Manchester United’s honeymoon with Ralf Rangnick is finally over – even if it actually gave little evidence the two were destined to be together longer than the six months initially agreed to.
Rangnick, when being unveiled as the interim manager until the end of the season, suggested he could put his own name forward as the permanent solution, rather than moving into a consultancy role as originally planned.
However, after narrowly avoiding a first – and deserved – defeat against Newcastle United last week, it finally came in an even more drab performance at home to Wolves, who claimed their first league win at Old Trafford for 42 years.
Rangnick dropped Bruno Fernandes – the man who has carried United over the last three years – as his new 4-2-2-2 formation continued to bewilder both fans and his own players, while Cristiano Ronaldo was handed the captaincy in the absence of Harry Maguire.
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It did nothing to inject more energy into Ronaldo’s performance however, with former United midfielder Paul Ince questioning why the armband wasn’t handed elsewhere.
He told Sky Sports: “If you were to give it to someone, if I was Ralf Rangnick I would give it to McTominay. Because, I think the captain should be based off their performances and what he’s done on the pitch.
“He’s 25, it would be a nice learning curve for him. Now, why give it to Ronaldo when everyone’s moaning about him walking off the pitch everytime United get beaten and not clapping the fans.
“It’s also about setting an example and I think the way McTominay is playing, give it to him – let him have a go.”
But the issues ran far deeper than who was wearing the armband, with The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson claiming Rangnick’s team have slid backwards since his first game in charge and for a manager who has a philosophy based on control, United frequently find themselves out of it.
He wrote: “Manchester United appear to be a work not in progress but regression. Ralf Rangnick is overseeing a team who set out with a structure against Crystal Palace, his first game in charge, but have since slid slowly backwards.
“The ‘godfather of pressing’ seems, oddly, to have eschewed his beloved mode of intensive shutting down. Second, the 4-2-2-2 to which he adheres has become aimless and misshapen. ‘Control’ has been Rangnick’s mantra yet United enjoyed zero.”
The Telegraph’s Jason Burt concurred, claiming United have become a “madhouse” and are the “antithesis” of everything Rangnick’s philosophy aims for.
He wrote: “Welcome to the madhouse of Manchester United; a club that has spent hundreds of millions of pounds and yet looks short in every area of the pitch; an expensively-assembled team that rarely appears to be the sum of its part and is struggling in seventh place in the Premier League and flattered by that position.
“It condemned United to their sixth defeat in 14 league games. Phil Jones made his first appearance for almost two years, and performed reasonably well, but his teammates acted like they, too, had not kicked a ball competitively for that length of time. They were a bunch of frustrated strangers.
“It was ragged and rudderless from United as Wolves outplayed them. United were abject. Rangnick demands control but this was the antithesis of that.”