Ronaldo and Maguire sinking Manchester United Titanic

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Harry Maguire Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United

The Mailbox is largely blaming the Manchester United players rather than manager. Send your views to


Manchester United now too big to succeed
It kills me to say but Mourinho might have been right that getting Manchester United second was his greatest football achievement.

Manchester United have not won a trophy for five years and the Premier League for 10 years but somehow a manager who was appointed three months ago is the problem?

You cannot appoint someone like Ralf Rangnick, not back him at all in the transfer market, tell your star players he is only keeping the chair warm, and then expect him to perform miracles. There are definitely patterns of play that are now emerging out of Manchester United, you can see how the team wants to play, which you almost never did during Ole.

It would have been easier for Rangnick if he was given 11 new players to train but instead he has a Ronaldo-shaped albatross around his neck. Ronaldo will never press from the front throughout the game so the most important line of defence is non-existent for United; for all their attacking prowess the Salah, Mane, Firmino trident also works tirelessly pressing from the front. Pochettino sacrifices the midfield to compensate for his attackers not pressing by pushing Veratti forward to press the back line. At United Bruno is the one that has to compensate for Ronaldo. I can’t really blame him for his output plummeting. The poor man is running back and forth all game.

Not only that but Ronaldo also undercuts the manager. Gary Neville almost admitted that it is him who is leaking all these reports to the media comparing the coaching to Ted Lasso. Well, the best thing for United would be for him to leave in the summer.

The other anchor sinking this Titanic is Maguire. His lack of pace prevents the team from pushing forward. Maguire is not a bad defender but he needs the team to be built around, to compensate for his weaknesses for him to work. Chelsea was built around John Terry’s strengths and I see Maguire as a very similar player. Pressing teams want to press higher up the pitch, closer to the opponent’s goal but Maguire likes to be deep and the play to be in front of him – this keeps dragging the entire defensive line back and inviting pressure from the opponents.

If you’ve finally appointed a football man, trust the process, what is even the point otherwise? If United wants to play a certain way it will take a couple of years for that to infiltrate through the club, the academies and the youth team.

If the commercial interests keep trumping what happens on the pitch then United will never win anything big. We talk about clubs being too big to fail but it seems like United it too big to succeed. The club cannot give up short-term results to gain long-term benefits. It can’t take a chance on a young fresh manager – by the time United appoints a manger they have already been successful elsewhere and the game has moved on from what worked for them. Mourinho, Van Gaal, and Rangnick, have all been appointed in the twilight of their careers. Pochettino is also arguably on the decline.

Maybe Erik Ten Hag is the man, maybe he is not but United will have to pick a lane and trust it but knowing how this club is run Pochettino will be sacked next February and Rooney would be appointed interim manager.
Shehzad Ghias, MUFC, Karachi (Anybody else annoyed that Fletcher is in the dug out every match? What other technical director is on the team bench in full matchday kit?)


Where’s the intensity?
No! We don’t owe Ole an apology and I don’t agree with Paul that United’s squad is incapable of playing a pressing style. The big problem we have at the moment is maintaining focus and intensity for 90 minutes, or even for 50 minutes.

TDLR; United have lots of issues but I think they are still going in the right direction.

I wrote in a few weeks ago saying how I thought the team was progressing fairly well under Rangnick and I still feel that way despite the underwhelming results. The re-introduction of Pogba over the last few games (helped by Fred getting covid) has significantly increased the team’s attacking potency, he and Bruno are operating in sort of a number 8 double pivot and this is producing plenty of opportunities which are then being wasted by those further forward.

A particular issue we’ve had in the last two games has been indecision in key attacking moments which is frustrating, my next door neighbour commented jokingly yesterday that he doesn’t need to check the scores to know how United are playing as he can hear me shouting “FFS Marcus!!” through the walls. I’m hoping this is still a bit of hangover from Ole’s methods where attacking players especially were left to their own devices and played basically on instinct. Changing the way they think to be more system oriented could I suppose be causing some conflict of instinct vs instruction, but I know I’m stretching a bit with that one. Rashford in particular has been woeful recently despite providing goals and assists, and he’s stopped tracking back which is causing further issues with him and Pogba on the same side of the pitch.

