Sir Jim Ratcliffe: What issues need addressing at Man Utd?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe sits alongside Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Jim Ratcliffe sat alongside Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United 2-2 draw with Tottenham

Sir Jim Ratcliffe got a first look at his £1.25bn investment at Old Trafford as Manchester United drew Sunday’s Premier League encounter with Tottenham.

Before the game, the 71-year-old cut a shy figure as he addressed the media, saying he was “excited” to be inside the stadium he will either rebuild or replace.

The British billionaire businessman spent the match sat next to 82-year-old Sir Alex Ferguson in the directors’ box, who was Ratcliffe’s age when he stepped down as manager in 2013. Since Ferguson left, the club he built to dominate the English game has fallen from grace in a quite catastrophic manner.

With their ‘We Want Glazers Out’ chants, United’s supporters know who they blame for the current mess – with the club never having fewer points or scored less goals at this stage of a Premier League season.

Ratcliffe and Ineos football club board representatives Sir Dave Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc will draw their own conclusions about what needs to change – and the belief is Ratcliffe will be ruthless.

Former United defender Gary Neville told Sky Sports: “I think it has to be a positive end for the season. Erik ten Hag will be judged between now and then. It is an audition for everyone at the club in that Ratcliffe and Brailsford will be taking over imminently and will make some big decisions on and off the pitch.”

‘Man Utd has deteriorated massively’ – ownership model

Regulations around his purchase meant Ratcliffe was unable to answer any meaningful questions about his future plans until confirmation from the Premier League is received at some point next month.

Significant figures inside the club say Ratcliffe’s presence is overwhelmingly positive and it is a benefit to have people like Brailsford on hand who will have the power to agree – or reject – ideas and plans, and clearly execute their own.

Neville, whose own club Salford City sit fourth-bottom of League Two, added: “Over the last 10 years it has deteriorated massively at Manchester United. Brailsford’s background isn’t football but it is elite performance and he will know this club is not an elite environment at the moment.

“There is a lot to do, the club needs a shock and then it stands a chance with this disruption in the board room. He isn’t just going to idly watch what is happening, having spent so much money on the club and a lot of people at the club will find it quite difficult.

“The club has become a graveyard for a lot of players. I have spoken to players before and told them ‘move to Man Utd, you won’t regret it, it is a magic club’. Looking back, that looks like bad advice. Harry Maguire was wanted by Man City and he would have been a success there.

“The owners have not been present for the last 10 years, and haven’t had the right people in the right positions. It is unbelievable.”

Former midfielder Roy Keane said: “The club needed a change but it is going to take time.

“We hope there will be better decision making in terms of recruitment because it has not been good enough. But hopefully he (Ratcliffe) can get United back competing at the top.”

‘You don’t graduate straight into top job’ – recruitment & lack of firepower

Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund celebrate scoring against Tottenham
Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund both scored against Tottenham

Sunday was the first time Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund have scored in the same game. Between them, they still only have six Premier League goals this season.

It is scant return given the former is an established England international, who broke the 30-goal barrier for the first time last season, and the latter cost £72m when United signed him from Serie A outfit Atalanta in the summer.

In all likelihood, Brazilian Antony should have completed the quartet given he is now the second-most expensive player in United’s history. However, he has been ineffective, has neither scored nor created a goal so far this season, and has lost his place to 19-year-old Alejandro Garnacho.

Speaking to Sky Sports, former United skippers Neville and Keane were dismissive of the club’s firepower.

“That first half is the best Rashford has been this season – it’s not a high bar,” said Neville.

“I do not blame the players (Antony and Hojlund) because those price tags are too high. They are £30-40m players who should be second or third choice behind an experienced forward line. You don’t graduate from university and get a top job. Expect a young player to take the top job in world football – centre-forward at Man Utd? You don’t ask that.”

Keane was typically blunt: “You can’t keep waiting for players. Yes, Hojlund needed time to bed in but you have to that real desire to put the ball in the back of the net.

“He should be learning his trade from the bench. Rashford’s desire needs to change. He has been going through the motions a little bit. He had an amazing season last season, signs a new deal and you hope he will kick on but I don’t see it. He was at it today though.”

Ten Hag was more forgiving: “When the front players are not scoring it goes through the whole team. It makes everyone insecure, starting with the front players.

“It makes them eager when they’re not scoring, they play with less confidence. But we know when we can put out Garnacho, Hojlund, Rashford and behind have Bruno (Fernandes) and (Christian) Eriksen we must be a threat.”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe meets members of the media before Manchester United's 2-2 draw with Tottenham
Sir Jim Ratcliffe met members of the media before Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham

‘You have no clue what you will get’ – style of play

United had 36% possession at Old Trafford. They had nine shots compared to Tottenham’s 16. They had two shots on target – so you could argue they were clinical.

Others will claim it is further evidence the transition United were supposed to be making from the counter-attacking days under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the passing style Tottenham seem to have mastered in a matter of months under Ange Postecoglou has not materialised a season-and-a-half into Ten Hag’s reign.

“I am worried about a lack of consistency and pattern of play at Man Utd,” said Neville. “I am scratching my head a little bit because this is a guy who has coached with Pep Guardiola.

“When Louis van Gaal came here, he was able to play a distinct style of play. Why aren’t we seeing a distinct style of play?”

Keane added: “It is just about hanging in there and surviving at the moment. There is a lack of quality, a lack of belief. The Man Utd of today is hard work, a struggle, a real lack of goals.

“There was a bit of fight but it is a long way back for the team. You have absolutely no clue what you will get from Man Utd week after week.”

Ten Hag will argue injuries have wrecked any semblance of tactical cohesion. But with his senior players starting to return, the assessment will be more damning.

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