“If you look at the situation, it’s not difficult,” Ralf Rangnick began, before delivering a heavy dose of reality that Manchester United finally need an almost blank canvas this summer.
“There will be six, seven, eight, maybe 10 new players,” he said after Liverpool’s latest nudity.
In a period when there will be a major fit for a new manager, United – with a gross transfer spend of £1.4bn over the last decade – must also build a new team amid very little confidence in the intelligence of their operating structure as anti-Glazer sentiment grows.
The defeat at Anfield not only underlined that Liverpool operate on a different planet from United on the pitch, but also off it.
Entering a strange environment – a new country, a new league, a new level of scrutiny, pressure and expectation – Erik ten Hag will be faced with an almighty task.
Not only are United not equipped to play their football, they are incapable of being a counter-attacking team, comfortable in possession, defensively obstructive or operating safely during a full game.
That’s the result of a confusing draft with 21 players signed by five different coaches with no underlying stylistic or age profile. Like Rannick said Sky sports news: “At Liverpool the profile of each position has been clear and that is why they are where they are.
“At Manchester United, this hasn’t been the case with every change of manager. New players have come in, but not under that precondition of how we want to play.”
During the much talked about “cultural reset” of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer indictment, phase one saw Daniel James (£16m), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£49.5m), Harry Maguire (78, £3m), Alex Telles (£13.5m), Donny van de Beek (£35.10m), Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes (£49.5m) arrive for immediately reinforce the first team.
The only name on United’s future-proof list is the latest, courtesy of a new deal until June 2026.
James was sold to Leeds, Cavani joins Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata in leaving this summer, while Ten Hag could rejuvenate the career of his former player and loan from Everton Van de Beek.
Wan-Bissaka is severely limited offensively and his recovery pace is needed as often as his position is poor. Telles is excellent to help attacking, but needs more coverage or structure in defensive solidity.
Maguire’s lack of pace is terribly exposed without the protective double pivot he enjoys while on England duty, and there is a growing inner feeling that he cannot be the leader of the back line.
In the next phase, United opted for a ‘win now’ approach to signing, signing Jadon Sancho (£76m), Raphael Varane (£36m) and Cristiano Ronaldo (£13m). .
There will be no trophies this season, and the only hint will be an outside chance to finish fourth if Tottenham and Arsenal sabotage themselves.
Ronaldo has been United’s only guarantee of goals, but their biggest tactical conundrum.
There have been glimpses of Sancho’s gifts and Ten Hag will have his mind set on building around the former Borussia Dortmund ace.
Varane’s pedigree is unquestioned, but his availability is terrible.
Now, this has been a snapshot of United’s signing. with long-term thinking and “cultural reset” plan, so there is minimal credibility that rebuilding can be done effectively.
The club needs an elite anchor, a dynamic central midfielder, a high-quality striker, a commanding, aerially dominant centre-back who is comfortable defending big spaces, new full-backs and another striker as a foil for Sancho.
That’s a considerable rebuild without considering that while he’s an excellent shot-blocker, David de Gea isn’t the type of distributor Ten Hag wants to build.
Who else could be dating?
United have not only been terrible on the way in, but also on the way out. They are not trained to make a profit on sales, only four instances in 10 years, and that trend shows no signs of changing any time soon.
Dean Henderson, Anthony Martial, Eric Bailly and Brandon Williams are expected to leave for more minutes elsewhere. Phil Jones and Diogo Dalot could also go.
Marcus Rashford, who is suffering from a crisis of confidence and lousy form after his injuries were mishandled, will consider his future.
The scale of work to be undertaken is terrifying. Also consider United’s low hit rate of successful transfers and the wisdom that so many new players needing to establish themselves at the same time doesn’t mean cohesion.
There is so little room for error because United, as Tuesday’s hammering again illuminated, have never been so adrift from Liverpool and Manchester City.
Rangnick says that everything in the club should come from asking “how do we want to play?”
However, perhaps the problem is the credentials of the people who pose the question and find the answers.
United’s chief scouting officer, Jim Lawlor, and Marcel Bout, global head scouting officer, have left Old Trafford.
Gary Neville says “this won’t turn the tide.” Until the club provides evidence of a safe surgical methodology, we can’t argue.