It’s a hard time to be a Manchester United fan with the club’s current struggles. The team’s latest defeat came against Everton who were sitting fourth from the bottom of the table and were lacking any form coming into the fixture.
It was not a game of quality from either side, Anthony Gordon’s deflected shot that put Everton 1-0 up was the only real chance in the game, but what was clear was that United were completely out of ideas and the players had completely given up . Ralf Rangnick had repeated in his pre-match press conference that the top four was mathematically possible, but as each game passes, that seems less likely.
What was a United squad that every fan liked and could get behind under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has become one of the most fiercely disliked in recent memory. Even fan favorites such as Bruno Fernandes are not completely immune from criticism at this point.
READ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo issues apology after ‘outburst’ following Manchester United defeat to Everton
Yet the players helping themselves. Paul Pogba’s performance yesterday was lackluster and he was frustrated throughout, one instance saw him nearly punching the ball in anger after a foul, and it seemed to show a player who cannot wait for his contract to expire in the summer.
Others appeared to be just ignoring Rangnick’s instructions completely. The German manager has commented in the past that he wants quick passes and defined movements to exploit the spaces in the defense of the opposition, but when Alex Telles received it out wide he would consistently try searching balls into the box to little or no effect.
In fact, this has been a running theme throughout Rangnick’s tenure. All of the ideas that make up his gegenpressing style of him, or the version of it he’s tried to implement at United, have been visible in the early parts of the game — only to deteriorate later on as players try to freestyle and win the game by themselves.
The players are not endearing themselves outside of the games either though, with both Pogba and Luke Shaw giving interviews while on international duty, venting their frustrations with United. Their reasoning was completely justified given the club’s struggles, but some fans took issue with the fact that they had decided to air their dirty laundry in public.
Marcus Rashford has also received some criticism from United fans for his recent performances, and this came to a head outside Old Trafford where he told a fan who was criticizing him to ‘come over here and say it to [his] face.’ This again was not taken lightly by a section of the fanbase.
And now after the loss to Everton, Cristiano Ronaldo has again put himself in the firing line. Many away fans had taken issue earlier in the season with the Portuguese forward’s tendency to walk down the tunnel after a match and not clap or acknowledge the supporters who had traveled to watch the game.
But after the Everton game, a video emerged of Ronaldo seemingly involved in an altercation with an Everton supporter who was filming him leaving the pitch, knocking the phone out of his hand. The United player has since apologized on social media but it has not gone down well with most United supporters who see yet another example of the likeability of the squad dissipating in front of our eyes.
Whether you like your team’s players is often an overlooked aspect of the game. Ultimately, we watch football for entertainment, so it is important that you enjoy what you’re watching and you like the players you dedicate a large amount of your time to watching.
It’s very hard to dislike an entire squad of players when they play for the team you support, but it seems like the current United team are dangerously close to that. Teams of the past have endeared themselves to the fanbase in different ways, whether it is how they act off the pitch like Rashford, whose charitable acts are still a shining testament to how a United player should act regardless of his current form, or whether like under Ferguson they are entertainers who win it all.
The next United manager, be it Erik ten Hag or anyone else, has an uphill battle on his hands. He is already going to have a difficult job building a team to compete, but he also has to make a team that United fans can get behind once again and mend the broken bridges that have now started to appear over the past season.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.