Manchester United make the right call

Ralf Rangnick the godfather of modern football credited with developing Gegenpressing has been appointed by the club to be interim manager and help adapt the club to modernize its coaching setup as a consultant later. Instead of trying to move from one extreme of coaching method to another the club have moved to set themselves a structure in tune with prevailing standards at top clubs. John Murtough the Director of Football is said to have driven this big decision and perhaps demonstrates the separation from financial management represented by most people at the board. Football finally triumphs at the premier English institution where Glazers have thrown money without knowledge of the game since retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

United have been tracking Rangnick for over two years since the first meeting with Ed Woodward to become the first Director of Football. He clearly outlined two big deficiencies - recruitment and coaching in interview with The Times. Later hinted he turned United's offer down over how much 'control' he would get on those two crucial aspects. This issue must now have been firmly resolved for Rangnick to take charge. In recruitment he has helped unearth talents like Marcel Sabitzer, Erling Haaland, Joshua Kimmich, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Timo Werner, Naby Keita etc. In coaching he has inspired Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp, Julian Nagelsmann, Ralf Hasenhuttl etc. For now United players need to concentrate on winning the ball back in 8 seconds and scoring inside 10! Fate of the beleaguered coaching staff is not known but it could be a boon for the likes of Michael Carrick to learn under the German master.

If United go on a good run like they did under their last interim manager in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, will they succumb to temptations and appoint Rangnick full-time? If this process is as per statement put out by the club "Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games, while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season." they should not. Nagelsmann who worked under Rangnick might be in the shortlist to succeed with Erik ten Hag and alas no walkover for Pochettino struggling with ego's of big players at PSG! Rangnick has to identify his successor and help him achieve the target to win United its first trophy since May, 2017 potentially in May, 2023.

That will be six long years without a trophy which will be longest drought in clubs post war history since 1951 when they won the league championship after 40 year wait. In 6th year Busby won his first league title in '51, first trophy the FA Cup in 1963 after league win in 1957 the gap was due to devastating tragedy suffered at Munich. In 6th year United won second division in 1974 after European Cup triumph in 1968. United won the FA Cup four times between the league success of 1966-67 and 1992-93. Such is the gravity of task at hand on United's board to get this right. If they fail history is most likely to pinpoint the clubs decision to back an enigma of a player in Paul Pogba over Jose Mourinho who had won the League Cup and Europa Cup in successive years.

Last professor United had was Dave Sexton who handicapped by United's floatation in stock market combined with selling its best player in Gordon Hill endured a tepid trophy-less tenure that ended with eight straight wins without a convincing style and promptly got the sack. Rangnick has not managed at established elite clubs nor won major trophies like Bundesliga or Champions' League but help create and organize clubs like Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig. This appointment might not end the trophy drought but create platform to get the club to be competitive. Another professor Marcelo Bielsa is struggling at Leeds United this season.

United have an underachieving squad rather than inept. United need to bolster their midfield and correct the issues in defense to mount a challenge to Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Players have not hit a higher gear, big squad underutilized as same players were chosen, no new academy players included yet, upcoming winter transfer window to help push for top four with Declan Rice and Aurelien Tchouameni linked and perhaps Rangnick can help clinch the deal to land Erling Haaland next summer when Edinson Cavani leaves!

Ronaldo-de Gea FC

Solskjaer's side suffered a humiliating 0-5 defeat at the hands of their biggest rivals in English football Liverpool at home. Defeat 3 years ago to the same opponents at Anfield led to the sacking of Jose Mourinho though the score was less embarrassing 1-3. Yet Manchester United board caught by surprise with a sudden and alarming drop in performance persisted with the Norwegian to see another humbling 0-2 loss to local rivals City in a derby match where no players except David de Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo showed any fight. Mid-week United drew 2-2 away at Atalanta to top their group in Champions' League thanks to two strikes from Ronaldo. Ronaldo has scored five goals in four group games to keep United in the hunt. 

