Man Utd’s Ralf Rangnick gamble has backfired spectacularly after Austria role confirmed

Rangnick confirms Man Utd future amid Austria links

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Manchester United may be in a mess on the pitch, but at least now they have some certainty over their future. Erik ten Hag will leave Ajax and take over as manager at Old Trafford on July 1, while current interim boss, Ralf Rangnick, will take over as Austria manager at the end of May, but continue as a consultant to United for another two years. Clear as mud.

There are still three games left in Manchester United’s season – against Brentford at home, then away to Brighton and Crystal Palace – and yet it feels as though they have all but given up. Clarity over the new long-term manager was needed, but now it has arrived it has given an air of after the lord mayor’s show to the actual football.

News of Rangnick’s future employment has only furthered this sense that the remaining fixtures are of secondary concern. United have won just two of their last 11 matches – a truly dismal record that ordinarily would be worthy of much hand-wringing. Yet such mediocrity has been ongoing for so long that it is now considered normal.

United drew 1-1 with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Thursday. The result in itself is fine, but the match itself offered yet another example of just how far behind United have fallen; Chelsea dominated to an embarrassing degree and only had their own poor finishing to blame for not winning.

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As has been pointed out countless times by pundits like Gary Neville and Roy Keane, the players do not look like they are too concerned by their own drop in standards. Many of them ambled around against Chelsea – even knowing that Ten Hag will presumably be watching on, doing his homework for his pending management role.

United are about to end a fifth successive season without a trophy, so this slip in standards is nothing new. But Rangnick’s spell in charge has seen the rot set in even faster, with the players now more concerned with working out their escape plan from the rapidly sinking ship they inhabit.

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The idea and reasoning behind appointing a stop-gap manager to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November is part of the problem. Plucking a 63-year-old from the obscurity of the less than prestigious role as manager of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow is another part of the problem.

After hiring Rangnick, United’s football director John Murtough said he was the club’s “number one candidate” and would bring “invaluable leadership and technical skills”. Such attributes have not been evident over the past five months. Rangnick quickly gave up trying to implement his trademark pressing style on the squad and, since then, has cut a removed and barely interested figurehead.

His move to become Austria manager – and its announcement with three matches remaining – simply highlights how absurd the whole arrangement has been. “I’m really looking forward to playing my part in helping United become a real force again,” Rangnick said in the official statement from the club. His actions over the past few months make that hard to believe.

What will this consultancy role look like? What exactly will Rangnick consult on? How much work will this equate to? Does Ten Hag actually want his help? It feels like a compromise which suits nobody, bar Rangnick himself.

“I am looking forward to working in that advisory role and obviously helping Eric as much as he wants it himself,” Rangnick wrote in the match day programme for the Chelsea game. “So far, we haven’t been able to speak with each other and we have had no contact. Obviously, I’m more than willing and prepared to help both Erik and whomever in the club in order to change everything for the better.”

This season has shown United’s hierarchy making things up as they go along. Ten Hag appears to be a fine choice as the next manager. Surely the Dutchman wants a clean slate. Keeping his predecessor – who has failed spectacularly in all aspects – around does not give him one. The gamble has backfired. United should abandon the consultancy idea and let Austria get the full attention of Rangnick.

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