The interim Man Utd boss has been ultra-honest in interviews as he oversees a major transition period at Old Trafford.
The leaks that sprung from the visiting dressing room at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday evening were as inevitable as they were shameful.
From the news that Ralf Rangnick’s Manchester United team selections are upsetting some players, to Marcus Rashford’s apparent unhappiness with his current playing time; it truly was a lesson in how to badly misread the room. On Tuesday, more murmurings about being unhappy with Rangnick and his methods emerged.
Many United fans reacted to Sunday’s Manchester derby aberration by urging players not to trot out the usual hollow social media apologies.
It was rightly said they would be empty and meaningless. In the end, it actually reflected well on Jadon Sancho and David de Gea — United’s two best players in the 4-1 defeat to City — that they spoke directly to their followings on Instagram rather than through conduits with media leaks.
It was clear, as soon as the energy immediately sapped from the United bodies following Riyad Mahrez’s sumptuous half-volley from Kevin de Bruyne’s corner, that the post-mortem on this demolition derby would be messy. United ended the game in complete ignominy, having started with genuine promise with Rangnick’s aggressive pressing tactics putting City under pressure.
While Micah Richards, Roy Keane and Gary Neville partook in a shouting match in the Sky Sports studio above him, again Rangnick was calm, cutting and ultra-honest with his post-game comments. He was asked whether the defeat exposed the widening chasm between United and the best teams in the Premier League, like City.
“I knew that before I came,” Rangnick said. “I wouldn’t have needed that game to be aware of that. For now, it is about developing the team, finishing the season as well as we possibly can and all the other things are issues that need to be spoken about and hopefully developed at the end of the season in the next transfer window.”
“He tried to be too clever” was a phrase used by both Neville — who also dubbed Rangnick “a tactical show-off” — and Keane in their debate, before Keane wisely added: “his hands are tied… some of the players are looking at him and thinking ‘you’re only here until the summer” in reference to the ‘interim’ nature of Rangnick’s job title.
Interim or not, popular with the players or not, Rangnick seemingly doesn’t care. He knows he’s got an important job to do.
And he’s subtly doing exactly what many United fans were crying out for. The atmosphere at the club under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was all too cosy and the dramatic drop-off in performances at the start of the season exposed a squad lacking in mental fibre.
Rangnick expressed yet more frustration after the City game that Edinson Cavani had deemed himself unavailable. He’s previously been unafraid to drop Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench when necessary. He’s left the woefully-underperforming Rashford out, with total justification.
He’s even dropped the skipper Harry Maguire. And he called out the wantaways Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial for not making themselves available to play.
All the while the German has pinpointed the need to “develop” and bolster the squad in the summer transfer window, knowing that a major squad overhaul is needed. Such home truths shouldn’t be difficult to air in public — most United supporters know they need to be said — but the scrutiny of the United job can turn managers into politicians.
Solskjaer was the arch-diplomat, Rangnick is no holds barred. It’s a refreshing approach that is exposing how United’s talented squad is not performing to scratch, while pushing the mistakes of the Glazers’ regime back to the surface for all to see.
Rangnick may not get the long-term United manager’s job, he might not even get a sporting director’s role, but he’s highlighting the club’s problems in such a way that they cannot be ignored.