Manchester United have had three managers and had a botched attempt to join the European Super League foiled in 2021.
Here are five things we learned from a year like no other…
United need a philosophy
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried to get by at United without a clearly defined, detailed philosophy like the other top clubs in England have.
He referred to ‘United DNA’ but failed to develop his side beyond being strong on counter attacks and by the end of his reign, there was a real lack of clarity about what the players were meant to be doing in and out of possession.
In response, United have hired Ralf Rangnick on a six-month interim contract but it is to be hoped that by the end of 2022, United have a clearly defined style of play.
That is not guaranteed, but it needs to happen because United drifted for too long under Solskjaer and need a clearer idea of what they are trying to achieve on the pitch.
United are still lacking something to win a trophy
United challenging at the top of the table around the early part of 2021.
That was thrilling for the fans, but United were out of any notional title race as soon as they had entered it.
United never behaved like a club which believed it could win the title and the same mental fragility which has hampered their bid for trophies of late reared its head again.
And they could not get over the line in the Europa League final, performing poorly over 120 minutes before losing on penalties.
Something is still sorely lacking in pursuit of a trophy and that is what Rangnick will be charged with adding.
The suits need to step back and leave it to the football men
The end of Ed Woodward’s time at United looked to be close when he stood down amid the Super League chaos but he has clung onto his role since April and now seems to view himself as essential to the appointment of a new manager.
Whenever he does go, he looks set to be replaced as CEO by Richard Arnold. Arnold is cut from the same cloth as Woodward; good at getting commercial deals over the line but lacking expertise on the football side, to say the least.
The suits have to step aside and leave the procurement of new players and a new manager to the football people at the club, and if that is one change which is made when Arnold replaces Woodward, that would be a boost.
They now have the experience of Rangnick on board, and the German knows how to revamp clubs from top to bottom if given the autonomy.
There are perhaps doubts about Darren Fletcher and John Murtough’s credentials at the highest level, but they are the ones in place to make football decisions and they need to be given the freedom and power to do that.
More transfer recruitment or managerial searches led by Woodward, Arnold or both will only mean more pain for United and the fans.
United need a new defensive midfielder
United did some major surgery on the squad during the summer transfer window but did not bring a new anchorman to the club.
Nobody would doubt how exciting Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford has been – and it has been effective – but speaking pragmatically, perhaps that investment would have been better served at the base of midfield.
Nemanja Matic is too slow for the role and Scott McTominay and Fred are not good enough to perform the role solo and remain unconvincing together.
Fans have more power than they realise
United fans were furious about the attempted Super League breakaway and staged a series of protests against the Glazers.
That helped the plan be foiled and forced the owners to communicate with the fans for the first time since they took over in 2005.
Fans should not forget the power and influence they can exert if they work together in the right manner and do not give up.
The fight continues in 2022 to get the Glazers out but what happened in 2021 should give that bid new hope and momentum.
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