Manchester United have been on a bit of a rollercoaster since Ralf Rangnick took charge of the club in November.
Fans and players had to adjust to his tactical approach but they’ve also had to get used to his personality, which is very different compared to what we saw under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Over recent weeks, there has been an unsettling trend of players trying to stamp their authority by going against what the manager has said in press conferences.
First up was Anthony Martial. It was well documented the player wanted to leave Old Trafford in the January transfer window, but while he was still contracted at the club, he had to remain professional.
But after the 2-2 draw against Aston Villa, Rangnick dropped a bombshell to claim the 26-year-old didn’t want to be part of the matchday squad.
“He didn’t want to be in the squad. He would have been in the squad normally, but he didn’t want to and that was the reason why he didn’t travel with us,” he said.
Hours later, Martial then categorically tried to deny this happened in an Instagram post, to which he said: “I will never refuse to play a match for Man United.”
A similar incident has now happened with Jesse Lingard, who wanted to leave United as he simply hasn’t been getting the game time he needs to make the 2022 World Cup.
In the pre-match briefing before the FA Cup fourth-round clash with Middlesbrough, Rangnick claimed that Lingard had requested some time off in order to get his head right after seeing a move to Newcastle collapse.
He said: “Jesse asked me and the club if he could have a couple of days off just to clear up his mind. He will be back in the group I suppose next Monday and part of the squad again.”
But later on in the evening, Lingard went to deny these claims, saying United told him to take time off.
In a Twitter post, Lingard said: “The club advised me to have time off due to personal reasons! But my headspace is clear and I’ll always be professional when called upon and give 100%.”
After the Middlesbrough humiliation, Rangnick then denied Lingard’s claims, although it now looks like it was out of his hands. The MEN understands that football director, John Murtough, was the one who advised Lingard to take time off.
“With Jesse, I told you what my information was and my knowledge was and, of course, I would have loved to have had Jesse in the squad,” Rangnick said.
“We were one outfield player less on the teamsheet today, so why would I have allowed him to have four or five days off? I would have loved to have had him in the squad but it was not the case and therefore, it doesn’t make sense to speak about players who were not available.”
Still, it looks like players are trying to save face. Player power is huge in the game today and something needs to be done in order to control it.
Everyone understands that football has evolved and times do change, but the manager should always come before the player. At the moment, that isn’t happening at United.
On top of the Martial and Lingard comments, Rangnick also confirmed that Edinson Cavani requested a few days off, which would have been unfathomable under Sir Alex Ferguson. Everyone turned up for training and never requested time off unless it was a serious matter. It makes you wonder whether the players at Old Trafford have the right mentality to succeed at the club.
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Rangnick has no loyalties to anyone and there will be some people out there who would’ve preferred the style Solskjaer had – deal with matters privately.
But the events show how control has slipped since Fergie’s retirement. He simply wouldn’t have let this stuff happen.
Of course, some things should be kept private, but communication needs to be clear and player power needs to be stopped. Only then will United slowly get rid of their problematic individuals.
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