Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has expressed optimism that might not take long for the club to challenge for major honours again, having seen the likes of Liverpool build over the space of just ‘two or three’ transfer windows.
Rangnick, who has been praised for his honesty since taking up his short-term role at Old Trafford, reiterated after beating Brentford on Monday the need to strengthen in every position other than goalkeeper to improve and replace players who are leaving.
Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata were all given the opportunity to bid farewell to fans in the final home game of the season. Phil Jones was another who got an unexpected run out and may have played his last game at Old Trafford.
Paul Pogba, who has been sidelined with injury, also remains on course to go. But there was no farewell opportunity for Jesse Lingard, whose brother later described United as ‘classless’ in a stinging post on social media.
There additionally remain doubts about Cristiano Ronaldo, with fans and pundits alike scanning his entire match-winning performance on Monday night for clues and hints as to his intentions.
Rangnick said only last month that it might take up to 10 new players, upgrading a previous assessment from ‘at least four or five’.
"Apart from goalkeeping, where we have three excellent goalkeepers, in all other areas there will be players leaving the club,” the German told Sky Sports after the final whistle against Brentford. “I wouldn't put focus on special areas of the pitch - it should go through the whole team.”
Incoming new permanent manager Erik ten Hag has had limited involvement so far because he remains under contract at Ajax and in an Eredivisie title fight – it was recently reported the Dutchman has asked United understandably not to contact him 48 hours prior to an Ajax game.
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Listen now to 90min's Manchester United podcast, The Promised Land, with Scott Saunders & Rob Blanchette. On this week's show they discuss Ralf Rangnick's new role as Austria coach and whether the club should build around Cristiano Ronaldo.
“It's obvious quite a few players will leave and there is a need for top-quality players. I strongly believe that, if everyone works together, we can bring Manchester United back to where we need to be,” Rangnick went on to explain.
“Other clubs only needed two or three transfer windows to challenge but from now on we need to bring in top-quality players who really help raise the level. If this happens then I don't think it should take too long.”
Rangnick also stressed the need for what he called ‘modern strikers’, citing the examples of versatile forwards like Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish at Manchester City. Liverpool stars Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz would appear to fall into a similar category.
“Gabriel Jesus has hardly played and now he's playing regularly. If you ask me if he's a central striker or a winger, is Grealish a striker, they can switch and rotate,” Rangnick explained. “We don't have that many. Mason Greenwood would have been those players, but he's no longer part of the squad. [Anthony] Martial went on loan at Sevilla, Cavani has been injured.”