And the interim manager believes the club must find better solutions up front, if they are going to ever rival the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. Speaking after a woeful display at Everton, where they folded as soon as the home side scored – and in the words of goalkeeper David De Gea didn’t create a “proper chance” – the German said there was no threat from his team.
“We had almost four strikers on the pitch for 60 minutes, but we should be more penetrative into their box,” he said. “We have to get more players in the box. When we did in the second half, it was Harry Maguire (a defender) who won the aerial duel. We just didn’t have enough players in the box, and if we are in the box we need to win those duels – this is what other teams do in the Premier League.”
That is a damning verdict for a side that had Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Anthony Elanga on the pitch at various times. And despite all the millions spent, it points to a desperate need for a striker – or strikers – to be bought by the next manager, who provide that penetration in the box United so desperately lack.
With Rangnick set to be an advisor next season, that is a clear indication he will recommend the pursuit of a centre forward to replace Ronaldo… with Harry Kane a likely target. As for the other end of the pitch, it was what De Gea didn’t say that was most damning about United. In admitting his side were completely lacking at Goodison, the keeper offered an honest assessment of their reaction after what he described as a “lucky” Everton goal.
“They scored, then it looks like we have lost the game already,” he said, in a damning critique of the visitors’ performance. More damning even, than the brutally honest words he spoke. Because what he left unsaid, but implied implicitly, was that this United side lacks character, lacks fight, lacks heart. Those words, spoken blandly, suggested his team-mates just don’t care.
And he would be right to suggest that. The Old Trafford team went behind in the 27th minute. From there, they mustered two attempts on goal. Just two, in 70 further minutes, including stoppage time. One was a hopeful strike from distance by the appallingly anonymous Pogba, that was little more than a gift of possession back to the home team, midway through the second half.
The second was a turn and shot – the result of a long punt downfield – in the dying seconds from Ronaldo, which produced a decent save from Jordan Pickford. As De Gea said, neither were proper chances: “They were a couple of chances, but not big ones. I don’t think we created a proper, proper chance in the whole game.”
He finished his lament by suggesting: “This club deserves more.” And he is absolutely right. They were defeated by a kid in Anthony Gordon who is paid a fraction of their biggest stars; perhaps a 100th of Ronaldo’s wages. They were defeated as soon as his goal went in – and that suggests something rotten at the core of this United team.