What next after Manchester United’s painful Champions League exit against Athletico Madrid?

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Manchester United bowed out of the Champions League in a disappointing manner losing 2-1 on aggregate to Athletico Madrid, despite securing 1-1 draw at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

The Red Devils had the advantage of playing at home after heading into the return leg at Old Trafford with a 1-1 scoreline of aggregate, but unfortunately could not make it counts as Renan Lodi strike before the half-time proved to be the decisive goal knocking Manchester United out of the Champions League.

Renan Lodi strike means Manchester United are going yet another campaign without winning a trophy.(image: Getty) 

Manchester United have now gone five seasons without winning a trophy and a late scramble to finish in the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League, which is far from certain, is all the club have to play for this season with nine Premier League fixtures remaining this season.

Speaking to BT Sport (h/t Daily Mail)after his side’s 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid Manchester United keeper David de Gea said he was at a loss for words after his team were knocked out of the Champions League.

“It is a very difficult moment and very, very sad. We are not fighting for trophies, fighting for the Premier League, fighting for big things. It’s another disappointing result. There’s still nine finals to play, but we need to keep going. He said

“You’re right, too many years,” he said when asked about United’s barren run. “So I think we need to be clear, we want to achieve good things, fight for trophies, we don’t just want to play for the top four.

“I’ve been here many years, I love the club. You saw the fans, they have been amazing in a difficult season again so I really believe, I don’t know when, this club is gonna be back at the top and we are gonna be fighting for big things.”

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United never went more than three seasons without winning the Premier League title. (Getty Images)

“Of course, it’s not good enough,” the goalkeeper said.

“It’s hard for the club, for us and the fans. It’s really hard. This is where we are at the moment. It’s a difficult situation. We have to keep fighting. I feel very sad. But we were not good enough.”

De Gea is not wrong in his final assessment, and major changes need to be made from top to bottom at United for that fact to change.

Another Rebuild?

Manchester United have been in never-ending cycle since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson nine years ago.

Manchester United have gone from different kinds of manager from David Moyes – LVG- Mourinho with senior Old Trafford sources claiming that the right manager was all this squad required in order to be successful which led to the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

In the wee hours of 2019 after a comprehensive defeat against Barcelona. Manchester United boss then, Solskjaer called for total rebuild which led to speculation that there might be a clearout at Old Trafford in the close season, with up to half the side being replaced.
“We plan to be in the top four, we plan to be in the Champions League next season and we want players who can keep us in the Champions League and move us up the table,” Solskjær said.

“But we know there is not going to be a quick fix. We have to take it step by step.”

“There will be new players coming in over summer but I don’t think you can expect six. I don’t think any manager you ask would be in favour of that amount of change anyway. We want to rebuild but it is going to have to be gradual, over a few windows.”

Over three years ago now, It’s pretty obvious that another rebuild is needed at Manchester United.

What went wrong with the former ‘rebuild’?

Despite Ferguson’s departure being only 9 years ago, it must feel like a lifetime away for the passionate United fans.

The last 9 years have been filled with operational incompetence, the club lacks a definitive direction, and the existing executive structure has led to confusion in their talent identification policy.

This has significant impacts through the whole club.

The club’s recruitment is not coherent, the philosophy of the managers they have employed does not fit that of either the fans, or the squad that the recruitment team has assembled; and in attempting to remedy this the club employs another manager with a completely conflicting tactical style to the previous.

When fans become frustrated with yet another failure to “rebuild the side”, rather than sticking to a coherent recruitment plan, United have made big name, big money signings – Maguire, Ronaldo, Wan-Bissaka, Van de Beek, Pogba – to appease the fans.
United have become a case study of how not to run a club.

There have been some speculations regarding the next Manchester United manager with many prefer the ideas of Erik Ten Hagg, but the questions that remain to be asked are:

  • How many Manchester United’s players can play his favorite style of play?
  • Would he be afforded enough time to implement his ideas even if Manchester United found themselves in relegation battle?
  • Would he be given permission to sign the players of his choice?

These are questions that beg our answers having seen the way the past managers except Solskjaer were hurried out of the club.

Paul Scholes on Ralf Ragnick.

When Manchester United appointed Ralf Ragnick, the Godfather of the German Gegenpress he came with his preferred 4-2-2-2 formation.

Rangnick’s tactical philosophy has been well documented for decades: a high press, with a high line, with a preference to play with a 4-2-2-2 formation.

However at Manchester United this led to uproar among the fans especially from the former players, which led him to change it to the normal preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

It’s all very well to come up with fine words about ‘projects’ and ‘rebuilding’, but coaches need time, space and money, but with such the perpetual state of hysteria that surrounds this club getting that time and space may well prove to be impossible, and also the way in which Manchester United have spent money in recent seasons doesn’t offer too much hope that they’d be able to spend strategically and intelligently, either.

Either define the moment or the moment will define you because what you cannot define, you cannot programme.

Manchester United structure is far too clustered. It’s muddled to the fans, players and potential targets alike.

Who is in charge? Whose philosophy are the club following? And what is the manager’s opinion when they want to express concerns about the strength of the squad?

United must have their identity defined. They must appoint elite sporting minds to elite sporting positions rather than businessmen who will look after the Glazers’ financial interests.

Once they define their club-wide identity, they must be steadfast in their following of it and cannot continue simply dabbling in one style of play before radically changing it a few years down the line.

Why not giving Michael Carrick enough time as an interim coach? (Getty Images)

The recruitment department must be streamlined, and it must work alongside the philosophy of the Director of Football and the coach. The players to be signed must perfectly fits in into the coach philosophy.

Simply throwing money at good individual players will not create a squad or a club capable of competing against the titans of City, Liverpool or Chelsea.

 The Squad Overhaul

When the word ‘rebuild’ is mentioned, what comes to the mind is the summer overhaul of the whole squad. While this is true, it’s also not true to some extent.

It’s pretty obvious that another rebuild is needed at Manchester United but that doesn’t always mean the club have to spend loads in the transfer market.

And while there has been much talk of the malfunctioning parts in their team, it is also worth remembering that there have been a couple of causes for cautious optimism.

Jadon Sancho took a while to get going, but in recent weeks he has started to show the form and consistency to validate spending £73m on him last summer. Also Marcus Rahsford, Harry Maguire who was named the best CB at Euro 2020, same with Luke Shaw in his position.

Players needed a right team and right formation to function well as there can be an isolated spots of brightness at an otherwise gloomy football club.

Marcus Rashford on his Twitter page.

Manchester United: A toxic football club.

How much harder to move forward with the process of rebuild while every public projection is still being broadcast from the land of Fergie and how good they were in those days.

While the players have massively underachived this season, the toxicity that sorrounds the club is also of major concern. Like arsenic, toxic people will slowly kill you. They kill your positive spirit and play with your mind and emotions. How can you grow?

Everyday we’re bombarded with the news and a leak news of Manchester United dressing room which has caused a great unrest among the players.

A source is reported to say earlier this year: “It’s not good. The atmosphere is really bad and it looks like there are going to be big problems ahead for United.”

There is a general principle that grandiose failure is more interesting than efficient success and so United’s non-success has become the product, a self-sustaining media industry in its own right.

It’s easy for Roy Keane to explain how Manchester United players give up and aren’t running and say things like: look at him. He’s not running. He’s not good to be playing for Manchester United.

“Take a step back and the chorus of despairing legends look like part of the problem”-Guardian

How long will it take to concede that Manchester United were great during Fergie’s time but have been bad for nine.

The Red Devils have been lacking in confidence all season and their exit from the Champions League on Tuesday was a true example of that.