New MEN article sounds brutal for Ralf:Ragnick with one of the worst managerial stints I've ever seen...
What do you make of Rangnick?" this correspondent messaged a former senior Manchester United staff member. The reply was a facepalm memoji. More recently, the same contact messaged to say United are 'in deep s--t'.
Upon confirmation of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer'ssacking, the suspicion was United were tossing off their season before Christmas by appointing a caretaker manager and then an interim. 'Tossed it off' was a phrase a club legend messaged after the anodyne surrender at Everton in April.
One Everton player told a confidant United's performance reminded him of the Biblical 4-0 Easter Sunday thrashing at Goodison Park in 2019. Another was surprised by how bad United were. United's beating at Brighton this month was reminiscent of Goodison three years ago.
As the United staff trudged through the Amex Stadium tunnel after their 4-0 humiliation, a personable Brighton staff member wished them a safe journey home. "What a waste of time," replied a downbeat United official.
Cristiano Ronaldo sat in the dressing room on his own for at least 20 minutes. Ronaldo had been escorted outside but then returned indoors. His driver was waiting outside and security communicated Ronaldo would emerge once the coaches had departed. United players had some days off and a club source claimed others had left separately. In the dying embers at Brighton, the mutinous away-dayers had chanted 'Viva Ronaldo', as if to separate him from the chants of 'You're not fit to wear the shirt'. Ronaldo then separated himself from his teammates.
United never had the character in their dressing room for an interim manager to operate. The United manager's authority eroded in the last months of Jose Mourinho's tenure, Solskjaer felt like a substitute teacher and the professorial Rangnick was more befitting that description.
Rangnick started to cut loose in his press conferences and that was described as the 'filtered version' by a source. The majority of the United players were never having Rangnick's methods and his diagnosis the squad required 'open-heart surgery' went down badly with them. That is now an emergency operation, although you might need to check if some at United have a heart.
Essentially an objective troubleshooter, Rangnick is uniquely placed to assess a squad with all the get-up of Jim Royle. It has come at the cost of the worst period from a United side in living memory: the worst defensive season since 1978-79, worst points tally in the Premier League era and relegation to the Europa League.
Rangnick was at such a loss he started conversing more frequently with Mike Phelan, an assistant manager in name only who could have been mistaken for a groundstaff member on home matchdays. Phelan stood in front of the dugout wall, detached from Rangnick and the other coaching staff members.
At Brighton, Phelan caught up with Danny Welbeck, possibly reminiscing about the good old days. Rangnick was flanked by Chris Armas and Ewan Sharp, his Red Bull alumni. They never gave United wings and, by the end, Rangnick's were clipped.
This has to be a watershed moment in United's history, a season where supporters chanted "You're not fit to wear the shirt" at the players home and away. United matchgoers of 50-odd years had never heard that before.
United have conceded at least four goals in 12 Premier League matches since Sir Alex Ferguson moved upstairs and six have come this season. It has been so shambolic multiple sources have confirmed United were primed to let David de Gea leave in the summer when the goalkeeper is widely regarded as the club's player of the season.
No other post-Ferguson season has so brutally exposed United's poor planning. The hierarchy had gone too far down the road pandering to players, gauging Ronaldo's thoughts on Antonio Conte in that late October week. Ronaldo, doubtless sensing the increased workload and demands in a season he turned 37, effectively 'blocked' any move for Conte, according to a source.
In his diatribe of the scouting department's inability to identify an 11th-hour replacement for Mason Greenwood, Rangnick omitted the name of Dejan Kulusevski, a left-footed, right-sided forward who joined Tottenham on loan on deadline day. Tottenham coach Antonio Conte and managing director Fabio Paratici were once at Juventus but woe betide United if they offer that excuse. Tottenham have won two League Cups in the last 30 years. It's Manchester United.
Any interim was onto a hiding, especially one who had managed 81 matches in the decade prior to his introduction. Rangnick alienated the majority of players and they have tried to lay the blame at his door.
Erik ten Hag will have to fumigate the dressing room. The United squad is a toxic mix of backbiting and spitefulness. A player described the mood as 'toxic' and Jesse Lingard was unfussed Paul Scholes publicised his description of the dressing room as a 'disaster' after the Arsenal defeat.
Those close to one player referred to Rangnick as 'specs' behind his back, craven playground bully behaviour that should be rooted out, not rewarded with a new contract. The squad's disillusionment was a source of fascination to Ferguson, who used backchannels to gauge the mood.
A player bluntly described Rangnick's decisions as 'bad' and his substitutions often had the opposite effect, most infamously at Manchester City when United were trailing 2-1 and worsened once Lingard and Marcus Rashford were introduced. It ended 4-1.
Some close to the players were startled by their performances. The word was Lingard and Rashford received 'no instructions, no game plan, no position plan'. "They didn't have a f-----g clue what they were doing," a source said. Carrington sources felt Armas was out of his depth.
