Manchester United’s FA Cup defeat to Middlesbrough was bitterly disappointing for supporters, who saw the competition as an opportunity to win some silverware this season.
Ralf Rangnick’s team had moments or brilliance on Friday evening, but wasteful finishing ensured United failed to progress to the fifth round of the competition.
It means that United’s only hope of silverware is the Champions League, and not many people need to tell you that’s an unrealistic target.
Currently, Rangnick’s side are miles away from where they need to be. When you look at the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, they have a structure, work ethic and plan in place for success. United don’t have any of that at the moment.
Excluding all the external factors, you have to look at the team performances and despite Rangnick only losing twice in his time in charge at Old Trafford, some of the displays haven’t been good enough.
While there were plenty of positives to take from United’s performance, ultimately, they didn’t win the match against a side which is in a lower division. That is a poor reflection of where the club is at.
The reason why United lost that game was because a handful of players didn’t take any of their chances. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and, to an extent, Jadon Sancho, scuppered many opportunities which allowed Chris Wilder’s team to get back in the game. Although they had a spot of luck with the goal, the game should have been out of sight by the time they scored.
As each game passes, Rangnick’s biggest issue at United is becoming clear.
When the 63-year-old was brought in, everyone expected him to have a new manager bounce because that’s a trend we’ve seen happen in modern day football.
However, it was naive to think he was going to fix all of United’s problems in a short period of time. Clearly, there are massive issues with the team that need to be addressed and it’s hard to see how he can do that in the next three months.
The biggest issue is to do with player mentality.
There’s no doubt that United do possess players that can cope under pressure. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane have played on the biggest stage and know how to win. However, the problem is that there’s so many players in the team that haven’t had experience of competing for top trophies.
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From what we’ve seen in-game under Rangnick, United’s players crumble when they concede. Excluding the 3-1 victory over Burnley and Brentford (when they were 3-0 ahead in both those matches), the players look like they give up. The 2-2 draw against Aston Villa was the best example of that.
A failure to finish matches off also contributes to the decline in performance levels when the opposition score. There’s been too many occasions where United have dominated matches under Rangnick yet failed to finish any of their opportunities. The 1-1 draw against Newcastle and 1-0 loss to Wolves showed the team can control a match but still not get the result. The Middlesbrough game only adds to this collection.
It’s a massive problem for Rangnick because there’s absolutely no chance United compete for any trophies with this sort of mentality. When you look back at the times under Sir Alex Ferguson, every game was important. There was no drop-off in standards which is why all of his squads had an elite mentality. The current United team don’t have that.
Certainly, it’ll be interesting to see if these changes, but I can’t see it happening as a massive rebuild in needed. It feels like an impossible job for Rangnick.
Do United’s players have a mentality problem? Follow our United On My Mind writer omar garrick on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.