. Conte seemed to be the perfect man who could help in turning the fortunes of a club as he had shown with the Nerrazzuri.
Manchester United decided not to pursue Antonio Conte after they sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Mauricio Pochettino's camp feel that more effort could have been made to secure his services [@ChrisWheelerDM]
— United Zone (@ManUnitedZone_) April 20, 2022
However, the board went in a different direction by announcing Rangnick in charge till the end of the season. This is where things got interesting and confusing. Rangnick has been credited with overseeing the turnaround at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.
He was a mentor to Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, Ralph Hassenhuttl, and others. Moreover, Rangnick was called the “father of gegenpressing” and espoused the philosophy of dominating opponents.
👀 “When he signed, so many people told me how amazing an appointment he was. I’d never heard of him!”
🔴 “I thought, if he was that good, I’d have heard of him.”
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) January 3, 2022
Indeed, there were many supporters who were happy with this “culture” appointment and not rushing to sign a big name at present. There was genuine hope that Rangnick would be able to lead a more nuanced, positive style of play that will develop into a settled style. The reality has not been that great.
Players and tactics do not mix
There was initial optimism surrounding Ralf Rangnick as Manchester United seemed to have turned over a new leaf. United did not lose a league match in December with three wins and a draw under Rangnick. In fact, January and February combined saw only one loss from nine matches.
However, scoring remained a glaring issue with United netting just 20 goals from Rangnick’s appointment to February. The team was not playing great, but were getting by due to moments of inspiration or weak opponents.
Erik ten Hag will bring in players, but whom do Manchester United really need?
The Premier League table since Ralf Rangnick took over:
🥇 Manchester City [34 points]
🥈 Liverpool [29 points]
🥉 Manchester United [26 points]
Rangnick's United have only lost 1 game in the league since his appointment. 🔴 pic.twitter.com/2MY3xi2vtb
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 2, 2022
Rangnick could do little from the sidelines as the players’ shoulders slumped. He revealed that the squad needed a big overhaul with several players not fit for their roles. In the meantime, United would start racking up losses against Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool, and Arsenal.
It was painful viewing for the supporters with the players not performing as expected. Bruno Fernandes had seemingly lost his goal scoring touch and missed two penalties in crucial encounters. Harry Maguire was suffering from a crisis of confidence, alongside Marcus Rashford.
Rangnick on Cristiano Ronaldo's future: "His attitude, he's 37 – it's not normal. If he plays like he did yesterday he can still be a big help to this team" 🔴 #MUFC
"It's ten Hag and also Cristiano's decision for what he can do next, but his performance was great", he told Sky. pic.twitter.com/JmPFUAgKvG
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 29, 2022
Cristiano Ronaldo was blowing hot and cold with his work rate becoming a major talking point. The midfield was getting overrun in almost every match with Nemanja Matic having to cover at times. Therefore, it was no surprise that Rangnick could do little in the face of such problems.
However, even his training methods were under the scanner. There was little evidence of what he was teaching the players as they failed to hold their own against most opponents.
Ralf Rangnick was honest but what more?
Before the match against Brighton, Ralf Rangnick dropped a big bombshell. The manager revealed that he had pushed the club’s board to sign a striker in January. It came on the back of Anthony Martial leaving on loan, Mason Greenwood getting suspended and Edinson Cavani’s prolonged injury troubles.
However, according to Rangnick, the board refused to sign, believing there was no viable option.
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
It was clear from this exchange that the higherups did not want to disrupt the squad before the arrival of a new permanent manager. Therefore, it can be expected that Erik ten Hag will have money to spend. Rangnick has been clear that a whole revamp of the current squad is needed. However, in his time, there have been little turnaround in fortunes. He has tried a back three, a back five, two strikers, but nothing seemed to work.
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Rangnick had been out of managing a team from the dugout for a long time and that may have taken its toll. United need to give Ten Hag the required time and it depends whether Rangnick stays on in his consultancy role.