One player complained Rangnick 'talked to him like a child' and 'did not give a s---e' about Rangnick's advice. Another player was dubbed a 'teacher's pet'. One senior player spoke disparagingly of any competitor for his position. Some players found Anthony Elanga's playing time mind-boggling.
The Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish was beside himself at negotiating a £45million fee for Aaron Wan-Bissaka in 2019, although he is open to re-signing the right-back this summer. Solskjaer sought to replace Wan-Bissaka with Kieran Trippier after two years. It has emerged this week Wan-Bissaka has been informed he is not part of Ten Hag's plans.
The representatives of one player attempted to scapegoat a United great due to the asperity of his analysis. Family members of the player were particularly sensitive to the opprobrium on social media and when they found themselves in the company of some unwitting United supporters who started lambasting the player's performances on a European away a relative became upset.
A player who took umbrage with criticism he received from Solskjaer two months into the season said the Norwegian was 'finished'. A month later, Solskjaer was. Once some contracts have expired, the nest will be sparser but some vipers are still slithering.
The in-fighting actually went public when a player scored and barely celebrated. An enthusiastic teammate encouraged him to smile in front of a nearby camera, which only incensed the player, irritated by his teammate's apparent obsequiousness. This happened with United winning in a game they won.
Come the listless defeat at Goodison Park in early April, a source close to one player said several players had 'mentally checked out'. Everton players were distinctly unimpressed by United in the reverse fixture six months earlier and rued drawing 1-1.
The season was still salvageable when Rangnick was introduced to the press at Old Trafford on the first Friday of December but the rot that had set in under Solskjaer was incurable. Paul Pogba resented his half-time introduction in the 5-0 evisceration by Liverpool with the visitors 4-0 up and he lasted 15 minutes of the second-half until his expulsion. Pogba left the pitch sooner at Anfield.
In keeping with the passive-aggressive dressing room culture of United's millennials, Pogba's public relations man tweeted a journalist moments after they aired an opinion on the midfielder on television. Pogba was last seen at Old Trafford cupping his ear to supporters as they chanted 'F--k off Pogba'.
Ronaldo's gravitas was largely appreciated at United, particularly by the younger players, and he was holding the dressing room together in the final weeks of Solskjaer's tenure. Ronaldo's presence cowed Maguire and some players partially blamed their own downturn in form on Maguire's struggles. One player suggested Maguire got an easier ride than other United centre-backs as far back as the 2-0 home defeat to Burnley in January 2020.
A meeting attended by senior players and Rangnick was held without Maguire in February and caused ructions. Pogba was present and retrospectively apologised to Rangnick as he did not want to appear as though he was undermining the manager. Dressing room sources described a senior player's behaviour in the meeting as a 'hijacking'.
During the 3-0 win over Brentford, some fans in front of the press box noticed Maguire was sitting down as Ronaldo celebrated his penalty and one shouted 'show some f-----g respect'. Whatever the player turnover before next season, Maguire has lost confidence among some players and supporters seeking a new leader.
He became such an easy target one teammate flagrantly leaked a story where the reporter's byline effectively gave away the source. Eric Bailly abhorred Maguire's privileges and questioned how he could continue to start whilst underperforming. Another player claimed Maguire was 'not good enough'. Several teammates agree Bruno Fernandes's wasteful approach is 'a problem'.
A reporter new on the Manchester beat wrote United suspected where the 'unsavoury leaks' had emerged from. Like in Murder on the Orient Express, more than one passenger stuck the knife in.
Rangnick's inane interim period has softened some of the criticism of Solskjaer, serenaded by the away-dayers at Brighton, seemingly in solidarity he had to manage the shower in front of them.
There has been some revisionism: two top-three finishes, four semi-finals and a final in under three years. Solskjaer's rose-tinted defenders fail to consider almost all of those feats came in the soulless and misleading behind-closed-doors era. United's runners-up status last season was false.
Towards the end of Solskjaer's tenure, United players were at the end of their tether with Solskjaer. He held a team meeting and asked the players if they still trusted him. A player noticed almost everyone was avoiding eye contact and 'looking at their shoes'
Player sources believe Solskjaer's legacy has been one of distrust. Several still under contract want to leave as they feel they were sold a pup by the former manager and it has driven a wedge between them and the club.
Staff at West Ham felt Lingard's loan spell at the club last year 'killed' Solskjaer's reputation. It could be easily dismissed at a time United felt they were edging into the same slipstream as City again but, with the playing field levelled with crowds back expectations raised, almost everyone at United has been rumbled.
Morale has been shattered and will have to be repaired. There are significant changes in the manager's office, scouting department, communications department, press office and beyond. It has not gone unnoticed among some staff the desk the manager sits at for pre-match press conferences at Carrington is the same one that separated Moyes and the press pack, like a ramshackle shark cage that cannot protect its victim.
As supporters continue to protest against the Glazer family's ownership, Ferguson remains silent from the row of leather-padded seats in the Old Trafford directors' box with his named plaque screwed onto them. Like the former senior staff member, Ferguson's palm also smacked his face more than once this season.