The Red Devils scraped just four points over their last three Premier League matches against Newcastle, Burnley, and WolvesArdfern (Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution)/Wikimedia Commons

It’s often the case that despite their best intentions, most people’s New Year’s resolutions stutter at some point within the first couple of months. However, even the weakest willed would hope to still be going strong four days into January. For Manchester United though, their aspiration for winning ways already seems to have disappeared down the drain, with the club finding itself in crisis mode once again after defeat to Wolves last Monday (03/01). Just over a month ago, the appointment of Ralf Rangnick was met with much optimism among United fans. This was seen to be the dawn of a new and coherent United team, led by the man who had invented the gegenpress that has served Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel so well.

Yet sadly for United fans, the footballing gods have failed to read the script. Already the noises coming out of Old Trafford aren’t happy ones. The performances in Rangnick’s first six games have been poor, with United only managing to score more than once in one of those games (at home to Burnley), whilst only managing to scrape a draw against Newcastle and a narrow win over Norwich thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper David de Gea. Likewise, the pressing that Rangnick promised hasn’t properly materialised. United’s PPDA (the number of passes a team allows the opposition to make before trying to win the ball back) was ten in Rangnick’s first game against Palace, but rose to 20.6 against Burnley and sixteen against Wolves. It’s a serious cause for concern when a team under the supposed ‘godfather’ of the gegenpress is actually getting worse at pressing.

“This is the footballing equivalent of a baby throwing its toys out of the pram”

However, the idea that Rangnick is already under pressure seems completely absurd to me. He’s had anything but a smooth entrance into his first foray into the Premier League, immediately losing two key coaches in Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna, plus having to deal with the closure of Carrington due to a Covid outbreak that has deprived him of valuable time on the training pitch. Rangnick has seemingly joined a car-crash of a club at a time when the Premier League is experiencing its own pile up of fixtures - not easy for someone who hasn’t managed since 2019.

But unfortunately, the noises coming out of Old Trafford suggest that there is already a potential mutiny among the United players, with many unhappy about Rangnick’s tactics and training drills. On top of this, Luke Shaw came out with the ridiculous comment after the Wolves match that United “lack motivation”, and that “it didn’t feel like everyone was out there together”. How anyone could possibly lack motivation to play for arguably the greatest club in England in front of 76,000 fans at the Theatre of Dreams is baffling. I don’t often like to be too critical of players, as that’s normally a role fulfilled very aptly by a Mr Roy Keane, but here the buck very much has to stop with them. This is the footballing equivalent of a baby throwing its toys out of the pram.

“I wish whoever ends up taking on the United job long-term the best of luck because the issue with this United squad runs far deeper than a lack of ability or tactical naivety”

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the United players got too comfortable and they lost the edge required to win the biggest prizes. He was their friend, but he clearly lacked the tactical nous to take United to the silverware that they desire, and now that these players have been presented with a coach who isn’t willing to be their best mate, they’ve turned on him. Many of these players have been abject all season, adding to the feeling that the problem runs deeper than just the manager.

To name a few, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Shaw have played 15 and 14 games respectively this season, both recording just two clean sheets and no goals nor assists. In similar veins of form, Marcus Rashford has only two goals and a single assist in eleven appearances, whilst Jadon Sancho has one goal and zero assists in sixteen games. This simply isn’t good enough for the second most expensive squad in history, worth over £1bn.

One man who has stepped up to the plate this season is Cristiano Ronaldo, but to add to the absurdity of the situation some are suggesting that arguably the greatest player of all time is to blame for United’s demise this season. This is despite the fact that he’s scored 14 goals in 21 matches for United so far, and almost single-handedly dragged them through the group stages of the Champions League. There have been claims that he doesn’t press enough and that he’s made the United attack disjointed by being a sole focal point. But what were United expecting when they signed a 36-year-old striker of his stature? He was never going to be leading an intense press and if the United board ever believed so then it’s yet another sign of their incompetence.


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Time and time again Ronaldo has popped up to dig United out of a hole, and yet some players are reportedly unhappy about his undroppable status. Rather than griping about being on the bench behind a five-time Ballon D’Or winner and United’s top scorer this season, the likes of Mason Greenwood should be relishing the opportunity to learn as much from the Portuguese star as possible.

Many of the United players need to start looking at themselves rather than the blame being passed around. This is a great club with a squad full of huge potential, but one that has found itself in a significant rut. I wish whoever ends up taking on the United job long-term the best of luck because the issue with this United squad runs far deeper than a lack of ability or tactical naivety. The next United manager will have to rekindle the desire among his squad to win at all costs, as currently it seems to be a fire that’s in its dying embers.