Making 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo the highest-paid player in the Premier League? Where do we sign?! Spending more than £100million for the sixth time in eight years? Say no more! Having a higher wage budget for goalkeepers alone than most clubs spend on their entire squad? Well, we need options!
But spending a mere £15million to get a top-quality manager in charge midway through the season? Well, that’s where we draw the line! We’re not made of money you know!
Manchester United are far from the only club that has this bizarre disposition on where they will spend untold amounts of cash to assemble remarkable squads compared to appointing managers. But clutching their purse strings when it comes to hiring coaches is odd.
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It’s like spending thousands on a new bathroom suite but getting a cowboy to fit it. Now United have been left with a bath falling through the ceiling and right now it’s flooding everywhere.
Saturday’s dismal defeat to Everton was yet another new nadir as United somehow conspired to lose to an even more spineless side than them; a team that are struggling at the bottom of the table and who had lost to Burnley just a few days before in a relegation six-pointer after being ahead. Everton were a team so obviously there for the taking, who would only need to make a couple of mistakes before a notoriously stroppy home crowd turned vitriolic and got on their backs.
Yet United were the gutless, hapless, uninspired walkovers and the teams in the relegation battle will hope to face them right now. United’s players have seemingly given up on their season.
It’s quite a joke that they have, with only a handful of United’s stars showing anything close to commitment or passion, but it’s not at all surprising as those in charge at Old Trafford gave up much, much sooner.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was finally, mercifully relieved of his duties on November 21 last year, the Premier League season was only 12 games old. Some 68.42 per cent of matches were still to come.
They were just six points off the top four and were still in the Champions League and FA Cup. There was still plenty to play for and, with the talent that the squad has, there’s nothing saying a trophy couldn’t have been won if the right man was brought in; qualifying for next year’s Champions League was easily attainable.
Yet, instead of bringing in a new permanent manager to take the squad by the horns and pull them in the right direction, they opted for an interim until the end of the season — effectively waving the white flag then and there.
Perhaps there was some logic in hiring Ralf Rangnick on the basis of his reputation for a pressing style of play and his ability to assess the squad before moving upstairs into a consultancy role. But the experiment has been an utter failure.
The German has hardly managed at all over the past decade and, with just a six-month term, clearly has never had any authority to make effective change. Apart from the opening 45 minutes in his first game, there has been no noticeable shift to high pressing and, if anything, the football may have actually got worse.
It’s still not even clear how much influence Rangnick will have in the ill-defined consultancy position, which is a shame as his talents clearly lie in football administration and his honest assessments of the club and the squad have all been bang-on. United would do well to listen to him, but it’s easy to imagine him being shunted to the side.
On every basis, bringing in Rangnick has been a disaster. Hiring an interim is what tends to happen when there is a handful of games left so you can start afresh in the summer—not when there’s so much still to play for. Going down that route has meant United have lost out on everything. At this stage, it’s looking highly unlikely they will qualify for the Champions League, which will seriously dent their incoming revenue and damage their stock in the eyes of any potential big-name signings.
Instead of hiring an interim, they should have gone for an elite coach who was available. The hierarchy believed that Antonio Conte ‘wouldn’t fit’ at Old Trafford and now he looks set to take Tottenham to fourth instead.
It’s also understood that the possibility of hiring Mauricio Pochettino was explored when it became clear he wouldn’t be averse to swapping from an even madder circus at Paris Saint-Germain mid-season. The Parisians wanted around £15million in compensation, however, and United — who have as much money to throw around as Akshata Murty saved in taxes — baulked at the price.
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Whatever you think of Pochettino or whoever you want to take charge in the summer, it’s impossible to argue that United wouldn’t have been in a better position now if they had spent a relatively meagre sum to get him in the hot-seat. And if things didn’t go to plan, likewise if they had hired Conte, they could have just sacked him anyway.
United have made countless costly decisions over the last year alone but their stinginess and lack of ambition in finding a replacement for Solskjaer could be the biggest. They will soon have to pay the full price.
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