After Manchester United’s players trudged their way past their traveling contingent of away supporters at Goodison Park last month on route back to the dressing room, you didn’t think it would be possible for them to sink any lower in any of their seven remaining fixtures.
However, up against a side that had not won on their own patch since Boxing Day, they found a way to sink even deeper, leaving a number of United supporters heading for the platform of Falmer railway station while Pascal Gross and Leandro Trossard continued to give the likes of Alex Telles and Scott McTominay the run-a-round. Brighton’s 4-0 win at the Amex Stadium was equally as embarrassing for United as it was memorable for the home side.
Even before Moises Caicedo got the opener after just 15 minutes, United looked uncomfortable and disorganized from the first whistle. Even if it was only a small dosage, the optimism that had been sucked in from Monday night’s 3-0 win over Brentford was soon spat back out.
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Ralf Rangnick’s side have now officially missed out on Champions League football for next season, even though that dream had long since faded. But it is nothing more than this group of United players deserve; they have been an embarrassment for much of the season and let their traveling army of away fans down once again.
Now, with just one chapter left of the Rangnick era and a wretched season, United, somehow, have to find the strength and courage to travel to Crystal Palace on the final day of the season in a fortnight’s time. A two-week break is the last thing anyone wants when the game has very little riding on it.
With several fixtures to be fulfilled elsewhere ahead of United’s trip to Selhurst Park, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what competition they could be playing for on the final day. But whether it is the Europa League or the Europa Conference League, Saturday’s battering on the south coast has made it clear, more than ever, that the squad needs to be dismantled as soon as the final whistle is blown on one of the most wretched seasons in the club’s history.
But why wait until then? Rangnick’s short-term spell in United, regardless of how many mistakes have been made on the pitch, has been littered with honesty and home truths.
Therefore, he should plant the first seed of the Erik ten Hag revolution against Patrick Vieira’s side and dish out opportunities to individuals who might just give that little bit more when donning the prestigious red shirt.
Both Alvaro Fernandez and Alejandro Garnacho were on the bench at the Amex Stadium, just as they were against Brentford a few days earlier. So why not give them a chance to prove their worth from the off against Palace? They are the future of the club and radical changes need to be made.
Although you cannot make any guarantees in football, you would be inclined to think they would push out their chests and roll their sleeves up just that little bit more than some of the senior pros have this season. They deserve a chance at left-back and in attack, respectively, and an end-of-season, dead-rubber affair is an ample opportunity.
McTominay has been fortunate to keep his place in midfield in recent weeks and his performance against Brighton was another occasion to forget for the Scot. Therefore, Hannibal Mejbri is well within his rights to fancy his chances of starting against Palace — he is another player that could quite easily be taken under Ten Hag’s wing in the new era.
The trip to Palace will mark the end of Nemanja Matic’s and Juan Mata’s careers in United colours, meaning Rangnick might feel inclined to give them one last dance. However, he needs to think about the bigger picture and the future, meaning it is a prime opportunity to hand the likes of Fernandez, Hannibal and Garnacho the chance to spark their careers in red into life.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.