When referee Slavko Vinčić blew the final whistle to signal Manchester United’s exit from the Champions League, their season suddenly deflated.
The last opportunity to win a trophy had evaporated into thin air, and with their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League hanging by a thread, it was a bleak moment for interim head coach Ralf Rangnick.
It was a meek performance against Atlético Madrid, Rangnick was outclassed by his opposite number Diego Simeone, as Manchester United’s inexperience at the highest level was laid bare. The German coach was left to lick his wounds as his team’s season unravelled around him.
Indeed, Rangnick’s time at the club has felt awfully strange, like a kind of limbo period before he is politely sent on his way in the summer in favour of a new permanent manager. Yes, the German still has a ‘consultancy’ role as part of the deal that brought him in, but you’d expect the new head coach to be keen to run things his own way, whether it’s Erik ten Hag, Mauricio Pochettino, or someone else.
Before all that, Rangnick must see out the rest of the season, and while there is still hope of finishing in the top four, United will need to improve their performances drastically. They have some key fixtures still to come, including an away match against fellow Champions League hopefuls Arsenal, but at the moment the team are dropping points at an alarming rate, and that simply isn’t sustainable.
It’s hard to know how much of this can be pinned on Rangnick. After all, he inherited a squad that had struggled greatly under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and the scars from the Norwegian’s tenure were always likely to take a long time to heal. The German has managed to make United a bit more difficult to beat, making them slightly more favoured among those who bet in play on skybet.com, but they have still been found wanting when it comes to the biggest matches. The 4-1 defeat to Manchester City was evidence of this.
In truth, the decision to bring Rangnick in on a temporary basis was somewhat confusing. His skills lie in taking a broader approach and putting plans in place for a number of years. To implement his philosophies in such a short space of time was always going to be a challenge, and it’s no surprise that United’s players have struggled to put his ideas into action on the pitch.
If there is a positive to take from Rangnick’s time in charge, it’s that the players will have gotten a feel for how a visionary coach operates, and that should leave them well prepared to take on the ideas of the new permanent manager with open minds.
But as far as results are concerned, Rangnick’s short tenure has so far been something of a damp squib. There is still time to turn things around, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that this turbulent campaign at Old Trafford will have a redemptive ending.