CHRIS WHEELER: The lack of fight in Man United’s disaster at Liverpool was alarming… but is it any wonder players aren’t putting their bodies on the line? So many like Pogba and Lingard are leaving and they’ve stopped caring
- The worrying aspect of Man United’s capitulation at Liverpool was lack of fight
- But they have a temporary boss and half a squad who won’t be there next year
- Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard played at Anfield but will leave for nothing
- The situation has been allowed to deteriorate through poor decision-making
Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Ralf Rangnick caught up with his old friend Jurgen Klopp at Anfield late on Tuesday night following Liverpool’s latest skewering of Manchester United.
Even by the dire standards set by United this season, Rangnick looked shell-shocked by what he had just witnessed. It’s safe to assume a few home truths would have been shared with his German compatriot.
On the eve of the 4-0 defeat, he claimed the problems in United’s squad could be put right in as few as two transfer windows. Afterwards, Rangnick admitted that they are six years behind Liverpool.
Even by the dire standards set by Man United, Ralf Rangnick looked shell-shocked at Anfield
He said his players would go to Anfield looking to win. In the end, they didn’t even compete.
Six fouls, and just two in the first half, is unheard of for a United team against their fiercest rivals. Two yellow cards, two shots — one on target — and two corners. A paltry 28 per cent possession.
It took the late introduction of teenager Hannibal Mejbri to earn some praise from former United favourite Gary Neville for putting himself about in a way his team-mates couldn’t.
‘I’ve never seen a Man United team wilt and be as flaky in a game of football in my 40 years,’ sighed Neville.
It took the late introduction of teenager Hannibal Mejbri to earn some praise from Gary Neville
At Anfield, Paul Pogba started even though he is headed for the Old Trafford exit this summer
WHO WILL BE LEAVING OLD TRAFFORD?
PAUL POGBA – limped off at Anfield inside 10 minutes and may not play for United again. Will leave as a free agent.
EDINSON CAVANI – disappointing second season plagued by injury. Doesn’t seem in a hurry to play again before leaving.
ERIC BAILLY – decision to select Phil Jones ahead of him against Liverpool was a clear indication of how much he has fallen out of favour.
DEAN HENDERSON – warmed the bench for the 32nd time this season at Anfield. Just three appearances as David de Gea’s No 2.
JESSE LINGARD – re-appeared in the last two games including coming on against Liverpool, but another who will go as a free agent.
NEMANJA MATIC – has already confirmed he will leave Old Trafford this summer after deciding not to trigger a 12-month contract extension.
JUAN MATA – must regret signing a one-year deal to stay after making just seven appearances including two starts.
PHIL JONES – thrown in for his third game of the season at Anfield and then subbed at half-time. Needs a fresh start elsewhere.
ANTHONY MARTIAL – due back from an underwhelming loan spell at Sevilla but unlikely to stay long after making it clear he wants out.
ANDREAS PEREIRA – spent four of the last six seasons out on loan and will finally leave if United can do a deal with Flamengo.
The worrying aspect of United’s capitulation wasn’t that they were short of Liverpool in quality. We knew that from the 5-0 thrashing at Old Trafford in October and the 22-point gap in the table.
It was the lack of fight from their players in what is meant to be the biggest rivalry in English football.
Right now, United are the polar opposite of a Liverpool team relentlessly pursuing a Quadruple.
But what should we expect? This is a mess entirely of United’s making. They are competing for Champions League football next season with a temporary manager and half a squad who won’t be there to reap the benefits.
At Anfield, Paul Pogba started alongside Nemanja Matic even though both players are heading for the exit this summer. When Pogba was injured, Jesse Lingard replaced him. Lingard is going too.
Nobody is questioning their professionalism, but is it any wonder they aren’t putting their bodies on the line?
‘Matic came out and said the other night that he is going to leave Manchester United,’ said former club skipper Roy Keane. ‘I just wonder where his mindset is because he is leaving the club.
‘You look at the team. There was no heart, no soul, no leaders. There is disarray at this football club, from the top to the bottom.’
Pogba and Lingard will leave for nothing this summer. Edinson Cavani will go too, having been persuaded to sign a new one-year deal and then being blindsided by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Anthony Martial, Dean Henderson, Donny van de Beek, Eric Bailly, Juan Mata and Phil Jones could all claim to be victims of broken promises over first-team opportunities.
The players have taken their fair share of criticism and deservedly so. ‘Disgrace — not fit to wear the shirt’ read the banner displayed at the club’s training base by protesters last week.
That’s only one half of the equation, however. Is it any surprise the players can’t match Liverpool’s intensity when the situation at United has been allowed to deteriorate so badly for so long through poor decision-making?
Rangnick inherited a group desperately low on morale and was shocked by what he found.
When Pogba was injured early on, Jesse Lingard – who is also going on a free – replaced him
After Tuesday’s defeat, Rangnick estimated that up to 10 new signings will arrive this summer, which surprised agents who believe United’s transfer budget could drop to £20million without guaranteed Champions League income.
United decided not to pursue Antonio Conte after they sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Mauricio Pochettino’s camp feel that more effort could have been made to secure his services.
Rangnick’s short-term appointment simply hasn’t worked out, and a consultancy role that is said to involve working just six days a month raises questions over the long-term benefits as well.
The mess doesn’t look like being cleared up any time soon. No wonder Erik ten Hag is taking his time.
Edinson Cavani (R) will go too while Anthony Martial (L) could claim to be a victim of broken promises
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