Manchester United are, yet again, embarking upon a rebuild.
Ralf Rangnick will have looked at the job he was thinking of taking back in November and been under no illusions over the work needed to be done at this now sleeping giant, and if he was he need only have watched the performance against Watford back to see where issues lay on the pitch.
Behind the scenes, however, were left to be discovered. Under the surface lies a festering mass of toxicity and petulance, primed and ready to derail any man that may come to heal it. Unfortunately for the infection, Rangnick comes to heal by hook or by crook, and though his managerial tenure may span a mere half season, the 2 years he will spend advising his successor could prove fatal.
The fact of the matter is, things right now are bad at Old Trafford, and this has predictably led to swathes of reports about leaks, and doubts over the man who only arrived in November. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer split opinion somewhat, but it seems his more relaxed and empathetic style has massaged fragile egos, leaving them sensitive to any change or any manager who simply barks, never mind bites. And names aren’t difficult to come by, the Likely Lads being those who felt “marginalised” under the previous regime and fail to see that it happening a second time is much more damning of them than Rangnick – they aren’t footballers for their common sense I suppose.
The feeling of a few leave things bubbling away, and it will likely only be worsened by the managers colder approach to picking his sides for games, players like Donny van de Beek and Dean Henderson will cry more about not playing minutes (whilst not showing any reason why they should), that will almost certainly piss off the likes of Scott McTominay or Bruno Fernandes (players who appear, at least, to care).
Anthony Martial will have his agent offer him out publicly, and will receive the response it did last month, and when a satisfactory offer doesn’t come the cycle will repeat. All of this negativity from the usual suspects is bound to take effect on overall morale, all of which makes it tougher to move them on, which will continue to impact upon performances, which will serve only to exacerbate things.
So, this leaves Rangnick with actions to implement more than decisions to make. He suffers no fools, and the United squad is unfortunately full of them, it leaves very few players of any quality at the football club and means things will take longer to improve.
Realistically there are 8 senior players to move on and be replaced.
Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard, Eric Bailly, Dean Henderson, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba are probably leaving, all of whom need replacing. Match it with Marcus Rashford, Aaron wan Bissaka and Harry Maguire who seem to have drastically lost their way, Phil Jones who just won’t ever stay fit, Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot who aren’t to standard, Fred and Scott McTominay similarly, Nemanja Matic who’s time is running out and Cristiano Ronaldo on a short term deal, there are real issues to address.
Rangnick will have looked at the job in front of him and seen a quality group of players who needed direction and coaching to get back to business, what he has found is nothing like that.
Players not being quite good enough is one thing, but when the bulk of your squad love a good tantrum when things aren’t quite going their way (like training sessions daring to finish at a normal working hour like 5pm), it ties your hands behind your back and makes a steady and calculated build nigh on impossible. There’s an omelette to be made, but eggs need to be broken in order to do so. Let’s hope Ralf has brought his apron.