The green shoots of recovery have begun to emerge for Manchester United’s woes over the past week, following a seven-point run from their last three Premier League outings.
United, who will resume their campaign with an FA Cup fourth-round clash against Championship side Middlesbrough next Friday night, climbed back into the top four for the first time since October last Saturday with a 1-0 win. over West Ham.
Marcus Rashford’s dying breath was enough to seal a second successive win for United and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to four games.
However, there are still plenty more gears for United to get into, although recent results have suggested they are beginning to adjust to life under Ralf Rangnick and understand his methods.
But while improvements are being made, albeit slowly and steadily, supporters are demanding more from the club, particularly on the transfer front, before the January window slams shut on Monday night.
Thursday, MAN Sport United editor-in-chief Samuel Luckhurst has hosted a Q&A session in a bid to try to answer as many burning questions from United fans as possible, including those related to the transfer window, Ralf’s role as consultant Rangnick and the future of Paul Pogba.
Q: Do you think Ralf Rangnick is under pressure to pick players?
SL: No, I’ve never felt that. it has fallen [Marcus] rashford, [Bruno] fernandes, [Harry] Maguire and [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka, almost all of whom were unbeatable under the previous manager.
Q: Any concrete information on Jesse Lingard/Donny Van De Beek at this stage as to whether or not they will move? Secondly, do you think the United board will sanction a midfielder move now or will Rangnick just have to work with what he has until the new permanent manager arrives?
SL: I have written articles on Lingard and Van de Beek this morning that you are free to read.
A midfielder arriving before 11pm on Monday remains highly unlikely. United have six midfielders, if you include Fernandes, and Pogba isn’t going anywhere this month. If Van de Beek leaves (doubtful yet), it’s not a compelling enough case to draft one, as he’s barely played.
Q: I find it amusing how United value Lingard so highly even though he has six months left on his contact and hasn’t played much this season. Even Raphael Varane did not cost this amount last summer despite having one year left on his contract at Real Madrid. Do you think this is another evidence of how poorly the MUFC is run?
SL: The £50m figure is strange on several levels. It exists in a parallel universe and is hardly worth dwelling on.
Lingard hasn’t started a league game for United in over two years; £25m in the summer was a fair reflection of Lingard’s value and United left the decision to an indecisive manager.
Evidence of it? No. United are still effectively negotiating with Newcastle and risking their arm. There is a good chance Newcastle will give in because they need Lingard much more than United and he could be the difference between staying up or going down.
Newcastle cannot take a financial moral stance when clubs risk their arm, mainly because they are now a sports club. They should have known this would happen.
Q: Do United really see McFred [Fred and Scott McTominay] as a viable midfield pairing for next season, or is that something to be addressed in the summer?
SL: United will never win the league with that pairing of midfielders. Both are good players who have a place in United’s squad but are not going to take the team to the next level. This has already been proven in recent years.
Q: Is Rangnick in contention to become a permanent manager? Who is currently leading the charge, and will some kind of announcement/deal be worked out before the season ends, or will we drag it out (and waste valuable time building squads)?
SL: I wouldn’t say he’s ‘in contention’ and his comment about the possibility of staying on as manager beyond June in his introductory press conference was a bit dismissive. When those of us there tweeted what Rangnick had said, in black and white, it seemed like he was throwing his hat into the permanent ring, when in fact I didn’t catch his tone.
Again, as I have responded to others, you can read last week’s story that was posted on the site and on my social media channels.
Q: What are the priorities for the summer? Are they looking at more than one midfielder, one right back, one forward?
SL: The midfield is the priority and there is a good chance that two will enter. [Nemanja] Matic would have one year left on his contract and it’s hard to see Van de Beek’s situation improving. It will be at the discretion of the new manager, who might appreciate a midfielder already on the books (eg Garner) and decide to use him rather than demand a second midfielder signing.
Q: Is it clear how much influence Rangnick will have in the summer? Depending on the outputs, there could be a lot of work to be done, while continuing to target the big money firms could be quite detrimental to going all out. I feel like your knowledge might come in handy in finding the rare hidden gem this summer.
SL: You’re already consulting on hiring, but it’s unlikely you’ll have a veto on a target. The manager and the recruiting department that compile the shortlists have that privilege, which is what resulted in the clash between Mourinho and the board in the summer of 2018.
