Manchester United Thread

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Punchy Bassett

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They usually don't respond when its time for them to take it....

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They didn't handle this one too well, it's been deleted now which I think is pathetic from Optus Sports, they've had more than enough digs at us this year.
 

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Crimson King

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Jaysus, reading that Whitwell article about the season and it sounds like there is a *ton of work that is required both on and off the field to get us back to where we belong. Neither the management, coaching staff or players come out in any sort of positive light. Also, seems like Ralf could be sidelined now..
 

11kgm

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Anyone else prepped for a summer of disappointment on the transfer front after being linked with every man and his dog?
im expecting like Moyes all summer linked to everyone

Sign McGinn on the last day
 

Crimson King

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Nah, I think we will get our business done nice and early to give fans renewed hope/excitement, plus to hype up the preseason tour.

Whether we get our 1st or 2nd choice targets, that's another story.
 

Crimson King

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For those interested here is the Whitwell article (long read)

Ralf Rangnick’s reign has ended in failure.

Manchester United salvaged a Europa League spot despite a final-day defeat 1-0 by Crystal Palace but had long given up on qualifying for the Champions League. They finished the season in sixth in the Premier League with a goal difference of zero; consigned to being largely an irrelevance as the drama happened elsewhere on an unforgettable final day.

Perhaps, though, the signs of tribulation could be detected from the beginning, soon after Rangnick’s appointment on an interim basis in November.

There was hope around his first match in charge, against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, with players making a decent effort to fulfill his wishes for aggressive pressing. There was also the curiosity of a coach giving feedback from many miles away.

Watching from abroad was Lars Kornetka, Rangnick’s assistant at Lokomotiv Moscow. He provided live analysis on United’s display, with his thoughts transmitted through coach Kieran McKenna to Rangnick at half-time.

The situation raised eyebrows among some staff members, with Paul Brand, United’s head performance analyst, somewhat sidelined sitting in the stands. Brand had access to multiple camera angles and substantial data but Rangnick primarily wanted to hear the thoughts of his trusted lieutenant, even though by working remotely Kornetka had more basic technology. Rangnick, unable to secure his first-choice assistants when appointed United’s interim manager, had taken on a difficult, new challenge and felt a friend on call would help.

Rangnick, 63, and Kornetka, 44, have collaborated closely for more than a decade, at Hoffenheim, Schalke, and RB Leipzig. They are due to work together officially again for the Austria national side, following Rangnick’s appointment in April.

Kornetka gained Rangnick’s attention in 2006 by pioneering video analysis in Europe, going on to impress Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. He is a partner in Rangnick’s consultancy firm and had been mooted to also join United, but preferred to stay in Russia owing to a commitment to the project at Lokomotiv.

Nevertheless, Rangnick regarded Kornetka’s insight so highly he tapped into him from day one and regularly thereafter.

On match days Kornetka occasionally talked to Rangnick’s assistant Ewan Sharp, who was hooked up to fellow coach Chris Armas via Apple AirPods that have become distinctive. United did not pay Kornetka.

Rangnick has been seen checking his phone outside the dressing room at half-time during matches. Armas reached for his mobile soon after the final whistle at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

During the week Kornetka was involved in dissecting video footage on United players and opponents but The Athletic has been told Kornetka’s involvement slowed down the process at times.

After games Brand, 34, had to wait for Kornetka to run his eye over the recordings in detail before then clipping up the chosen segments for dissemination among the players. Training was based on what came back, with start times occasionally switched to the afternoons rather than mornings. On one occasion, Kornetka helped to draw up a session for around 20 players, but several more were in on the day so the drills had to be rejigged.

Kornetka was involved in compiling clips about the opposition too. Following the midweek Brentford away game in January the analysis was not completed until close to midnight on the Friday before United hosted West Ham.

Kornetka maintained influence during games, ultimately gaining access to all the data available in real time, and Rangnick greatly valued his opinions. Some believed there was still a delay in Rangnick’s decision-making on occasion, though. Rather than rely solely on touchline dialogue with Armas, Rangnick wanted to hear from Kornetka and use computer analysis to help decide possible tactical tweaks or substitutions.

In the heat of a Premier League contest, split-seconds can count for a lot. In that West Ham game, with the score 0-0, Rangnick prepared to replace Cristiano Ronaldo with Jesse Lingard as the clock ticked to 80 minutes. The data showed Ronaldo was tiring.

First-team coach Mike Phelan, standing against the red bricks of the raised dugout at Old Trafford, had detected another solution. He suggested to technical director Darren Fletcher that Anthony Martial was a better replacement because David Moyes had sent on Ryan Fredericks. Knowing Fredericks as a full-back who liked to get forward, Phelan believed gaps would open up on United’s left and Martial would drift that way naturally, whereas Lingard preferred to run more centrally.

