They didn’t need one, but manchester united they were administered another painful reality check on Tuesday night. The manner of his loss to Liverpool at Anfield left little debate about the number of changes needed this summer, nor did he hide from the fact that his current problems go far beyond poor form.
After the game, caretaker coach Ralf Rannick he admitted that up to 10 new players could be needed to implement the required type of change. He could argue that the number must be even higher.
It’s hard to imagine a time when United fans felt so disillusioned by the club’s management and the fan base felt so distant from those who don the shirts on a weekly basis. This team is anything but united.
Rangnick came as a breath of fresh air and while his hard-hitting truths have been welcomed at Old Trafford, he seems to have given up hope that he can resolve the issues he has identified.
United have been guilty of making empty promises in recent years, and Rangnick’s role as adviser going forward could be another, with the belief that he will have only limited duties and no guarantee his recommendations will actually be heeded.
When the club finally announce Erik ten Hag as his next manager, the Dutchman must ensure that he has an honest and open discussion with Rangnick about exactly what to expect and the opportunity to gather information on the players he will be tasked with trying to orchestrate. He, as the interim boss, might as well agree on the number of players needed this summer. Both could also agree on the players’ integral part in rebuilding shattered dreams next season.
As soon as news of the team dropped on Tuesday night, United’s slim hopes of avoiding defeat were all but gone. They have not won any of the four league games Cristiano Ronaldo he’s missed this season, and without him in attack, his blunt new got even softer around the edges.
It is also a similar story with Raphael Varane. United have only lost two league games he has started this season and have not lost one in any competition when he and Harry Maguire have played a full game. This is slightly skewed by the fact that the club’s captain was dropped when they chased a draw against Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League. The scores were level when Maguire retired from the home defeat to Aston Villa in the Premier League, and Varane retired when the tie was level in the FA Cup penalty shootout loss to Middlesbrough.
Before the match, Rangnick warned about the problems they faced when Fred and Scott McTominay were sidelined, and were once again deeply missed.
Earlier in the season, Fred admitted he wasn’t the most technical player, but he used a beautiful Brazilian analogy to describe his invaluable role on the team. “I bring the piano for the artists to play,” he said. Without him, United often fail to get the tone out of their attackers.
Fred and McTominay have been done a disservice in recent years and perhaps deserve more credit for what they do. Both are useful squad players given amped-up roles at full-back due to a lack of investment in midfield. United shouldn’t have relied on the pair so much when they should have been used as helpful tools in the mold of Nicky Butt, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-Sung in years past.
The fact that McTominay was available for a bench role against Liverpool despite not being fully fit was another testament to his commitment to the cause. Despite having shortcomings as a player, he also has the right mindset to play a role in the team for years to come.
Rangnick might recommend that United try to sign up to 10 new players this summer, but he should also recommend rebuilding around those four.