In his 3rd Premier League game Ralf Rangnick perhaps learned a little of what this Manchester United team are. We have witnessed a club who have mostly frustrated us since Sir Alex Ferguson retired 8 years ago. There have been moments of course, the odd cup wins, the good runs, coming 2nd last season was no mean feat, but all in all this is not the Manchester United of the 1990s and 2000s. Of course eras change, clubs dip in and out of form, for 8 years is a long time and Manchester United are a club who demand to be known on the global stage. How it must have pulled at their heart and purse strings to see Manchester City and PSG take the Asian market by storm. Simply put United are not a top level club anymore, historically that cannot be argued, but presently it can.
Rangnick had started his tenure with tepid wins over Crystal Palace and Norwich both games won 1-0, but in them Palace and Norwich had chances to snatch a draw at least. Their final Champions League game was effectively a dead rubber as they had already qualified and that finished 1-1 against Young Boys, that doesn't have to be analysed. The draw against Newcastle does. We would be lying to ourselves if we thought that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was still in charge of United, but of course he was ousted for Rangnick. Newcastle have been poor this season, Manchester City came to St James' Park recently and didn't break sweat in a 4-0 win, and yet Manchester United found themselves 1-0 down early on and it was deserved. The Magpies were the better team and it took an Edinson Cavani equaliser to gloss over a Solskjaer like performance. That may sound unfair on the Norwegian who had his fair share of excellent results as manager of the Red Devils but was also questioned on his tactics. Rangnick is supposed to be Mr.Tactician, but little seems to have changed and this Newcastle performance underlined that. Of course Rangnick needs time and he hasn't lost yet as United manager but one can only see that being a matter of time where United start to struggle for consistency and form. Could one presume that if United had not fumbled over whether to sack Solskjaer that they would have been able to acquire the signature of Antonio Conte before Tottenham came in?
Staying in Manchester, Manchester City have been superb, they are consistently winning games but are scoring goals too, 17 in just their last 3 games. The club really built their title success around their defence last season and that seems to be the way they are going with this one. But despite not having an out and out recognised top forward, it doesn't matter. Goals can come from midfield in the shape of the excellent Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling has really come back into form this season after his future was questioned by Pep Guardiola, now it seems highly unlikely that the England international will be going anywhere soon. Guardiola is so confident in his teams ability that he is willing to sell Ferran Torres to Barcelona. Torres did start the season well up front but has been missing for almost 3 months due to a foot injury. Of course City are due to make a £30m profit if he is sold but it is also a nice touch from Pep whose heart is with Barcelona and he is doing Xavi the manager of Barca a huge favour. Of course the Spanish giants have lost Sergio Aguero after his short term with them had to come to an end because of his heart problems and Aguero has had to retire from the game. He remains a legend at Manchester City and in the Premier League.
Finally the new Covid-19 variant Omricon has obviously affected many millions of people and that is going to pour over into the football community. We have lost 15 games in the month of December and one has to wonder if the FA are on the ball? Emergency meetings have taken place between managers and then captains of the club and Antonio Conte probably summed it up the best by claiming that he was talking to a wall as decisions had already been made. Currently fans are allowed to attend games as normal but is England behind the times once again? In parts of Europe the limits have come down to 5,000 fans per game and the chance to use five substitutions is still allowed. Should one wonder why the limit of three still exists in the Premier League?
This is a pandemic that must be taken seriously and the one fault line seems to be that players are catching the virus easily but also just as easily are shaking it off and getting on with their careers. Football fans in some cases are dying of the same virus, and maybe more needs to be done from the players point of view to get that fact across. It is painful to see empty stadiums again, but maybe doing that on a short term basis can mean that long term we won't be affected to such a degree again.