As the January transfer window gets close to its halfway point, Manchester United are wasting the appointment of Ralf Rangnick.
When the German was appointed as interim coach, there were a few weeks for him to size up what he wanted from the players and what they could give to him. From there, the club should have been able to act in the transfer market to secure a couple of players who could improve the areas which most needed help.
From the couple of months since Rangnick’s arrival, the problems have been made clear, and in truth none of them should have come as any surprise. After eight, nearly nine, years of indifference and mediocrity, the rot in the squad is deep, and that is highlighted best by the reports of disquiet and unhappiness for between 11 and 17 players.
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Many of them are aggrieved because they have not been picked regularly for the first team. Perhaps only Donny van de Beek can have a real complaint, because he is the only player present who has not been given a fair chance first by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and then Rangnick. He has reportedly been offered to Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund after a loan move to Everton fell through in the summer, and few would begrudge him the chance to get some minutes ahead of the World Cup after a disastrous 18 months.
The rest, though, well. Only David de Gea has performed consistently well in defence, only Bruno Fernandes has a track record to point to in midfield, and only Cristiano Ronaldo is regularly scoring goals. You can argue whether they perform at their best, or whether they meet the exact requirements of Rangnick’s system, but every other player besides them has failed to make a serious argument for their inclusion. It is possible to make excuses, and to give educated reasons as to why some have failed to meet their potential, or why they are in a miserable mindset, but fundamentally that does not matter. They are paid to do a job, and they have failed to clear a low bar.
They do not run hard, they are making individual mistakes, and they are not physically hardy. They had their chance under the new man, and they had too many chances under the old men. They should be sold and replaced.
And yet, Jesse Lingard is still there. Juan Mata is still there. Phil Jones is still there. Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Fred, and Paul Pogba, all could have their reasons for wanting to be there, but the club don’t need them. None of them have been ejected. The longer that underperforming and under-talented squad members are allowed to remain and complain, the longer it will take to bring in players who have a sense of ambition and personal responsibility.
Manchester United defender Luke Shaw
Image credit: Getty Images
Perhaps worse than the lack of exits is the failure to add to the squad. Of course it’s hard to add in the middle of the season, but Barcelona - scrabbling for cash - have managed two serious transfers and have maybe one or two more to come. If United were ambitious about rescuing their season and building for the future, then they could have identified from their list of targets drawn up by Darren Fletcher and John Murtough a couple of players who would fit Rangnick’s system and were ready to go. If there were no such players, then one should wonder if Fletcher and Murtough serve a useful purpose. Given Rangnick is set to stay on as a consultant, you could infer that perhaps other people at United are thinking the same thing.
Of course, there are a couple of weeks left in the transfer window, and Denis Zakaria at Borussia Monchengladbach is one player that could fit the requirements, with his club willing to sell. If anybody in charge of transfers at United has sufficient nous, there are more like him to identify and secure. However nothing in the last eight years has suggested United operate out of anything beyond short-term desperation and panic. If they do not want to face those same fears again this summer, now is the time to work out a plan and work on it before Rangnick becomes another manager with no authority, hope, or credibility.
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