Premier League: Wreck-it Ralf or revolution Ralf?

The Manchester United ship has still to be steadied since Ralf Rangnick's arrival as interim manager, John Roycroft wonders if this is part of Rangnick's attempt to revolutionize things at the club or another miss-step by the football giant?
Premier League: Wreck-it Ralf or revolution Ralf?

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick consoles Cristiano Ronaldo as the striker is substituted during the Premier League match at the Brentford Community Stadium, London. 

THE Jekyll and Hyde season for Manchester United continues unabated.

Against Aston Villa, at the weekend, United played their best half of football this season only to lose their two-goal lead to draw in a second-half collapse.

Then on Wednesday night's match against Brentford, they hardly deserved to go in at the break level (thanks to David de Gea), only to explode out of the blocks and bag three goals to eventually win 3-1.

The fluctuating results for United's interim manager Ralf Rangnick has seen his honeymoon period at Old Trafford end rather quickly. Rangnick's work to revitalise and change United's framework and attitude seems to have ruffled the feathers of some players.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba look dejected during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester. back in October.
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba look dejected during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester. back in October.

Pogba problem

Of course, the first one with issues is the seemingly perennial unhappy Paul Pogba. Rangnick raised the eyebrows of fans and pundits alike when he suggested that he 'might' use the £89m midfielder, when he is back fit, saying, 

"He [Pogba] wants to show the whole world what kind of player he can be, even if it's for only showing up for a new contract elsewhere, he will be highly motivated to do that."

Some would question the point of using the French World Cup winner at all if he is not going to be part of the club's future.

But Rangnick said, "For me, it's not a question if a player has an expiring contract. The question is how much does he still want to be a part of this group? How much does he still feel emotionally and physically on board?"

Hardly the type of talk you want to hear your manager say when you are still battling to land a fourth-place finish, that he hopes the team's 'star player' is in the mood to play in order to leave."

So after all the comings and goings at United, it seems Pogba is gone again come the summer, with PSG favourite to gain the services of the brilliant yet undeniably difficult Frenchman.

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick talks to the media following the Premier League match at the Brentford Community Stadium, London. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick talks to the media following the Premier League match at the Brentford Community Stadium, London. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Sancho concern

The next one speculated to be leaving is United young winger Jadon Sancho, who is reported to have been offered to Barcelona after his poor start to life at Old Trafford. United will be keen to recoup a big chunk of the £73m they paid Borussia Dortmund to bring the English international home. But the speculation is based on media reports from Spain, which may or may not be taken with a pinch of salt, as the now cash-strapped Catalonian organisation will find it hard to justify splashing that type of money on an under-performing middle man. To be fair, Sancho got little in the way of support and game-time since his move to northwest England, scoring one goal in his meagre 17 appearances for the Red Devils.

Rangnick admitted on Tuesday that Sancho had been struggling with the pressure that comes with such a big-money move. Far from a ringing endorsement for a young player short on confidence.

Martial Law

Then there is the turmoil with Anthony Martial, who Rangnick claimed refused to travel to Birmingham for the Villa game. A serious accusation. Yet the Frenchman moved quickly to deny it, posting a refutal of the claim on his Instagram account. This led to formal talks with the interim manager, and whatever happened during that discourse, Martial was back in the squad (but didn't play) against the Bees. But it has raised transfer rumours that Martial is keen to leave Old Trafford this summer, if not this month, amid interest from clubs in Spain and Italy.

Manchester United's Anthony Martial, ahead of the Premier League match at the Brentford Community Stadium, London. He did not play in the game Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Manchester United's Anthony Martial, ahead of the Premier League match at the Brentford Community Stadium, London. He did not play in the game Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Martial has cut an unhappy figure for a while now and is a shadow of the exciting prospect he was when he garnered the highest transfer fee paid for a teenager on his arrival at United in 2015. The forward has only scored once in the 10 games he's played for United this season.

Some blame the return of Ronaldo for the fall in Martial's form. And while Ronaldo has certainly done a job for United, his presence has coincided with the downward turn in form for Martial and Bruno Fernandes upfront. And one cannot deny that Fernandes looked exciting again in the absence of Ronaldo at Villa Park. Indeed, Fernandes may be another one looking to the exit if his new contract doesn't pay as well as his illustrious countryman. 

This may prove to be a moot point, as it has also been reported that Ronaldo is ready to leave should United fail to qualify for the Champions League at the end of the season. Ronaldo certainly didn't look happy when he was substituted against Brentford.

It will be interesting to find out if all this turmoil is part of Rangnick's attempt to shake up the status quo at United or just another season of angst as the giant club looks to find a new course in the post-Alex Ferguson world.

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