Ralf Rangnick‘s brief tenure as Manchester United interim manager is not likely to ever be a period that anyone associated with the club will look back on with much fondness.
The German, who was a shock replacement for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer almost a year ago, picked up the baton at Old Trafford with United five points shy of the top four. He ended his disastrous tenure with them 13 points away from it, leaving them facing one of the biggest rebuilds in their history.
It was a gamble that backfired miserably on United’s part. They should never have selected a manager – interim or otherwise – that had only been in the dugout in two of the last 10 seasons. Rangnick had shown his expertise at boardroom level, but his qualities as a manager left a lot to be desired.
And that was evident throughout his six-month stint in charge at Old Trafford. His press conferences were often littered with hard-hitting home truths, and his intentions in that regard were clear, but matters on the pitch were dire and uninspiring.
Rangnick, though, was expected to stay at Old Trafford beyond the end of the season and take up a two-year consultancy position, which was part of the agreement when he succeeded Solskjaer. The specifics of what the role was going to entail were never disclosed, but there was a feeling that United, if they’d have wanted to see the best of the German’s work, would have had to give him a big say in the direction of the club’s recruitment.
Erik ten Hag, however, quickly made it clear that he was not keen on having Rangnick’s input. The former RB Leipzig manager, now in charge of the Austrian national team, left the club in the same week that Ten Hag delivered his maiden press conference on May 23.
It was clear that Ten Hag wanted to take United forward without the input of someone who had contributed to a recent demise, even if the rot had long set in before Rangnick became a familiar name to the Premier League. But in the 64-year-old’s defence, he did do some good things during his spell in charge, not least highlighting United’s catalogue of recent errors in the transfer market and exposing the Glazers on more than one occasion.
His past experience of being in charge of recruitment within the Red Bull franchise, working at both Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg, meant that he knew what he was talking about when it came to that particular side of the business. He worked wonders at Salzburg, identifying the likes of Sadio Mane and Erling Haaland, just as their careers were beginning to take off.
Having spotted players of their ilk, Rangnick was more than qualified to support United in their future decision-making on the transfer front. He would have been a useful voice as they set about their much-needed rebuild, although Ten Hag ought to be respected for wishing to make his own decisions on the recruitment front, just as so many managers do.
But for all of the improvements United made in the summer, even if they remain a work in progress, they failed to bring in a new striker. The only new attacker they did bring in was Antony, signing him for an eye-watering £85million. If a winger from Ajax cost United that much, it does not bear thinking about how much a proven, elite-level No.9 is going to cost them in the next phase of their rebuild.
Rangnick, not just once, referenced United’s need to add a new striker to their ranks and lower the average age of their forward options. Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani were the two main forwards that he worked with during his time at Old Trafford and they had a combined age of over 70.
Asked if United need to reduce the average age of their forwards, Rangnick, speaking back in February, said: “This is obvious. Edinson’s contract is running out in the summer, and the club needs the best possible centre-forward. This is an obvious one. I think everyone is aware of that.”
United, of course, released Cavani in the summer but failed to replace him, unless you count Anthony Martial returning from his loan spell at Sevilla. Ronaldo has gone off the boil, failing to offer the guarantee of goals he has provided throughout his career, and Marcus Rashford remains more effective from the left.