They could get fees for [Dean] Henderson, [Phil] jones, [Eric] Bailly, Van de Beek and [Anthony] Martial, but realistically that’s not going to happen. Because:
1. United would have to be proactive and skillful sellers. They are not.
2. That’s a lot of seniority to discard in a single summer.
But those five would go voluntarily for various reasons.
Q: Is there any information on what Rangnick’s actual role/influence will be next year? The consultant seems very vague, will he help shape the management/transfer policy, will he take on a more formal role (such as a sporting director), a board position, none of the above?
SL: You will have information about the recruitment and direction of the club, what the structure should be, etc. So it would be more of a sporting director mandate without him having that title. As part of that, you will likely be asked about the next manager.
I would be very surprised if he steps on the next coach’s toes next season. look what happened to [Louis] VanGaal and [Ronald] Koeman at Ajax so many years ago.
Q: It sounds like Ralf Rangnick is pleased with what Dalot and Telles are offering, and rightly so. Now which of Shaw and Wan-Bissaka are appreciated or have a future at the club, it seems Shaw, the one who mentioned he shouldn’t play for United? One more question about our young people, what impression do you have on people like [Ethan] Landowner, [James] Barn, [Dylan] levitates, [Ethan] Galbraith and [Facundo] Pellstri? Are you hoping to see them in the preseason, or could they be remembering one of them (hopefully Garner)? Thank you.
SL: Did someone say that about Shaw? He had a bad season, but last season he was United’s best player for my money. Without a doubt he was the most consistent artist.
In fact, he would look to sell Wan-Bissaka in the summer. He is three years old, 24 years old and has worsened in the last 18 months. But they poured £50m into him just two and a half years ago and who would want to sign that kind of ‘asset’? Newcastle have a better right back.
Q: Is there a possibility of a [Odion] Ighalo type token?
SL: Half joking if you want to look at the Chinese market for a midfielder who played in the Premier League there is always Marouane Fellaini.
United are not as desperate as they were two years ago when the manager turned to a Norwegian striker and then a striker represented by a Norwegian on deadline day. Ighalo was fine in the short term but was redundant after the restart.
Q: In my opinion, Paul Pogba will be important to get into the top four and do something in the Champions League. Is there a chance that Pogba could sign a new deal after letting the current one expire, since he makes more money that way than the current contract offer? There are really no suitors for him and it’s almost February when he should be agreeing on a pre-contract. You wouldn’t want a player to go from Manchester United to PSG of all places. What do you think? Is there a chance he could stay beyond the summer, as the Pogba we saw in 2021 was excellent, save for the last few games before his injury?
SL: The chances of Pogba staying are around 0%. No one expected him to stay and no one expected him to move this month, especially since he’s injured. In the summer, he will have the pick of the lot and Juve could catch him again ‘for free’ 10 years after they first did it.
He has shown no inclination to sign a new contract with United. It’s a bit surprising that some fans still think he could.
Q: Recently, United players were seen going on holiday with John McGinn and Tyrone Mings. Are these two names on Manchester United’s radar and could we see something similar to [Romelu] Lukaku and Pogba on vacation before Lukaku signs for the club?
Aston Villa have signed players, which would mean they might need to sell, and both players have been linked with United in the past.
SL: Villa played for Everton on Saturday and Manchester airport has direct flights to Dubai, which is where most British footballers go when there’s a mid-season break. From what I gather, many of the England players have been socializing with each other.
United have talked about the influence of their English players on the national team when there is a player of interest, such as Maguire in 2019 and Sancho in 2021. I wrote in March or April that Rice had spoken to [Harry] Maguire and Shaw on United during the March team meeting.
Q: Do we consider bringing Garner back to the team this winter? He is doing very well and some players on loan are coming back these days.
SL: He’s doing well at Forest, which is exactly why he’s staying there. Regular playing time at a good level for a good club that is competing to enter the Premier League. That puts him in a good position before he returns to United in the summer.
Q:Some newspapers talk about Rudiger and United. Are we considering it?
SL: Your agent will link you with all the big clubs in Europe to get you the best possible deal. Therefore, it is inevitable that United will be included in the mix.
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