For all the talk of a new regime, it has been a depressingly familiar story in terms of United’s recruitment, after around 11 first team squad members were shed this summer.
Five summer disasters that have Manchester United heading for a new low
New structure, same problems
The drawn-out departure of detested former executive vice chairman Ed Woodward was seen as the end of an era and the start of a new one.
No individual was singled out for more blame in United’s post Sir Alex Ferguson slump than Woodward, and his handing over of the post to Richard Arnold was seen as a brave new dawn for the club.
Woodward’s right-hand man and chief transfer negotiator, also resigned, and the club’s football board and scouting departments underwent a complete overhaul.
The main victims of the cull in the scouting department were Jim Lawlor and Marcel Bout, while John Murtough seemed to have seen his director of football position strengthened when Andy O’Boyle was appointed as his assistant. Former player Darren Fletcher remained as technical director.
The massive shift in personnel was bound to lead to a new dawn, a fresh culture, and an end to unproductive transfer windows, right?
Wrong. For all the talk of a new regime, it has been a depressingly familiar story in terms of United’s recruitment after around 11 first team squad members were shed this summer.
The saga involving Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong—new manager Erik ten Hag’s number one target—has been emblematic of United’s long-standing inability to get a deal over the line.
Rivals Manchester City and Liverpool appear to have far less trouble in completing a signing and responding to their managers’ requirements.
Christian Eriksen looks like an instant hit with the fans; left-back Tyrell Malacia has promise; and defender Lisandro Martinez was highly regarded at Ajax, despite standing just 5’9”.
But all three were, effectively, ten Hag’s direct selections, players known to him from Holland – as is de Jong – and United fans are still waiting for their new transfer brain trust to actually deliver an original signing.
It led to the farcical situation on Sunday, even before the defeat to Brighton, when ten Hag moved for another player with whom he has close links, former West Ham and Stoke striker Marko Arnautovic.
A move for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot yesterday was another that underwhelmed supporters, but at least the French international was an “original” selection, being neither Dutch nor a Dutch league product.
“Give the man a chance,” said Roy Keane on Sunday. “Give him money. He’s got to recruit. There are issues upstairs at the club. There were more protests from the supporters today. "Big big problems at United.”
The jettisoning of Ralf Rangnick
Yes, the German coach hardly enhanced his coaching reputation after taking over from caretaker Michael Carrick in December and failing to deliver a top-four finish.
But the straight-talking Rangnick endeared himself to supporters for his honest appraisal of just where United’s problems lie.
He spoke of the club needing open heart surgery, and possibly up to double figures in new recruits being needed in the next one or two transfer windows.
Rangnick’s reputation in the game, and his knowledge of the Red Bull models of player development and recruitment in Central Europe, were obvious plusses and explained why United offered a deal that would have seen him remain with them as a consultant this season.
That, clearly, was not in ten Hag’s thinking with the Dutchman steadfastly refusing to meet with Rangnick even after he had been confirmed as new United manager well before season’s end.
Unsurprisingly, Rangnick’s consultancy was conveniently cancelled and the veteran consigned to the history books – presumably, according to the Ten Hag’s wishes.
His honesty and scouting abilities could have been of great use to United this summer.
The Ronaldo fiasco
To give United the benefit of the doubt, they could be excused for not appreciating that their iconic forward would effectively demand to leave the club this summer.
Yet, at the same time, part of the role of the new management structure should surely involve having a handle on players, particularly the high-profile ones, and any possible dramas that might be about to explode.
Ronaldo’s pronouncements caught United on the hop and left them with only Anthony Martial, who seemed destined to leave the club at the end of last season, as a recognised striker.
Again, a haphazard, unfit-for-purpose transfer policy has failed to sign adequate cover in the forward positions, which, bearing in mind that Ronaldo is 37, was negligent to begin with.
The chaos and distractions that a Ronaldo sideshow could generate this season do not bear thinking about in the light of Sunday’s defeat.
A worsening mood around Old Trafford
Avram Glazer was on hand on Sunday to witness demonstrations against his family and the owners’ attempts to improve relations with supporters have failed miserably.
Supporters could not be faulted for their backing of their team on Sunday but, equally, it was no surprise when the mood soured after Brighton’s opening goal.
Supporters are shellshocked and, more importantly, so too are many of the players that underperformed last season.
Fred and Scott McTominay bore the brunt of anger about the United loss – understandably given their performances – but players like Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Diogo Dalot and Harry Maguire look rock bottom in confidence.
Some new signings and a handful of victories could quickly change that mood and dynamic. But there are no signs of either coming to Old Trafford at present.