Unharmonious Manchester United Have No More Excuses Ahead Of Burnley Clash

Ralf Rangnick's side have been way below par in their last two matches
12:00, 30 Dec 2021

As Manchester United prepare to welcome Burnley to Old Trafford in the Premier League this evening, there is a great amount of pressure on Ralf Rangnick’s men to turn in a much better performance than their showing in the 1-1 stalemate with Newcastle United last time out. After a 16-day break, United were expected to be a lot fresher than what they showed at St James’ Park, and it already seems as though Rangnick’s honeymoon period is at an end. 

As we already know, the Austrian is highly thought of in the coaching community, and there wasn’t anyone better suited to come in and lead Manchester United midway through the season, but this intelligent coach is already having issues with his players. Not only were the Red Devils flat against Newcastle, but they also turned in a relatively bad performance against Norwich City in the fixture before, where a controversial Cristiano Ronaldo penalty secured the three points and papered over the cracks. Compared to Rangnick’s first few games in the dugout, United’s pressing has been nowhere near as intense as their boss demands, with many players half-heartedly running around the pitch, which isn’t going to help them or their boss improve their league position. 

If the players have already quickly reverted back to their old ways which got Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked, then the higher-ups at the club have a huge problem on their hands, because the players will not be able to get Rangnick sacked. It hasn’t just been their lack of pressing that has been disappointing, but also the squandering of possession. They may have not been on the front foot against Newcastle, but when United did get on the ball, more likely than not they gave away possession and Rangnick will ideally have addressed this before tonight’s match, although the short turnaround between games - something he has already criticised - will not help. He needs his players to play with belief and confidence against another struggling side, otherwise they cannot expect to secure three points and possibly even just be fortunate to earn a point again. 

Rangnick has said that the club’s Covid-19 outbreak has disrupted his side’s progress, which you can sympathise with to some extent. But when other clubs have been in the exact same boat and played more games in recent weeks, and performed better than United, it’s a weak excuse. He won’t want to call out certain individuals but he knows that certain members of his squad need to be performing significantly better than they currently are.

During this period of regression, there no longer appears to be a harmony among the players and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville picked up on it during the Newcastle game. He slammed the players who were making mistakes and still pointing and shouting at others, describing them as ‘whingebags’. He highlighted how the way the senior players are acting in this manner will not be beneficial for the young players in the squad, and Rangnick needs to take control of this and ensure that his senior players are there to support the younger heads in the team – after all they’re there to pass on knowledge and advice too. The former Manchester United player wasn’t happy with Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes leaving the pitch without clapping the supporters and although the two stars may have been frustrated with the result, it was classless to ignore the travelling supporters. Ronaldo’s reaction tonight will be telling. 

Fernandes in particular has seen his form fall off a cliff this season, and yet he continues to moan at his teammates when things go wrong, but he is failing to take control of games like he is so capable of doing. Rangnick’s current system may not be ideal for him in terms of getting on the ball and making things happen, but the Portuguese star needs to realise that the team needs to be united to excel at the basics before returning to a more expansive style of play. The Portuguese playmaker will be unavailable for the Burnley clash as he serves a one-match suspension, but perhaps that won’t be a bad thing for the harmony of this side. 

Burnley are weak opposition, and should be swept aside with ease. But this unharmonious Manchester United have made life difficult for themselves in recent weeks. Anything less than a win here will draw yet more criticism from all quarters. 

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