ARTICLES Opinion

Division, Disillusion, Disaster – Manchester United are back to square one, again.

José Sá pumped his fists in front of the Stretford End as he was mobbed by his Wolves teammates, thankful for their goalkeepers last gasp save from a Bruno Fernandes free kick.

Bruno himself put his hands to his head and muttered something under his breath in his native Portuguese. Though, I’m not sure it was the free kick that was the focus of his frustration.

Many of his teammates headed straight down the tunnel with their heads hanging low, refusing to face the 75,000 odd on-lookers who had tried their best to carry them over the line to get some sort of result.

United had limped to another loss at Old Trafford and the atmosphere of negativity, and borderline disgust, towards the players is something of an all too familiar feeling this season.

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You’d have thought that with the arrival of Ralf Rangnick, or perhaps more-so the departure of the incumbent Ole Gunnar Solskjær, that the morale would have been lifted and that this squad of superstars would be aware that failure to perform under another manager would leave their deficiencies exposed for all to see.

Yet, the players act like this doesn’t concern them in the slightest. They continue to show a lack of desire, a lack of personality and a lack of care for the fans who continually turn up to watch dire performances week in week out.

Of course, I’m speaking in general terms here, and there are players in that squad who obviously care and do put in good performances, but the odds aren’t in their favour.

Funnily enough, it was a man who hadn’t played a game in over 700 days that showed the most grit against Wolves in Phil Jones, who won the aforementioned free kick by throwing himself into a 50/50 on the edge of the opposition box.

The fact a man who has been frozen out of first team football for two years was not only United’s best performer, but also the one who showed the most passion and desire while playing. It’s a shocking reflection of this squad.

Reports of discontent continue to whirl in the British press, some outlining the players unhappiness at having to train in the dark at Carrington, and others more recently suggesting that as many as 11 players want to leave the club and have become disillusioned at Rangnick’s training sessions. Chris Wheeler from the Daily Mail stated that the mood has sunk so low it could be considered near ‘rock bottom’.

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The mentality of these players is hard to fathom at a club with the size and stature of Manchester United. Long gone are the days of Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona, the days of the Gary Neville and Roy Keane, the days of Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney. United now employ a bunch of whining, whinging, babies who seem more bothered about getting off the pitch than getting on it.

Harry Maguire didn’t play on Monday, and I obviously won’t blame anything that happened in that specific game on him, but I still believe his appointment as captain perfectly encapsulates the fall from grace and the shift in mentality at the club in recent years.

Marcus Rashford‘s cameos this season have been extremely lacklustre for the most part, and he shouldn’t be given a free pass.

The midfield seems to struggle in near enough every game, and Rangnick continues to grapple with selecting a successful partnership in the middle of the park.

Scott McTominay obviously cares, but seems to struggle to put together even two good performances at a time.

Jadon Sancho is yet to hit the heights we know he can and Edinson Cavani‘s absence has meant he hasn’t put a stamp on things like he did last year. The list of under-performing players goes on.

Many have pointed to Cristiano Ronaldo as the catalyst for United’s failure this season. To that, I can’t help but laugh. To suggest our top scorer this season, and a man who almost single handedly carried us through our Champions League group, is the problem in this squad devoid of any creativity or structure, is ridiculous to me.

I’d understand the argument if we’d won the league last season, or if even if we’d started this campaign with three straight convincing wins, but that wasn’t the case.

Fair enough, we comfortably dispatched of Leeds United on the opening day (a performance which hasn’t been matched since, by the way) – but then we battled to a draw at Southampton and were bailed out by a great Mason Greenwood finish at Wolves in a game we didn’t deserve much out of.

You’d have thought that Ronaldo’s arrival would have lifted this youthful squad, giving them a proven winner, the greatest player to ever kick a football, to look up to. But no. They have shrunk in his presence and almost seem intimidated by him being there.

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If you’d have told me at the end of November, after appointing Rangnick, that we’d be back in crisis management mode by New Year, I’d have probably laughed in your face in disbelief. But actually, it’s not really all that surprising. Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure Manchester United has been a club defined by false dawns.

Under Moyes, Van Gaal, José, Ole and now Rangnick, at one point in time we’ve thought, or perhaps even bravely stated, “we’re back” but the facts are that the underlying problems remain.

The parasite owners remain at the helm, businessmen remain heavily involved in football decisions that they have no idea about and a mix-and-match squad constructed by five different managers continues to throw their toys out the pram and those above them under the bus.

The deep rot at the club remains and it seems there is no quick fix. We can only hope that Rangnick, whether it be as manager or in an imminent consultancy role, can get start to weed out the mercenaries and steer this club back into the right direction, though it is going to be far from an easy task.

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