Manchester United’s confused transfer strategy under Ed Woodward leaves Ralf Rangnick with plenty to do as he enters the last six months of his spell as boss.
Rangnick is expected to move upstairs at the end of the campaign to oversee the club’s transfer strategy, and to retain an influence when it comes to appointing managers once he ends his short tenure.
While John Murtough and Darren Fletcher look set to stay in place as key figures in the club’s transfer strategy, it should be noted that the club spend years supposedly looking for transfer experts only to suddenly find out that they had been at the club all along. It is worth being suspicious over their expertise, or if they fulfil the yes-men requirements that probably got Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his place at Old Trafford.
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Rangnick appears a less affable figure when it comes to getting what he wants, and has expertise built up during his time at the Red Bull clubs. When he suggests a transfer idea, it is probably worth assuming that it is inherently more useful than a contribution from those who are already at the club - with the exception of Bruno Fernandes, the club are yet to make an indisputably decent signing since the departure of Alex Ferguson.
It can be argued that with the exception of Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, every player on the books at United should consider their future under threat. Sancho and Varane, too, can only really be sure of more time not because of their exceptional performances so far, but because they have not had the chance to prove their worth one way or another.
There are, though, two or three major figures who should probably be moved on next summer, if not sooner. How that is handled is Rangnick’s second significant task after making sure of a top-four finish this season.
The first, and perhaps simplest, player to release is Edinson Cavani. His improved form over the second half of 2020/21 earned him a deserved extension, and his experience and talent gave Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Greenwood somebody to learn from. However, Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival has rendered him surplus to requirements. Barcelona are said to want to take him on to replace Sergio Aguero in January, and with no real future at Old Trafford, letting him play elsewhere is both fair to the player and better for the club’s finances.
Ronaldo, too, might also be on his way out. There is no doubting his talent or effectiveness. He has 13 goals in 18 matches, but he will be 37 in February, and now past 1,000 games for club and country. He is said to earn around £400,000 a week at United, and with the team in need of a refresh across the pitch, that money could probably be spent more effectively next season. Most importantly, despite his goals coming in decent numbers and at important times so far, he does not help Rangnick’s team play to the German’s desired tactics. Between Cavani and Ronaldo, it’s still an easy choice to pick the Portuguese, but next season that will probably become a harder choice when further signings are made.

Rangnick: Man Utd at full strength except for injured Pogba

The third player who is set to leave - and who should - is Paul Pogba. We can argue endlessly over who deserves the blame for the Frenchman’s failure at the club, and in truth it is probably the club’s failure to put him at the centre of a winning team that means he has not been able to live up to expectations. But nevertheless, the club and its fans are entitled to expect much more from someone who has shown much more at other clubs and for France. At this stage, apportioning blame matters far less than both the player and club trying something new. Even if by some surprising new circumstance they are offered the chance to give him a new contract, it would be a move made against overwhelming evidence that this is simply not the right fit.
There are other players who could leave in the summer, if not before then, Anthony Martial will raise a decent sum and his career has stalled in Manchester. Rashford, sadly, has not been able to improve as rapidly as he had in his first couple of years. Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred rarely exceed the mediocre. Of the defence, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot cannot be regarded as essential, and Juan Mata’s contract extension last year was ultimately pointless. Jesse Lingard’s late season flourish at West Ham has at least convinced the player that he can do better elsewhere, too.
January will not be the best time or place to do most of this work, but it can at least reduce the workload for the team’s hierarchy this summer. Cavani, Ronaldo and Pogba have produced some of United’s best moments of recent years, but they must soon be replaced.
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