As Manchester United were sent crashing out of the Champions League by Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side, past criticism from Jose Mourinho seems more relevant than ever
Six Manchester United managers have sat in the Old Trafford dug-out since the Red Devils won a home Champions League knockout match. United were ground down and frustrated by a typical dogged and resolute Atletico Madrid performance that may as well be trademarked by Diego Simeone.
In terms of personnel, Ralf Rangnick’s side should have had more than enough to overcome the reigning La Liga champions. But Simeone, a manager who has dragged Atletico to two Champions League finals, two Europa League titles and currently commands a salary higher than any manager on the planet, has proven that a collective identity and strategy is often more than enough to see of any team .
His undying, determined, and often nasty approach is ingrained into every Atletico player before they cross the white lines onto the Wanda Metropolitano pitch. New managers, new signings, new captains, new rebuilds, and another new project has been uttered in the wake of their exit, but as Jose Mourinho said, these monumental changes of direction have already been done before.
“In the last seven years, Manchester City was champions twice and if you want, say three times. They were second twice. That’s heritage, “Mourinho said in an astonishing rant in 2018.
“Do you know what is also heritage? [Nicolas] Otamendi, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho, [David] Silva, [Raheem] Sterling, [Sergio] Aguero. They are investments from the past, not from the last two years. “
Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Paul Pogba and many others are said to be in danger of being shown the door at United. Maguire and Wan-Bissaka have been experiencing the same levels of intense scrutiny as the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
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Smalling was later loaned and then sold to Rome, while injuries and new signings has marginalized Jones to the point he has made more appearances for the U23s than the first team since 2020. Research from the CIES Football Observatory states United possess the second most expensive squad in world football.
The financial value of Manchester City’s squad is only just ahead of United, but in footballing terms they are lightyears ahead of the Reds. The critical lack of togetherness and direction has not only been prominent in Rangnick’s reign but in most United teams since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
The current crop at United need to be brought onto the same page, not torn up and started all over again. “If United bring in Mbappe and Haaland this summer, it doesn’t matter, United aren’t going to win the league. It doesn’t matter who you bring in, it needs to be from the top down,” an adamant Rio Ferdinand said after the match.
“Once you get the right manager and get the right person in place, then it’s a minimum two or three years before you start challenging for trophies. By the way, Liverpool and City have set a high bar now”. Neither Klopp nor Guardiola won a trophy in their first season at the club, as they were afforded the latitude to shape and mold their teams.
Ole Gunnar Solskaer was afforded some leeway until Cristiano Ronaldo, Sancho and Raphael Varane were dropped into his side along with a huge boulder of expectation. Any wheels put into motion from their second-place finish from the previous season came off with terrifying speed and Rangnick, the supposed professor of the Gegenpress, was bought in on a short-term basis.
Rangnick’s time in the boardroom could prove to be a success if he, and the next permanent manager, are granted the necessary time to plant the foundations of a title challenging team. Football heritage is made over time and United’s next bosses will need a lot of it if they are to challenge for the top competitions.