One of the things that seems obvious in terms of the difference between Manchester United’s former manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the present boss, Ralf Rangnick, is whether they protect the players from media and public scrutiny.
In his short time at the helm, Rangnick has publicly spoken about injured players recovering away from Manchester – specifically Paul Pogba in Dubai – and put a stop to it. He claimed that Anthony Martial refused to play against Aston Villa recently.
Rangnick has also said at press conferences that Victor Lindelof asked for time off to be with his family after a home invasion and that Edinson Cavani asked for a couple of days off to spend with his family whilst in South America.
The interim manager also claimed yesterday that Jesse Lingard had asked for a couple of days off ‘to clear his mind’.
Both Martial and Lingard took to social media to dispute the claims, both insisting that they were told by Rangnick or the club they would not be included in the squad, rather than the other way around.
The club advised me to have time off due to personal reasons! But my headspace is clear and I’ll always be professional when called upon and give 100 percent
— Jesse Lingard (@JesseLingard) February 3, 2022
Some argue that Rangnick’s naming and shaming style endangers squad harmony and could cause a toxic atmosphere around the club; surely the manager should have the players’ backs?
Others, though, believe that these are all examples of a mollycoddled, privileged and lazy group of players and a culture that needs to be changed.
The Mirror’s David McDonald tweeted yesterday ‘Man Utd pandering to their players with Lingard granted time off to “clear his mind” after not getting a loan move and Cavani allowed to miss tomorrow’s FA Cup tie because of jet lag. Unthinkable under Sir Alex Ferguson.’
Man Utd pandering to their players with Lingard granted time off to "clear his mind" after not getting a loan move and Cavani allowed to miss tomorrow's FA Cup tie because of jet lag. Unthinkable under Sir Alex Ferguson #MUFC
— David McDonnell (@DiscoMirror) February 3, 2022
It may or may not be ‘unthinkable under Sir Alex’. Players were given time off at times, Peter Schmeichel and Cristiano Ronaldo for example – although it could be argued that was on the manager’s judgment and not the players’ insistence.
Where Rangnick arguably is being clever, though, is that he is not forbidding the namby-pamby requests from his players – which could cause outright mutiny. He agrees to the requests but then makes them public.
This has the effect of the player suffering the humiliation of fans knowing what they have asked for, and why. I’ll grant you your wish, and let’s see how it holds up to public scrutiny.
That humiliation is why both Martial and Lingard rushed to defend themselves on social media. It may also be what causes players to think twice about making such requests in the future.
‘First Martial now Jesse Lingard. Ralf Rangnick is definitely not lying, he has been open and consistent. If anything, he’s exposing the player power that has been going on at Man Utd,’ was the verdict of @UtdFaithfuls, and it is hard to disagree.
Pundit and United legend Gary Neville also hinted on Twitter that it was all a little out of control, saying ‘Sue wanted a day off, Alan took a holiday , John was ill, Barry handed his notice in, Clive said he might be there and Barbara will be on the minutes.’
Sue wanted a day off , Alan took a holiday , John was ill, Barry handed his notice in , Clive said he might be there and Barbara will be on the minutes ! https://t.co/Acjq9bhIFD
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) February 3, 2022
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, you get a sense that there is a grown up in charge at United again for the first time since Sir Alex left. It is not iron-fist discipline, it is perhaps intelligent parenting. How the squad responds to it, time will tell.