Fletcher relayed the message, Rangnick listened, and Phelan provided the necessary pep talk to Martial, who at that point was in negotiations over an exit to Sevilla and had publicly rowed with United’s interim manager. It was judged Ronaldo should stay on given the need for a goal but he would be supported by Edinson Cavani so West Ham had two strikers to worry about and more space up top should appear. Mason Greenwood came off instead.

United scored an injury-time winner when Marcus Rashford finished off a move involving Ronaldo, Cavani and Martial down the left. Having originally sidelined Phelan, Rangnick grew to rely on the 59-year-old.

The result sent United fourth and Old Trafford rocked. In the dressing room afterwards, the joy extended to Sharp, Rangnick’s other assistant, telling people he would remember the night for the rest of his life.

Ronaldo, who perhaps felt such celebrations should be kept to events of bigger significance, made a quick, quiet departure, along with other players who were heading off on international duty.

Last Wednesday Ronaldo was also absent from a squad meal at Wing’s, the Manchester city centre Chinese restaurant, laid on by the club for staff and players to say goodbye to long-serving United employees. He was not alone — eight or nine other senior players did not go and attendance was not mandatory — but Rangnick inferred the lack of unanimity at a significant function hinted at a fragmented “team spirit”, which he later spoke about at his final pre-match press conference.

That aspect, for Rangnick, was the biggest hurdle he struggled to overcome.

When interviewing for the job, Rangnick pitched how detailed tactical instructions and faith in a clear system would see confidence rebound. He did not anticipate the dressing room problems he encountered, nor how his interim status would make him feel more hesitant to push through his own vision. Instead, his instinct was to try to accommodate players rather than cause further ructions; something, on reflection, he is understood to regret.

In Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, Rangnick inherited three big summer signings who all expected to start and had influence on the harmony of a side that had finished second in the Premier League. Rangnick felt he had a disparate group with different ways of thinking and several players with individual motivations.

In times of strife he asked players what they wanted and got dramatically varied answers. In a recent meeting, one senior player said the team would benefit from being drilled to a greater degree, practising more in formation on the training ground. Another said their football should simply be about enjoyment and freedom. These were two big personalities with conflicting views based on past experiences of winning trophies.

Rangnick, according to sources, became a little lost as a result. At Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig he had led clubs that made signings based on an overarching idea. Publicly he pointed out how Manchester City and Liverpool built squads subservient to a concept. At United this aspect seemed muddled.

Knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League early, finishing on United’s lowest points total in Premier League history, the campaign has tumbled into tumult.

There is blame to go round from executives to players, which is why Erik ten Hag has started early. He wishes to get to grips as soon as possible with a club in need of correcting.

Rangnick tried to understand his players and create a positive environment by adding psychologist Sascha Lense to his staff.

On Monday December 6, the day after United beat Crystal Palace 1-0, Rangnick introduced Lense to his squad at Carrington and tried to encourage a bond by explaining how his colleague had played professional football at Bundesliga 2 level.

Whether that detail especially impressed those listening is open to debate, but perhaps of greater consequence was that Lense, in that moment, declined to say anything by way of introduction or exposition when invited to by Rangnick. He said he would be around the building observing before offering guidance.

In the end, Lense never really got to show his capabilities. He asked established members of staff for advice on how to talk to certain star players but his open-door policy was not met with a steady stream of walk-ins. Players are inherently guarded about opening up to new people and Rangnick’s status as an interim meant most saw little benefit in sessions with somebody who would be gone in a few months’ time.

Rangnick had similar feelings. Early on he expressed how surprised he was by the full extent of the problems.

He was thwarted in his efforts to appoint certain support staff, which did not help. He originally asked to bring in six staff and got three. Not only was he new to the Premier League, remarking early on how teams at the bottom were even hard to beat, but so too were Armas, Sharp and Lense. At the 1-0 win at Carrow Road, Armas expressed surprise at the speed of the contest.

Rangnick had in mind a former player with proven Premier League experience who could relate to the younger generation to join him as his assistant but Brexit regulations meant a work permit was not possible.

Next, Rangnick targeted a European coach tipped for great things but immigration rules again blocked the approach. United tried to convince the authorities of his credentials, compiling a 35-page dossier for the FA, but with no success.

Rangnick then approached somebody with a long list of trophies on his CV, but the short-term nature of the job made getting that calibre of coach impossible. Rangnick ultimately looked to his Red Bull connections for Armas and Sharp.

Training sessions revolved mainly around players getting the ball back as quickly as possible and playing it forwards at first opportunity. The predominant message out of possession was to get in shape, tight and narrow. Players wanted more than instructions for “verticality”, though.

United gave the ball away 167 times at Newcastle, Rangnick’s third Premier League game, the highest number of the season. Some of the substitutes chuckled at the performance, suggesting the quick turnovers were reminiscent of basketball.

