Outgoing Manchester United caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick has admitted the defeat to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup still stung as he reflected on his time in charge of the Red Devils. Rangnick’s largely disappointing spell in charge saw Manchester United end the season trophy-less, while also missing out on Champions League qualification.
While ultimately the latter of those goals was more important, winning trophies is also imperative at Old Trafford and Boro played a key role in ensuring that wasn’t a reality. Backed by 9,500 fans, Chris Wilder’s side went to Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup and won on penalties.
Rangnick referenced the cup defeat as he reflected on his time in charge of the club, which came to an end after last day’s loss to Crystal Palace. But since finishing in the top four was more important than the FA Cup, the outgoing manager felt the Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid was the most damaging of his time in charge.
Rangnick said: “It was a new experience for me. [being interim manager]. Not necessarily coming in the middle of the season, but knowing that it will be an interim role. Unfortunately we didn’t have a preseason, we couldn’t strengthen the squad, but those things happen and, in hindsight, it was bittersweet or rather bittersweet because in the first few months we did well. .
“We put in some good performances and scored quite a few points, an average of 2.1 against Atlético. I think the defeat in the Champions League was, in a way, as if someone had burst a balloon. We’ve lost energy since then, we weren’t in the same level of energy and aggressiveness and that is why the level of performances went down.”
However, that early February loss to Boro still leaves a bitter taste. El Boro would go on to win on penalties, but luck ran a bit as Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty in normal time, while Bruno Fernandes hit the post with an open goal following an error by Joe Lumley.
At the time, the FA Cup seemed like Manchester United’s last chance to win a trophy too, as they trailed by too many points in the Premier League and were out of the Carabao Cup. Success in the Champions League never seemed like a realistic prospect for a team that was playing woefully below the standards they once set under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Rangnick continued on the theme of not winning a trophy: “We never should have retired against Middlesbrough at home. We were the dominant team, we missed a penalty, we missed an open goal in the second half, so we should never have lost that game against Middlesbrough.
“It was also a blow, because it was a competition where we intended to go as far as possible and maybe even play the Wembley final. As we lost against Middlesbrough, which we never should have done in that game, that was also a big disappointment but I think the biggest blow was the loss against Atletico Madrid and we never really recovered from that to be honest yes we still had a few games that we won but overall we weren’t as confident as we were before that ”.
Rangnick will now step down from his role as Manchester United caretaker manager and take over as head of the Austrian National Team, as well as continuing to play an advisory role for the Red Devils. Erik ten Hag has already started in his role as United’s new permanent manager and named former Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren as one of two assistant managers on Monday.