Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes has moved to deflect criticism away from Ralf Rangnick for their catastrophic campaign last season, blaming the atmosphere and confidence around the squad rather than the ideas of the manager.
The Red Devils were expected to challenge for the title in August 2021, but by November they had sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjear and by January, it was Rangnick at the helm.
Though he bought the side into the 21st century tactically, the Austrian was repeatedly on record saying that the squad needed a major overhaul in the summer. Unsurprisingly, after nearly guiding United out of the Europa League spots and into the Conference League, he didn’t stay on.
Now, speaking with the Athletic, Fernandes has revealed why, in his opinion, Rangnick’s ideas failed to take hold at Old Trafford during his stint in charge.
“Ralf came with his idea of playing with intensity and pressing and how he was used to playing in Germany”, he explained. But it did not quite work out with us because there was an atmosphere between everyone where the confidence was low and everything was really down. It is really difficult to come off when you are in that run.”
“It is nothing to do with Ralf”, the midfielder added. “He tried his best. He is a good manager with good ideas but it did not fit with everyone. This is because the team had been built with Ole and his idea, and then a new manager comes in with (his own idea). That probably could be the difference at the club because every manager who has been here has had different ideas, so they bring different players in.”
But, where he failed, there are shoots of recovery from Erik ten Hag, helped of course by a massive outlay in the summer transfer window.
And, according to Manchester United’s creator-in-chief, it is togetherness and discipline that has brought on a run of results that includes wins over Arsenal and Liverpool, and currently sees them six points off the top of the Premier League with a game in hand.
“First of all, he has an idea,” Fernandes began. “He has a style. You have to follow his rules. He is strict on that. And I like that. He has brought discipline, which is something I think we missed in the past. Everyone must be on the same page.
“That is what Pep (Guardiola) and (Jurgen) Klopp have been doing for years, because they have stability in the club and in the way they choose the transfer market and build the team, which is really important for them to get the rewards.
“He went straight to his rules, to his demands, what he wants from us. He’d say, ‘I want to play with us always pressing on the ball, be hungry to do good things, to fight for the team, to be tough to beat’. I could feel in the training sessions after Brentford that we were going to do something different.”
Whether or not the honeymoon period will wear off, or if this is the beginning of a new era in Manchester United history, remains to be decided.