It was the overall defeat of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The nickname he couldn’t put out. And one of the blatant underperformances that was displayed by critics when he was sacked. That Solskjaer failed to win a trophy was a growing source of angst and frustration for Manchester United.
A club of United’s stature shouldn’t go four seasons without silverware, although it should be remembered that there are only three domestic cups to be won each season plus a European for the participants. Yet what undermined Solskjaer’s tenure the most was that he led United to five semi-finals but only one final, which they lost.
This is the level of Manchester city, and Liverpool and Chelsea, that United are struggling to provide a reasonable record for premier league title hopes in the very near future. And this despite the huge expense incurred to build one of the highest paid teams in history. Nonetheless, actions on the pitch show United should be focusing on the cups for this season.
Breaking down their recent hoodoo provides an added incentive, as does the idea that the interim manager Ralf rangnick needs to be more assertive in his newly acquired team. A race in a cup competition should not be called off by the German coach even if the pressure from above is to reach a top four in the Premier league.
Winning trophies is something United have been doing for a long time, but not enough in recent seasons. While Solskjaer was still in charge in September, United left the League Cup in the third round against West Ham United at Old Trafford. Strong team rotation has in part led to this early arrival of a competition United should strive to win.
Tonight’s FA Cup third round match with Aston Villa should be seen as another opportunity for Rangnick and United to maneuver each other along another avenue of trophies. Yes, in the league United have won three, drawn and lost one in the five games since Rangnick arrived in early December, but there has been little improvement overall, both in terms of performance. team than individual performance.
A cutting game, therefore, should not immediately adorn a less meaningful mantra. United crave success and while the league is one path, the FA Cup – along with European competition – is another. In addition, one race in one competition can fuel the other. “We have to start playing well and winning, ” Harry maguire, the United captain, said last week.
“This team finished second last year and we have a better and bigger team this year, so we have to show the right attitude. We have big players on the team; leaders. I’m tired of repeating myself but it can’t go on like this – you have to have a good run, starting on Monday.“
Confusion begins to reign
For Rangnick’s sake, and his mid-term prospects as club manager, he could benefit from a recovery. After the defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers, the German coach was asked whether players still adhere to his methods – after only a month in charge! – and he stood firm despite the unconvincing displays.
“I can only tell you about the team – obviously I don’t know the atmosphere inside the club,Rangnick said on Friday. “I can only talk about the players, the locker rooms, the technical staff: everyone was very disappointed after the match, the result and the performance, especially in the first half.
“Now we have four days of training, yesterday, today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow before the Aston Villa game and my job, our job, is to make sure we show a different performance against Aston Villa. “
There are questions regarding the narrow 4-2-2-2 system that is used and the way his team tries to squeeze their opponents. The substitution of the anime Mason Greenwood Against Wolves booed the crowd at Old Trafford, but when Bruno Fernandes came and played well there were cheers. Confusion, at all club levels, seems to reign for the moment.
Ultimately, the results are the hard currency that United and Rangnick will be judged against, but waste the chance against Steven gerrardon the side of Villa well drilled this evening and another opportunity will have passed them by.