Manchester United players proved Ralf Rangnick right about transfer market failures – Tyrone Marshall

So it turns out Manchester United aren’t better without Cristiano Ronaldo, they’re still just as average.

This was about as humbling an afternoon as it’s possible to imagine for United on this side of the city. To sum up how far they’ve failed they were praised for an improved performance at half-time but still found themselves losing 2-1 when it could arguably have been worse.

It should be embarrassing for a club of United’s stature to be treated with such sympathy, but the half-time scoreline should have at least encouraged them. Instead they trudged out of the tunnel at half-time and played the role of lambs ready to be slaughtered.

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It couldn’t have felt less like a derby fixture. This was a performance lacking character from so many in red, patronized by being told they came to the Etihad and at least had a go for the first half.

On Friday Ralf Rangnick had spoken some blunt truths about how far United have fallen behind City. Poor planning, poor recruitment, poor decision making and this was the on-pitch equivalent of those verbal home truths.

For a ninth successive season United will finish below City in the Premier League. The average gap in that time has been 20 points and this time it’s already at 22. That will climb before the end of the season.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Manchester who thinks that won’t be 10 next season. It’s hard to believe there was a feeling United could soon be challengers back in September.

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This season has become a rescue mission and at the moment it feels like a Champions League miracle will be required for United to be playing in that competition next season. Finishing fourth in the Premier League now looks a very difficult task for this side.

Any prospective United manager watching this derby, whether that’s Mauricio Pochettino or Erik ten Hag, could have filled an entire notepad with issues that need fixing.

Some pre-match previews had a combined XI from these teams that didn’t feature a single United player and for once it didn’t feel like the usual derby day baiting. United have world-class players and crucially two of them were absent at the Etihad, but they are considerably less than the sum of their parts.

In this fixture they had a right-back and a left-back who looked like they weren’t good enough and at least one centre-back who is below the required standard. It’s no secret central midfield is a major problem and in attack they have a 37-year-old striker starting to feel his age from him and another who seems to have very little intention of actually playing for the club.

Rangnick’s decision to once again cast Edinson Cavani as the decision-maker over his own fitness was damning. He had trained well for three days but didn’t fancy playing in his last Manchester derby.

For those in the away end that sort of attitude is impossible to comprehend, but it’s befitting of a club that has managed to lose its way so spectacularly. Imagine an important forward downing tool to the same extent at City and Liverpool.

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The comparisons with those two clubs are becoming tiresome for United but it was Rangnick who so clinically laid bare how and why they’ve failed behind two of their fiercest rivals.

Recruitment was the fundamental problem and United’s two poorest performers at the Etihad were probably £50million Aaron Wan-Bissaka and £80million Harry Maguire. Point source.

The scale of the task facing the next United manager is huge. After some rebuilding under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer they signed Ronaldo to win here and now, but have managed to look as far away from champions material as at any point in the previous nine seasons.

The rebuild had cracks in it and with supporters back in stadiums the house has come crumbling down. It will be time to start again in the summer, but as Rangnick intimated on Friday, it could take years for United to reach that level. They’ve been embarrassed by City on the pitch and off it.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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