Ronaldo and de Gea have been consistently papering over cracks to save the blushes of the entire team especially the two hero's from England's Euro 2020 in captain Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw. Despite having Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly as cover at centre-backs and Alex Telles at left-back, Solskjaer persisted with the same duo time and again. United struggle to control the ball from midfield with McTominay and Fred while no new recruits were added in the summer to augment that deficiency. Pogba was pushed deeper that resulted in him losing his form that saw him earlier create 5 assists in a single game and later dropped to the bench for crucial games against Liverpool and City! Greenwood's form has also tapered out. Bruno Fernandes' influence has not been sustained through the game but just in a few moments due to dysfunctional midfield. Rashford has been rushed back from injury. Jadon Sancho played out of position on left wing that is hampering him to gain confidence to justify his £73million fee. Die-hard academy graduate Jesse Lingard under utilized. These decision's neither gives afflicted players any respite to think through nor boost morale of squad players eager for an opportunity. What's the point then of having such a large squad that the manager has always been asking for?

LDLLWL has been their form guide picking just one point in their last four home games! Signs of disarray in their calamitous game-play evident from that fortuitous away win at Wolves the 3rd league game of the season but lessons weren't learned and situation allowed to deteriorate. United rank bottom in the Premier League on 20th place for 'total tackles' and 'duels won' and 18th for 'interceptions', 'aerial duels' and 'recoveries' tell a horrifying tale of players not applying themselves on training pitch which ultimately manifests on matchdays! If United have fallen so sharply in recent weeks although performances have been poor apart from the opening game against Leeds, why have the club still kept faith in Solskjaer? 

Lack of risk management from NYSE listed club's board and player morale. His man-management has been good with the first team squad except a few. United's stock has declined to $15.60 last Friday from a high of $20.50 on 27th September that is 23.9% decline in less than a month! Board cannot sustain Solskjaer if results do not improve immediately. The board respect the fact that Solskjaer has stood by them when no structure existed to support the manager resulting in only two of five transfers windows being excellent - Bruno Fernandes and this summer's recruits. Squad has been overhauled completely without public fallout and the famed youth academy re-grouped. Ed Woodward stepping down at the end of the year the board might not want to make a crucial change now. Solskjaer has come out stronger after the International break usually and got a result somehow when he needed the most. United need to go on an unbeaten run but face league leaders Chelsea after playing Watford on 20th November. They must qualify to knockout stages of Champions' League to save Solskjaer. But if that is achieved without a conviction of a playing style and changes to the squad demonstrating an evolution of game-play, how long might that last?

To steady the ship Solskjaer has been a good choice till now. However the sheer quality of players now at United would not suffer mediocrity for too long and that has been the true testament of squad overhaul that Solskjaer has achieved with clubs full backing. Board however will be inclined to believe that its still early days of the new season and Champions' League qualification for next season is not ruled out yet due to the sheer number of match-winners in the United squad. Next break from hectic schedule of 3 games per week will be in mid-December after the facing Brighton to do the change by which time either United would have steadied themselves or ruled themselves out of the reckoning based on recent form.

Erik ten Hag and Brendan Rodgers are two obvious candidates as PSG would not allow Mauricio Pochettino to leave mid-season especially after signing Lionel Messi while Zinedine Zidane might not fancy coming to England over his preferred choice of France and Spain. If an interim coach is needed clubs usually go to their technical director i.e., Darren Fletcher who has UEFA Pro license and should be eligible. Flipside would be that many of the backroom staff tend to be retained. Scotland manager Steve Clarke who got the best out of McTominay and Brighton manager Graham Potter must be also considered in the shortlist. Gone are the days when the progression was incremental and tier based. Brighton are below United by just the goal difference. If United do not target any modern manager than least they could do is to look at Potter, just 46 would represent a transformational move that United can be cited to have set a trend among the elite clubs across Europe.

For now, hope Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turns it around for weathering the storm so gracefully. Norwegian has always put the club first which every genuine United fan appreciates.

United dominate opposition after years in doldrums

Manchester United totally bossed the game with 28 shots 10 on-target against 3rd placed Antonio Conte's Tottenham Hotspur who were also ...

Popular Posts