Boos rang out around the ground last night when Manchester United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick substituted Mason Greenwood on the hour mark of a dismal 0-1 home defeat to Wolves.
It seemed a bizarre decision when the team was chasing the game and Greenwood had been one of United’s best performers.
When asked after the game why he had sacrificed the 20-year-old, Rangnick explained:
‘The question was shall I take off Mason or shall I take off Edi[son Cavani].
‘We decided to keep Edi as the most offensive, the more ‘striker’ of the two of them and take off Mason.
‘We know how the fans like Mason but, until then his effort, and performance was not outstanding but at least he was one of the better players.’
‘Mason was good but I had to take somebody off.’
But this explanation poses more questions than it answers. Why was it only a choice between Cavani and Greenwood? Why not Ronaldo, or Jadon Sancho, neither of whom had performed as well as the academy graduate?
The Athletic’s Adam Crafton noted that ‘It was hard to resist the conclusion that Rangnick had spared more famous names the humiliation.’
The Times’ Henry Winter agreed, saying ‘Ronaldo was fortunate not to be dragged off on the hour mark, when Rangnick inexplicably withdrew Mason Greenwood, triggering some boos from the Stretford End.’
There was also no question in The Telegraph’s Jason Burt’s mind that it was the wrong choice.
‘It was curious that Rangnick’s first change was to take off Mason Greenwood who had been the liveliest performer in an admittedly moribund field,’ he said.
The Independent’s Mark Critchley conceded that ‘something had to change,’ before adding ‘ … that something wasn’t Greenwood, but Rangnick replaced United’s brightest spark on the hour mark.’
And making a clean sweep of the broadsheet’s reports, The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson confirmed: ‘Only Greenwood’s rapier thrusts appeared to offer the insipid home outfit a chance of what would be a shock strike yet when Fernandes came on it was the England youngster who was hooked.
‘This caused boos and Rangnick’s thought-process baffled – Sancho had been far less effective.’
Greenwood was often the first to be substituted under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the Norwegian would explain that he did not want to overplay a teenager who still had to fill out physically.
If this is still an issue for Rangnick, he did not offer it up as a reason in the post-match interviews.
The decision to bring on Bruno Fernandes was a good one. United needed a creative spark to find a goal, and that nearly worked. But sacrificing (the only) one creative spark to bring on another is a decision that journalists and fans alike are finding it hard to understand.