You would only have to take a glimpse outside the Carrington training complex to see that Manchester United are in dire straights right now. Meanwhile, a glimpse inside their training complex would explain why their dwindling top-four hopes are hanging by something less substantial than the proverbial thread.
It was supposed to be so different. Having finished as runners-up to Manchester City last season, United welcomed Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford as his sensational return move was followed by eye-catching deals for Jadon Sancho and World Cup winner Raphael Varane.
Sancho and Varane each addressed problem positions for the then-United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Naturally, it was Ronaldo who took center stage in his second act and, while not ignoring public opinion on the Glazers, ‘Viva Ronaldo’ provided the soundtrack for early-season optimism and, momentarily, drowned out protests against those much-maligned US owners. . They are audible, yet again, perhaps to a whole new degree.
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Re-signing Ronaldo was the distraction they needed in the aftermath of jaw-dropping and, fortunately, short-lived European Super League (ESL) proposals they were very much right at the forefront of. That merely proved to be the tip of the iceberg when it came to Glazer ‘popularity’.
Supporters have already renewed their stance at Carrington and further protests are set to take place at the iconic Old Trafford home which is set for modernisation. That impending work, fans would argue, needs to be replicated in the boardroom and playing field.
Change is on the horizon for United as Erik ten Hag appears to be the man chosen to take things forward. Patience and time will be required in his case to aid plans and a footballing vision for the club.
In the short-term, though, interim manager Ralf Rangnick faces an uphill battle to ensure a smoother transition in the first instance. However, no matter how United fare between now and the end of the season, they are someway off pole for Champions League qualification.
Sworn in to steady the ship, matters above and beyond Rangnick are not in his remit. However, booking a place in the marquee European competition was. That continues to slip further and further away and, while the poor start was clearly down to Solskjaer and his players from him, Rangnick has continually ignored one possible short-term fix-and he must take responsibility for that.
His stance on Paul Pogba has been striking. Fully understanding that Pogba has one foot if not both out of the door – and has done for some time – Rangnick has continued to afford him game-time with the intention of cementing an objective he will have no part in benefiting from.
So why has Jesse Lingard not been subjected to that same platform? The insistence on playing Pogba comes from his vast capabilities and that United are not exactly blessed with high-quality options in central midfield. Lingard has, in that sense, been hard done by given selection and form issues in attacking quarters.
It borders on criminal that a player who totted up nine goals and five assists in 16 appearances for West Ham, while on loan last season, has been handed only 199 minutes across the Premier League this term. Lingard’s willingness to work for his teammates, press and produce clever runs and touches have each been as sorely missed as that personality he possesses.
At a time when United have lacked any character, clarity or identity in their play, Rangnick has ignored a man who could help address those above concerns. It’s not too late for one last hurrah, but with only one start this campaign, you wonder how many more times Lingard will get to pull on that famous, beloved red shirt.
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