Erik ten Hag has an almighty task on his hands if he is to turn Manchester United title contenders once again, but Paul Merson may have highlighted a mistake that he has made already
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Manchester United revealed recently that Ralf Rangnick would not be taking up a consultancy role at the club as previously anticipated, with Erik ten Hag reportedly behind the decision.
Rangnick was brought in to steady the sinking ship that was the Red Devils after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked. But instead, he simply accelerated the decline as they stuttered towards a sixth-placed finish in the Premier League, some 35 points behind champions Manchester City.
Much to the adoration of fans, one positive aspect of Rangnick’s appointment was that he was vocal in his criticism of the United squad, never mincing his words and happy to throw players into the firing line when they deserved it. He was candid in revealing the extent of the revamp he felt was needed at Old Trafford too, claiming that “up to 10 signings” were needed.
However, according to the Manchester Evening News, Ten Hag did not share the same views as Rangnick did on that front. And it was no surprise to see the latter’s transition into a consultancy role fail to materialise, given that the pair already had very contrasting views.
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson’s view was that he felt that there are only a handful of players that had performed above average this season, hinting that the club need to strap in for a busy summer. He told Sportskeeda: “Cristiano Ronaldo is probably the only player at Manchester United who hasn’t been a disappointment this season. His individual numbers add up and he has been their most consistent player over the past year.
“While Ronaldo did score his goals, I don’t think he helped the team much. The new manager’s got a hard job coming up. If you keep Ronaldo for another year, that’s another year without much of a plan. If he does well next year and Manchester United come third, it’s a waste – because he’ll leave after that. David De Gea was the only other player close to Ronaldo’s level at Manchester United. He’s an excellent shot-stopper – if I’m a manager, that’s the first thing I want in a goalkeeper. I thought he was back to his best.”
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Asked who had not been good enough, Merson replied: “Picking only one player from the rest of the United squad is a horrible task. Most of them were a joke this season. Apart from the occasional showing of consistency from Scott McTominay and Fred, none of the other players deserved more than a five out of 10 for the season.”
It is not as if Merson’s comments are entirely controversial – they reflect the downcast mood at Old Trafford after a dismal season and reflect the true extent of the changes needed this summer. Even if some players improve under Ten Hag, it seems likely that the former Ajax boss will be left with a squad littered with underperforming individuals if he does not pursue an entire overhaul this summer.
Ten Hag cannot say he wasn’t warned after Rangnick messaged him by WhatsApp, telling him the team were just not good enough. No one can criticise the new boss for being optimistic and wanting to restore faith in the current crop of players, but if he wants to make United the club he once were, he would be best advised to listen to the advice from his predecessor.