I like McTominay, he’s a weird player who doesn’t really seem to fit any role and thus does all of them kind of ok. He’s currently the defensive midfield shield and ball winner, which he does adequately, however a running problem with Scott is he reluctance to escape the cover shadow (only learned this had a proper name this week). Defenders are being pressed and he just sits there behind opposition players making no effort to provide a passing option, it’s maddening. Though at the same time Rangnick has been taking him off with about 20 minutes to go as United need a goal and we lose any semblance of control in midfield, as has been the case for the last 10 years an upgrade in that position is sorely needed.

Back to the big problem of intensity, there is still a worryingly dramatic drop off after the first 30-40 minutes which I think is partly down to fitness but mostly caused by a poor attitude throughout the squad. Hasenhuttl was bang on in his post match interview, he knew United couldn’t maintain their performance level and planned accordingly. Forget Maguire’s weekly gaff, it’s the sight of him and Shaw casually jogging back after Southampton players who were breaking with speed and purpose that really pisses me off. They are both players who push high up the pitch considering their roles, they should expect to bust a gut running back at least few times a game. Shaw seems to be slipping back into old habits, two games in a row he’s played the goal scorer onside because he’s lost focus and strayed beyond the defensive line.

As an extension to this the team just don’t seem to have much game intelligence. This has been the case for a number of years but when they come under pressure there is no attempt to slow down the play or keep possession. Though I hate seeing it from other teams it would be nice if someone could feign a head injury once in a while and get a few minutes of on pitch treatment, give the players a break and a chance to confer with the manager, non league teams manage this so I don’t understand why United are incapable of doing it.

Despite all this I can still see the green shoots of a good team emerging. What I’d most like to see from now to the end of the season is extending the periods of intensity or at least having them come in both halves, but also gaining some consistency of control within games even if that means just sitting back a bit and soaking up pressure rather than panicking and becoming disorganised.
Dave, Manchester


…In response to Robbie DEC’S email, I think the point you’re missing is that Rangnick isn’t the permanent manager of Man Utd.

Both managers have only had 10 League matches but Ole’s were at the back end of a near three year stint where he was showing no discernible plan to improve the team – sadly he needed to go. Ralf’s ten games are after stepping into a pretty dysfunctional situation, to say the least. To be fair to Ole, his caretaker period was more instantly successful – one of the issues was the dire atmosphere Mourinho left and his positive energy improved it – but on reflection, it looked like a bit of a dead cat bounce.

Ralf’s appointment isn’t to “Sam Allardyce” this team, by which I mean get the best possible short term results without any thought of the bigger picture (which, to be fair, is a perfectly valid approach if you’re fighting to avoid relegation this season). Yes Ralf’s there to steady the ship during a write-off of the season, but the bigger part of his job is hopefully to start making positive structural changes and, essentially subject the players to an extended audition, whereupon he’ll feed back to the new permanent manager and hopefully set the club up for sustained success in the future – the way he has at his other clubs/sports drink advertisers. Not many of those players are auditioning well, but I think Sancho has been really positive recently, as has Elanga.

How well is he doing in that job – I don’t know, I have no visibility over that. I would have loved United to start blowing people away with irresistible gegenpressing the second he arrived – but that was never going to happen.

Liverpool’s results in Klopp’s first part season weren’t immediately world beating either. He took them from 10th when Rogers was sacked (in October, really quite early in the season) to 8th, which hardly looks stellar but that’s misleading – Liverpool were making substantive changes in the background and have since gone on to be, objectively, quite good.

Now I’m not saying that I am expecting United to follow the exact same trajectory, or that United will implement change as successfully- frankly, I’m expecting all the encouraging noises to be thrown out the window the next time an opportunity to sign a waning Galactico to appease the NYSE rears its head.

But I think you’re being a bit unfair to Rangnick…
Andy (MUFC)


Where’s the oomph?
Dare I suggest “pashun “is missing from this Utd but clearly it is.

I think I just witnessed the worst post-match manager’s interview ever from Ralf after the Soton draw. His side had just squandered a 1-0 lead that could have been more to end up with a draw for the third game in a row. Three very similar games of gut-wrenching disappointment and he is just not fazed. He should have been seething, he should have blamed the ref or the wind or some poor decision or chastised his players (collectively, no throwing under the bus required). But no, our expected goals for the game was better than the opponent (his words, not mine) so everything is just fine.

