Manchester United 0, Manchester City 73
Manchester United scripted another unwanted record in the 2021/22 season by finishing with a goal difference of 0 at the end of the campaign. This basically means that they conceded as many goals as they scored throughout the season. The last time a team finished with a goal difference of 0 in the Premier League was in the 2019-20 season, when Sheffield United held the dubious honour. To put things into perspective, Manchester City finished with a +73 goal difference (99-26) and Liverpool finished with a +68.
The last time Manchester United did not finish a season with a positive goal difference was in the 1989-90 season when they conceded two more goals than the 45 they scored. In the 2020-21 season, the goal difference was +29 (73-44).
With the season over and Champions League hopes in tatters, Manchester United players and fans have no choice but to look forward to the next campaign under new manager Erik Ten Hag. .
But where did it all go wrong for a once heralded club, who signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in the same window? What was the malaise afflicting a club like United who ended their worst season in Premier League history, languishing in sixth place on 58 points?
According to ESPN, Ronaldo’s arrival from Juventus marked the beginning of the end for Edison Cavani and Anthony Martial. The former was less than impressed when asked to give up the number 7 shirt after carrying United through a Covid-riddled 2020-21 season and wanted to move to Barcelona. Even with Marcus Rashford’s dip in form, Martial was surprisingly overlooked by Solskjaer as well as Rangnick and had to settle for a loan spell at Sevilla where his sagging fortunes showed no signs of turning around.
According to sources cited by ESPN, senior United officials tried to persuade Rashford to set aside his off-field commitments to focus on restoring his form and fitness, but the player didn’t stick to it. account. He ended the season with only 5 goals.
ESPN also revealed that an agent for a senior player complained to the club that Ronaldo had been given more prominence than his client in promotional campaigns. The rot in the middle had definitely taken hold.
With Solskjaer shown the door after an embarrassing run of results that included a 5-0 thrashing by rivals Liverpool and a 4-1 mayhem by relegation-threatened Watford, United turned to Ralf Rangnick even when an Antonio Conte experienced in the Premier League was available in the market. ESPN claimed the senior brass at Old Trafford considered Conte to be “too demanding of players to suit our team”. He was overlooked and soon hired by Tottenham, who ended the season by qualifying for the Champions League.
When Rangnick arrived, ESPN revealed a player confessed to teammates that he “had to Google” the 63-year-old German. With Rangnick’s methods unable to deliver the desired results, tension in the locker room began to spill over with the team split into different camps.
“British players tended to stick together while many foreign boys took the initiative from Ronaldo,” a source told ESPN.
The most damning aspect of Rangnick’s reign was shattered by The Athletic who said Lars Kornetka, Rangnick’s assistant at Lokomotiv Moscow provided analysis live on United’s screen, with his thoughts conveyed by the coach Kieran McKenna at Rangnick at halftime. Kornetka had been suggested to join United as well but preferred to stay in Russia at Lokomotiv.
So Rangnick appreciating the opinions of someone who was not employed by United raised his eyebrows, even more so when he sidelined Paul Brand, United’s chief performance analyst who had access to multiple camera angles and substantial data, but Rangnick primarily wanted to hear the thoughts of Kornetka, who through remote work only had access to basic technology, the Athletic report said.
–Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 24, 2022
According to the same report, on match days, Kornetka would occasionally speak to Rangnick’s assistant, Ewan Sharp, and maintain his influence during matches, eventually accessing all available data in real time. Rather than relying solely on sideline dialogue with fellow coach Chris Armas, Rangnick wanted to hear Kornetka and use computer analysis to help decide on any tactical adjustments or substitutions, which significantly delayed the processes of decision making.
With Eric ten Hag as the next manager and many players on the move at the time of writing, United’s future looks shaky at best. Hag was present when a distraught United ended the season with a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace and he must know there is a difficult road ahead.