Manchester United’s gruesome draw with Newcastle at the start of the week was an alarming reality check that showed how much work Ralf Rangnick has to do at Old Trafford, but for Roy Keane there was a chance to say “I told you so”, after another of his bold predictions came true.
United fans had been waiting 16 days between festive matches when their team finally returned to match at the start of the week, though some full-time players might have wished they hadn’t bothered.
Following a Covid-19 outburst, matches against Brentford and Brighton were both postponed, affecting the momentum that had been built up under their interim manager.
The peculiarity of his first four weeks as manager at Old Trafford is that United have only played four times under him and have recorded two wins and two draws, although they have not yet really convinced in any of those matches.
Rangnick arrived as a breath of fresh air with his no-nonsense, straightforward approach, though he has not been able to go on the pitch, while United still house many of the problems that proved to be harmful under former managers.
Despite a new-look formation that has seen a number of outfield players given prominent roles, this is still a site that lacks a clear identity; it fights to defend, makes weaker sides look colossal, has a slack midfield and struggles to function while taking care of their star attacking players.
It would be hard to say that the bubble has burst under the guidance of the new interim manager, but the way United’s draw at St James’ Park was conducted this week was certainly a worrying reality check as to how much improvement is needed this season.
With the January transfer window set to open this weekend, the temptation is once again to suggest that spending money will solve all the club’s problems, even though last summer showed that ‘winning the transfer market’ does not matter in terms of results on the pitch.
This is a problem that club legend Keane is well aware of. The Irishman has long offered reality checks with his comments as an expert who, although not always well timed, often gives a look at the broader picture when the club seems to be riding the wave of positivity and amplifying modest performances beyond , what they really are.
In the wake of United’s gloomy draw against Newcastle, a Keane clip has reappeared on social media two and a half years ago, where he warned that Ole Gunnar Solskjær would fail, just as Jose Mourinho had done due to the slippery standards on and off the pitch at Old Trafford.
He was right.
“I do not fall for the things that have been said that they will now play well,” Keane said after the defeat to Man City back in April 2019. “It’s the same players who threw Mourinho under the boss and they will do it. same against Ole.
“Leopards are not changing their places. There are too many bluffers in this club to get United back to the top.
“The fact that we say United are going for fourth place shows how the standards have dropped and they are in free fall, on and off the pitch.”
A full 32 months after these comments, Keane is once again proven right. After a turbulent start to the season, United find themselves with a new manager at the helm and are already looking to distort a potential top-4 ranking as a positive in a campaign where they should have been challenging for the title.
In defense of Rangnick, he has not yet had the chance to make sufficient changes to the squad as needed, but Keane’s warning is particularly relevant ahead of the January transfer window, where an overhaul is needed.
Recent weeks have proven that Solskjær was a problem, but not that problem at Old Trafford, and Rangnick’s long – term legacy will be defined by how successful he is in stopping the cycle that has plagued the club since Sir Alex Ferguson left.
He may not always read the space, but Keane gets it right again.
We’ve teamed up with LiveScore to invite fans to vote for their favorite results – the games that were much more than a score. Vote for the match that meant something to you here .