It would be no surprise if the mood were to be a little subdued when Manchester United host Southampton in the early Premier League kick-off later today.
The Reds head into the match rather despondent after being dumped out of the FA Cup by Middlesbrough last week and held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley earlier this one. More dropped points this weekend would hardly be headline news.
United’s mood is juxtaposed with one of optimism from Southampton, after the Saints fought from behind to secure a memorable 3-2 away win at Tottenham earlier in the week. They will be eager for revenge, having lost 9-0 at Old Trafford on their last visit a year ago.
There is a sense that even a similar convincing win today would do little to drastically alter the mood of many supporters at Old Trafford, with eyes already on the summer window and who the next permanent manager might be.
However, even that is ignoring the decent job Ralf Rannick has done so far, given the unenviable situation he found himself in when he took charge.
Since his first match on 3 December United actually sit third in the Premier League form table, only behind Man City and Liverpool in terms of points earned.
The results are skewed by the fact that some teams are playing catch-up on fixtures and United have had a favorable run of games, but it is still startling that since the German arrived, United have taken four more points than Chelsea, despite playing one fewer matches.
In fact, United have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League games (W6 D4) since the departure of Solskjaer and they have conceded just 10 goals in these 11 games (0.9 per game), having shipped 21 times in 12 league games under the Norwegian this term (1.8 per game).
After two dismal matches in the space of a week, reports of unrest have quickly emerged from the dressing room, with players reportedly questioning the interim manager, his training methods, and the selection of backroom staff.
It’s been a similar tale since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club, with player power often making its presence known as soon as a manager enters his final few months in charge. Unlike the others, Rangnick has at least has a clear exit strategy in mind. After all, his role of him is prefixed by the term ‘interim’, rather than a permanent solution.
When analyzing the work Rangnick has done so far, it is crucial to consider his temporary position, an important reminder that his job is one United never envisaged posting until Solskjaer’s reign became untenable.
The German coach came in at short notice and had no real time to plan for the enormity of the task at hand. Likewise, despite his vast experience of him, it seems like Rangnick might have underestimated just how much of a job he had to do at a club where every single decision is scrutinized in the public domain.
Rangnick has become the easy scapegoat as an old-school coach undercooked for a job of such magnitude, but the bottom line is that United’s players are once again failing to deliver the goods on the pitch and throwing their toys out of the pram in order to distract from their own shortfalls.
Whenever the form begins to dip, the fingers are immediately pointed at the manager, but if the last few years have taught United anything it is that they’ve got a dressing room of outspoken stars who hide behind hollow social media apologies rather than take responsibility for the continued failure of the club.
If form continues to dip, Rangnick will no doubt continue to be blamed before he exits his role at the end of the season. But when another new manager is appointed, those underperforming players will have nowhere to hide again.