Manchester United’s troubles this season have been well documented. Well, that was the case when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in charge until the Norwegian was sacked towards the end of last year after a humiliating 4-1 defeat in the Premier League at the hands of Watford.
Following his appointment, Ralf Rangnick was deemed a stopgap, and he will stay as Head Coach until the end of the season. After the conclusion of the campaign, he is set to move upstairs, and take on a directorial role.
There have been rumours of supposed discontent and civil war at United, so we have tried to unravel this, and explain whether United are, in fact, entrenched in a crisis.
Dressing room power struggle
Recently, reports emerged over a power struggle in the dressing room between Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo, in which both players are desperate to be named skipper. Ronaldo was supposedly eager to take the captaincy armband from Maguire in a bid to relieve some of the pressure of centre-half, who has faced stinging criticism over his form this term.
These reports were quickly quashed by Rangnick, but as we know, Ronaldo is a strong personality, and he’s not the sort of person that shies away from something easily.
What was even more intriguing, was that Marcus Rashford blasted the rumours.
He said: “Are we just making it up as we go along then? Please stop looking for divides.”
Perhaps Rashford was rallying behind his team-mates even though the fissures seem evident. And if that is the case, then it needs to be nipped in the bud.
Who will replace Ralf Rangnick?
This has been a long-running question. Rangnick was only supposed to be a short-term replacement and warm the seat for the next man in the dugout. While Zinedine Zidane has been floated about as the next Red Devils boss, Paris Saint-Germain incumbent Mauricio Pochettino has been continually linked with a move back to the Premier League.
Yet what is surprising, is that Rangnick is at a long looking 25/1 with Paddy Power to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post, even though he supposedly has a gentlemen’s agreement in place that he will move upstairs after the end of the season.
Should United change their mind, and look to extend his deal if they were to finish in the top four? Have United improved under him? Well, there have been signs that they are trending in the right direction, even though there have been concerns about how Ronaldo fits into Rangnick’s thinking, especially as he is in the autumn of his career.
Champions League spot up for grabs
Without trying to sound pessimistic, United look set to finish another season trophyless, even though they have a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals for the Champions League. They are very much alive in their Round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid following a 1-1 draw in the first leg in midweek.
For a team of United’s stature, it seems almost unacceptable that they could feasibly go six years without a trophy. Louis van Gaal was duly sacked despite delivering domestic success.
It is unclear what was in Rangnick’s remit when he was appointed as interim manager, although you imagine the bare minimum would have been to finish in the top four. As things stand, United are well on course to do that as they are fourth, and four points clear of West Ham in fifth, although Arsenal and Wolves may have something to say about that!
Maybe United could go all the way in the Champions League this season to guarantee a place next season. However, finishing in the top four seems to be a more realistic option, and bet365 have priced United at 6/4 to achieve that.