ATLETICO MADRID DEFEAT LEAVES RALF RANGNICK AND MANCHESTER UNITED SEASON ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE.
Manchester United suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat on Tuesday evening in the Champions League Round of 16, going out in the second leg against Atletico Madrid. With problems stacking up under Ralf Rangnick, United and the German must be concerned that their season could be over with tough fixtures in April ahead.
Manchester United’s season is close to finished and it is not yet April. The pressure is growing on Ralf Rangnick.
Of course, it would now take something really disastrous to unseat the interim coach before the end of the season, but we can be almost certain that the German does not have enough time to convince the board that he deserves to be kept on in the summer.
The problems for United against Atletico Madrid were problems that should have been solved by the kind of manager the club needs. First up, Harry Maguire once again looked absolutely lost on the pitch. A captain should exude confidence, instead he cuts such a forlorn figure that his teammates must pity him, and those that don’t might – if reports are to be believed – resent that he continues to be picked in the first team.
Arriving at Old Trafford with such a well regarded reputation, the club, fans and players should have been able to at least rely upon Rangnick instilling some kind of organisation on the team’s backline. Jose Mourinho might have been counterproductive when he told the public that Luke Shaw only plays well when a coach micromanages him, but he does not appear to be wrong. Victor Lindelof is perhaps the only player in football who looks so broken by the prospect of playing football, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka offers less than he did when he arrived from Crystal Palace. Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot have given fans little reason to be optimistic.
With United nervy at the back, they need something special in order to keep winning. At the weekend they got it with Cristiano Ronaldo. No longer the world’s best player, he was able to show enough determination, scoring a hat-trick and winning three points. Against an organised Atletico Madrid side, coached by the miserly Diego Simeone, they would need something brilliant to break down the opposition.
When Rangnick agreed to take over at United, there were two players who needed to be given fresh impetus, but neither of them have been sufficiently rehabilitated.
Paul Pogba was and is expected to leave on a free transfer in the summer, but with a World Cup coming up, it made sense that he would be a consistent performer for his current club, if he could be persuaded that it would benefit his career as much as it would his employer. There have been flashes of his peak ability at times, but he was left on the bench for the start of Tuesday’s game, and was unable to make a decisive contribution in the second half. A manager should be using his resources and finest players to make sure the best are ready when the biggest matches come along – and Rangnick has failed at a crucial juncture.
The other player was Marcus Rashford. While it was understandable that he delayed his shoulder surgery to take part in the European Championships, it has clearly held him back in the new season. What must be concerning now is that his problems do not look physical, they look mental. When Rashford was given his debut by Louis van Gaal he was an instinctive and calm footballer, with confidence alongside a decent technique. He had promise that threatened to carry him to the top.
Now, things have changed. Rashford is making poor decisions, unable to make decisive contributions, and is no longer a player that the team can look to in a crisis. Rangnick needs to rescue Rashford to rescue the player’s career, and his club’s season. It is sometimes easy to dismiss a player for a lack of talent, but we know that is not the case when it comes to Rashford because his performance has dropped off so rapidly and starkly.
Rangnick’s job is to motivate the players at his disposal, and to get them playing to the best of their ability to reflect his tactics. There is no motivation, there is no specific or sustained improvement, there is no committed organisation and hard running. Pogba, Rashford and almost every other player are no better for his coaching. Games against Liverpool and then Arsenal – both away – at the end of Arsenal threaten to consign United to weeks of hopeless and pointless football, with no chance of the top four. Such a thing would do the same to Ragnick’s career in the Premier League.