If social media accurately reflects the Manchester United fanbase’s collective frame of mind, unhappy supporters see little difference between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick. As Pete Townshend might say, ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss’.
The main complaint is that, although results are decidedly better under the German, work ethic and passion remain laissez-faire. To make matters worse, the proverbial managerial bump didn’t occur for Rangnick, but rather caretaker boss Michael Carrick. The squad seemed more enthusiastic under their former teammate’s leadership.
Yet, despite that initial success, the board wasn’t interested in extending Carrick beyond a few matches. After travelling that road with Solskjaer, they were once burned, twice shy. Even in an interim boss, the board desired an experienced, tactical mind capable of working in a corporate environment.
While Antonio Conte checked the first box, his reputation for making public demands of higher-ups disqualified him from the off. Rangnick’s pedigree as a builder who’d made his mark with Red Bull, the ultimate personification of corporatised football, was ideal. Thus, United languished over Conte but moved quickly for Rangnick, refusing to take no for an answer when he rebuffed their initial offer.
Even so, it was understood that an Ole clone wouldn’t do. While Rangnick outwardly resembles Solskjaer in his quiet, courteous demeanour, the German’s belief in a clear strategy distinguishes him from the Norwegian’s emphasis on club pride. The Baby-faced Assassin returned the club to its roots. The Godfather of Gegenpress’ mission is to instil purpose.
And this is the dilemma for Rangnick. Solskjaer made putting on the United shirt fun for his players. The German expects them to work. For those who think of the squad as undisciplined tots, it’s like replacing Mary Poppins with Count Olaf.
Unfortunately, disgruntled supporters can also resemble spoiled children. Many demand instant gratification, believing the current dysfunctionality can be cured overnight. They expect the board to make significant signings in the winter window.
‘Look,’ they say, ‘Newcastle have landed one-time United target Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid while Aston Villa have taken Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona. With all the money at the Glazers’ disposal, why can’t United follow suit?’
But Rangnick understands the reality. Morale is the problem, not funding. He cannot find the minutes to satisfy the players in his squad, as it is. Adding more would only create further unrest. The sensible answer is to first clear the decks, then bring in new blood.
“In the last two games, we had most players available. Only 10 field players can play and three substitutes,” Rangnick said, as quoted by ESPN. “Then you have quite a number of players who don’t even play or not even in the squad. Those players are unhappy about the situation. It’s obvious, clear.
“We have players with contracts expiring in the summer. We have maybe also one or two players who want to leave and are under contract.”
Without naming names, Rangnick clearly identified Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, and Donny van de Beek as players who could potentially leave, either in this window or at season’s end. Pogba and Lingard are already free to talk to other clubs. Martial and Van de Beek are signed through 2025 and 2024 respectively.
Finding new homes for these four, as well as Dean Henderson, is the club’s first order of business. It won’t be easy but, even without new signings, the atmosphere at Carrington will improve when everyone can contribute and no one is left out. The quick fix isn’t in.
Like it or not, United supporters need to be patient with the new regime.