Rangnick, remember, spoke about the possibility of ‘recommending’ himself for the permanent job if things went well for him as an interim at Old Trafford. At the very least, we were led to believe that he would have an active role in choosing his successor.
Fast forward five months and Rangnick has been exposed as little more than a stop-gap. A stooge set up to fail. A man who had as little influence over what happens next at United as he did over United’s worst Premier League season on record.
After it finished with defeat at Crystal Palace on Sunday and United only avoiding the embarrassment of Europa Conference League football by a whisker, Rangnick still hadn’t spoken to Ten Hag or met the new man in person. Heck, he didn’t even know the Dutchman was at Selhurst Park to witness United’s final indignity.
Rangnick had no say in Ten Hag’s appointment and it’s fanciful to think he will have any meaningful input going forward in the vague consultancy role he intends juggling with his new job as manager of Austria.
Ralf Rangnick has endured a dismal period as interim manager of Manchester United
During his opening press conference, Rangnick half-jokingly said he could take the job full-time
The German took interim charge at United in late November and is set to take on a consultancy role
Asked about that on Monday, Ten Hag’s response was curt. ‘That’s on the club,’ he said. ‘I speak with a lot of people, but I will draw my own line.’
Rangnick’s arrival (as an interim manager to replace the caretaker manager who replaced the manager), his departure and everything in between has been an absolute shambles.
It says much about the German’s impact that some players describe the most uplifting moment in the second half of the season as being Michael Carrick’s farewell speech after finishing his three-game stint as caretaker between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking in November and Rangnick’s arrival.
United have been awful this season, ending the campaign in sixth and with their lowest points tally
The Red Devils suffered heavy defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City in the league
Carrick finished with two wins and a draw – not bad from games against Villarreal, Chelsea and Arsenal – but he was already despairing of this group of players.
United’s football director John Murtough began talking about Rangnick two weeks before Solskjaer was sacked, perhaps forgetting that this was a man who had made his name building long-term projects in Germany and Austria, not as a troubleshooter parachuting into a six-month contract in England.
As much as Rangnick is respected in his homeland, there was also widespread surprise that a 63-year-old who hadn’t coached a team in two-and-a-half years, and was working as sports and development manager for Lokomotiv Moscow, should be hand-picked to take over one of the world’s biggest clubs.
Rangnick would have loved to bring his long-time assistant Lars Kornetka with him to Manchester. Instead, Kornetka stepped up to replace him at Lokomotiv while, bizarrely, being asked to put together scouting reports on United’s opponents from Moscow. Players and staff found themselves having to wait for bulletins from Russia.
Senior players including Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane requested a change in tactics
Rangnick had little influence during his time at the club and did not play a role in the appointment of Erik ten Hag
His assistant, Chris Armas, faced ridicule from within the squad and was regularly criticised
Rangnick turned to Chris Armas and Ewan Sharp, a coaching partnership forged in the Red Bull ranks whose cv included being sacked by Toronto FC last summer.
Armas was lampooned as TV comedy coach Ted Lasso by some players while others had to google the character when the joke came to light.
Their training sessions cut little ice with a squad that included the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Edinson Cavani.
Rangnick, meanwhile, remained a withdrawn figure offering little in the way of warmth or communication. This was a United squad in need of man-management not a gegenpress.
He admitted at the weekend that it was an unrealistic to expect such a high-energy approach from a group of players lacking the physicality required to execute it.
The squad, meanwhile, complained that they weren’t given enough preparation or guidance of what was expected of them.
It came to a head when a delegation of senior players – Ronaldo, Varane, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes – called a meeting with Rangnick to request a change of tactics.
Other players were said to be flabbergasted that the manager continued to pick Fred ahead of Pogba in midfield.
The mood in an already despondent camp grew worse and it was little surprise that Alex Telles and Hannibal Mejbri were involved in a heated altercation in training earlier this month.
Players were said to be flabbergasted that Fred (left) was picked over Paul Pogba
Rangnick, meanwhile, blamed the Champions League defeat to Atletico Madrid for United’s season fizzling out.
‘It was like someone popped a balloon,’ he said at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
‘The big goal of some of our top players was the Champions League. After the defeat against Atletico, you could literally feel it in training that we didn’t have the same level of energy or concentration.’
Yet it was Rangnick who gave the squad time off after the Atletico defeat and then returned from a Caribbean holiday a day after his players.
Sportsmail revealed in January that he mistakenly turned up for training at Carrington after giving them another day off, while club insiders say the former Schalke coach was ‘not a morning person’.
United’s Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid sparked a poor run of form
Rangnick’s greatest benefit to United may turn out to be what he said rather than anything he did. He became increasingly forthright in public about the problems he inherited at Old Trafford, and his comment about the squad needing ‘open heart surgery’ certainly hit the mark.
The regular references to the success he enjoyed in Germany and Austria were those of a man who didn’t want to be tarnished by a situation that was not of his making.
Still, United will be happy to consign Rangnick’s forgettable spell in charge at Old Trafford to history. It’s time to move on and the bar has been set staggeringly low for Erik ten Hag.