No Ralf. It is not fine. If anyone at the club cared about winning football matches then somebody would have bust a gut to turn one of those XGs into an actually far king goal.

If the manager can’t show an ounce of caring then how does he expect those that play for him to give a rats arse. Hopefully Ralf will be better upstairs and have a good shouty manager to get what they need on the pitch.
Jon, Cape Town (80 millions pound worth captain shouldn’t excuse you from being benched, permanently)


Bin them all
To all Utd fans still confused as to what the problem is, I refer you back to Mike’s email at the start of January. I replied championing it as likely the most accurate email of 2022, and if anything it has gotten more accurate since. I suggest utd fans print it out for reference.

Hopefully Ralf will live up to his moniker during the summer and wreck-it. One can only hope he gives a scathing handover to the incumbent manager and the majority of players are shot out of Old Trafford in a cannon.
Dave, Cork


We are entering a title-deciding month
Two more wins for City and Liverpool this weekend, both probably as expected in terms of the way the games went. Although it’s unlikely to be mathematically over until late April at the earliest, the next four weeks are surely the key to any hope Liverpool have of catching City – Norwich (h), Leeds (h), West Ham (h) and Brighton (a) for the former, Spurs (h), Everton (a), Man Utd (h) and Palace (a) for the latter.

Chances remain slim (and there’s cups and CL to deal with), but they look like a run of fixtures in which Liverpool could well pick up more points than City (although this is slightly dependent on Spurs and Utd finding some kind of form/motivation). After that, three weeks of no PL for the FA Cup QF (assuming they both progress) and international break and then a game each against the bottom two (naturally City will go to Burnley on a lovely spring day at the start of April, which will get Klopp’s weather demons going). And then it’s City v Liverpool on 10 April.

Liverpool have the tougher run-in and City are rightly short favourites to be crowned in May. But my point is that, thanks to the way the fixtures fall, there’s a pretty good chance that Liverpool will be going to the Etihad closer than they are today – certainly more chance than if the fixture lists were reversed. Nobody would love that more than Sky of course, but that’s kind of the point, it would still be interesting.
Shappo (‘Steven Gerrard’s Villa’ at the Etihad on the final day – more potential wet dreams for Sky)

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho celebrates scoring a goal


Looking for equivalence
I predicted there would be an incident similar to the Martinelli dismissal over the weekend and lo and behold there was.

You could clearly see Joelinton foul his man and then pull his shirt to stop him getting away in the game against Villa.

But did the referee send him off for two bookable offences? Of course he didn’t.

I think it’s time referees are wired up so the VAR official takes precedent and can advise them when they get a decision wrong.

Us gooners aren’t asking for special treatment – just that we’re treated the same as everyone else. So if Xhaka’s going to be sent off for
standing on a player’s leg like Maguire did at the weekend and got away with it, or kick someone in the head – like Godfrey did and got away
with it, or kick Saka in the back of the legs – like that Palace player did when we played them at home – that the same punishments are dished

Is that really too much to ask?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Arsenal: Winners
Look, I get that it’s hard to declare a team that didn’t even play this weekend to be a winner. And I DEFINITELY know that Arsenal is capable of screwing up in many profound ways, but all things considered this was a very good weekend for the Gunners and F365’s decision to go all in on this ‘Wolves are the new favourites for 4th!’ thing seems odd.

(Did we? It literally says ‘Wolves remain outsiders for a top-four finish but a masterplan of winning away at each of their immediate challengers is going well’ here – Ed)

1 – Arsenal are 2 points ahead of Wolves having played a game less
2 – We just beat them (with 10 men)
3 – We play them in 2 weeks at home (we could even lose that game and then a draw in the game in hand puts us ahead on GD).

Spurs and ManU have shown the danger of counting on points from games in hand, but even looking at the table as it stands (ignoring matches played) Arsenal are 2 back from West Ham and 1 back Man U with both still to play us and Spurs are off of our tails. All 3 of those teams are sputtering.

Again, don’t get me wrong, Arsenal absolutely will screw this up. But at the beginning of the season I would have taken a 5th place finish (above Spurs) as real progress, but Man U’s hilarious season has opened a door. And even without a striker, I think we’ll score more goals than Wolves.
Josh, Quincy MA