Manchester United is the biggest club in the United Kingdom and with that status comes intense pressure and scrutiny.
Every decision at the club and every performance is subject to forensic analysis. The weight of that burden can become too heavy for some players, coaching staff and board members.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in November. Questions were asked following his failure by him and Michael Carrick, Kieran McKenna and Martyn Pert subsequently followed him out of the exit door.
Mike Phelan remained and that was a source of bemusement for supporters. It seemed Phelan had become somewhat of a cheerleader at United and those accusations continued when Solskjaer avoided the chance to explain what he actually did.
Solskjaer avoiding the question was counter-productive. It only made fans want the answer more, but they would have to wait for Ralf Rangnick’s interim appointment for an attempt at clarity. It was well overdue and some supporters deserved.
“Mike Phelan is not watching the training sessions – he also didn’t do that when Ole was in charge,” Rangnick revealed.
“But he’s also part of the training group of the staff. But he is never on the pitch when we train. He’s not out there and he didn’t do that when Ole was in charge, as I said.” The German’s comments didn’t really put the matter to bed.
Phelan did an interview, which was published in January, that included clearer answers on his role at United. It was perhaps strange it took so long for that information to be made public, but then, naturally, the news cycle moved elsewhere. The spotlight changed.
Rightly or wrongly, the United manager will always take the brunt of the criticism – Rangnick mostly has since his arrival – but the club’s coaching staff are also subject to scrutiny and Eric Ramsay will be more than aware of that, just like Phelan was.
Ramsay was appointed as United’s first set-piece specialist and individual development coach this summer and he was highly recommended. Ramsay became the youngest Brit to gain his UEFA Pro License badge two years ago, which is the top coaching qualification in the game, and he arrived with a lofty reputation despite being in the early stages of his career.
It is therefore ironic that United have regressed from set-piece scenarios this season with a set-piece specialist at the club.
United remain the only team in the Premier League not to have scored from a corner this season and that’s without noting they’ve only scored two set-piece goals, which is the joint fewest in the top-flight with Norwich.
That’s clearly not good enough.
Rangnick was recently asked about United’s failure to score from a corner this term and he discussed the quality of deliveries, but Ramsay also has to take a degree of responsibility, considering he’s paid by the club to help in that specific area.
While Ramsay can prepare United’s players, it’s ultimately down to them on the pitch to execute the plan, but the longer the wait for improvement from set-piece scenarios goes on, the more the spotlight turns on Ramsay and it’s now fiercely burning.
However, there is an opportunity at the weekend that Ramsay should have identified at Carrington this week. Rangnick’s men are playing Leeds on Sunday at Elland Road and United’s historic rivals have been awful at defending set-pieces for some time now.
Leeds conceded the most goals from set-piece scenarios in the league last term (15) and they’ve struggled again this time around, conceding 11 goals from set-piece scenarios already, with only Crystal Palace (12) and Leicester (13) granting more.
Leeds’ record gives encouragement that United should be able to score their first corner on Sunday.
Ramsay will certainly be hoping for that outcome, but regardless, his role might be reviewed in the summer.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.