August 14, 2021, when United thrashed arch-rivals Leeds United at Old Trafford by five goals to one looked like the start of something special. The unveiling of one of the most decorated defenders in the world Raphael Varane, the debut of English wonderkid Jadon Sancho, world cup winner Paul Pogba providing an assist to four of the five goals, and Bruno Fernandes scoring a hattrick. These were special times. Things got even more exciting when it was reported that Cristiano Ronaldo would be making a sensational return from the Italian side Juventus.
However, all these things somehow got awful. Many different reasons could be eluded to, whether it was the non-continuity of the team, inept playing style without an identity, or even a lack of effort but one thing was for certain; it could not continue.
With the godfather of “gegenpressing” now in charge, fans were positive hoping to see similar playing styles to the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, both of whose coaches were mentors of Rangnick. That was far from the case. Only a select few got to grips with it without issues and even though those players weren’t the best, they gave 110% on the pitch. The other “talented” players couldn’t give a damn and just made the dressing room even more toxic.
Rangnick spoke in press conferences about how a revolution is needed at the football club, stating that United doesn’t have the quality footballing department as compared to the current top three (Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea) and even said for any new permanent manager, this job would be like “open-heart surgery.”
This will be a really difficult job to find a new identity at Manchester United and it could take time. The club is going through another season without a trophy, last lifting one in 2017 so frustration could creep in after the first year but patience is key. In all fairness, Ten Hag, Rangnick, and the newly revamped recruitment team have a lot of issues to work out.
The team has around six players who are out of contract this offseason. They are Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Lee Grant, Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani, and Juan Mata, with players such as Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Dean Henderson looking for moves to get regular game time. With an exodus like that, the club must be looking to sign about four or five players in the summer transfer window. This season was a nightmare for United fans all around the world but there were some positives.
The Red Devils haven’t had a recognized holding midfielder that can play twice a week since Michael Carrick retired in 2018. That position has been neglected for years and cannot be avoided in this window. With the upcoming arrival of James Garner from his loan spell at Nottingham Forest, the team has a ready-made gem to look forward to.
If United feels James is not ready for Premier League football, alternative options could be Wolverhampton’s Ruben Neves, Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni, and Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips. A scout was sent to Wolverhampton’s latest game to gather more info on Neves as a transfer gradually looks increasingly doable. As reported by Jonathan Shrager, Phillips would prefer to sign a new deal at Leeds and would find it hard to join Manchester United because of the rivalry between the clubs. When it comes to Tchouameni, he looks to be bound for Real Madrid even though he is “tempted” by a PL move.
As stated earlier Ten Hag will have a mammoth job to make this team the force it once was, being the winningest team in PL history. A style of play and philosophy will need to be implemented during the preseason tour and a group of players that can be trusted to execute and give 110%. It will be an interesting summer for this group, especially since this is sports and anything can happen.