Ronaldo and Greenwood erupted at the interval, insisting they wanted quality passes into them and not just quick balls hit for the sake of it.

Rangnick sought and received advice from Sir Alex Ferguson. Armas met Ferguson in his lounge after the Young Boys game and explained his history as a player at Chicago Fire and managerial stints at New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC. A glint in his eye, Ferguson smiled and said words to the effect of: “You’ll need more than that here, son.”

Rangnick had to compromise on his tactical approach. In his first team talk he showed players Premier League statistics on sprints and measures for defensive work, with United pretty far down the list. He told them their numbers were average, but they were not average players. They responded well, but the high-energy tempo witnessed against Palace was a fleeting illustration of his principles in action.

Rangnick questioned whether some players had an inherent willingness to carry out athletic tasks and because of that, he felt team cohesion would be difficult to establish. Rangnick began going against his own ideas to find buy-in.

The 4-2-2-2 formation, designed so Ronaldo had a team-mate close by up front and United were harder to break down — having conceded four or more in three of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s final seven games — was dumped after turgid displays at Newcastle and Norwich. The lack of effective pressing exposed the midfield.

Following the 1-0 loss to Wolves, when players appeared uncertain of pressing triggers, Rangnick decided to simplify instructions for the FA Cup tie against Aston Villa, going over and over his ideas in video sessions with Armas and Sharp. Despite those efforts, and a few flickers of plans being put into practice, there seemed scant synergy between Rangnick and his players.

At the heart of his dilemma was Ronaldo, as Rangnick explained on Friday. “Cristiano scored a few goals — I’m not blaming him at all, he did great in those games — but he’s not a pressing monster. Even when he was a young player he was not shouting, ‘Hurray, the other team has got the ball, where can we win balls?’ And the same with quite a few other players, so we had to make some compromises at one stage, maybe we made a few too many. We never found the right balance with the ball and without the ball.”

A dynamic centre-forward out of possession was instrumental to Rangnick’s style, as United knew when they hired him. Ronaldo, aged 37 and with crystal clear ideas on his game, primarily comes alive with the ball at his feet or when sniffing a chance.

Coaching staff discussed taking Ronaldo out of the team as early as the visit by Burnley, the fifth game of Rangnick’s tenure. Solskjaer had done so against Everton and been heavily scrutinised, although Michael Carrick fared better when placing Ronaldo on the bench at Chelsea.

Rangnick predicted a major issue if he did the same and so ultimately started Ronaldo in the 3-1 win over Sean Dyche’s side. Ronaldo scored.

Privately, Rangnick had cause to be careful around Ronaldo’s selection. The same day Lense was introduced, Rangnick told his squad he would be making wholesale changes to the side to face Young Boys in the Champions League. Ronaldo left Carrington annoyed at the prospect of being left out of a European game, telling team-mates he should either start or rest totally because sitting on the bench for three hours in the cold would be detrimental to him.

Ronaldo’s volcanic reaction to being substituted on 70 minutes at Brentford gave public validation to Rangnick’s concerns. He thought about dropping Ronaldo for the next game against West Ham, but concluded his fiery mood could be channelled to the team’s benefit.

Rangnick eventually bit the bullet in one of the biggest games of the season. He told Ronaldo of his intentions for a change in tactics days ahead of United’s trip to face Manchester City on March 6, with sessions then geared towards starting Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba as two false nines.

Ronaldo reported a hip flexor problem and flew to Portugal rather than be at the Etihad, with some team-mates suspecting he did not wish to experience the ignominy of watching such a major match from the sidelines.

After United’s 4-1 defeat there was an inquest into the preparations. City had beaten United’s starting team easily, with Pogba in a totally new position. Rangnick has privately accepted he made a mistake over his selection, which was intended to have Pogba and Fernandes disrupt City’s build-up.

Cavani was also absent from the 4-1 derby defeat, despite putting in one of the best training sessions team-mates could remember once Ronaldo had raised his injury worries. Cavani told club doctors his body was not right to play after Rangnick had settled on his radical Fernandes-Pogba partnership. Cavani’s removal at Burnley in February when United needed a goal seemed to be a pivotal moment in his relationship with Rangnick.

Trying to establish the extent of injuries and illnesses became a perennial task for Rangnick, with some players also wondering the same about each other towards the end of the season. That aspect underpinned Rangnick’s fallout with Martial, who already wanted out in January when United changed managers.

Martial scored a “worldie” goal in training before United faced Villa in the FA Cup and was set to play, but he then complained of gastroenteritis. By that stage Martial had twice pulled out of contention on the day of a game, meaning Rangnick had to rejig and restore a previously unselected player, causing an awkward situation.

Before the next game, a Premier League contest at Villa Park, Rangnick sent Fletcher to ask Martial about his availability before naming his squad. Martial said he felt unable to play. Rangnick believed he was ruling himself out and said so at his post-match press conference. Martial released an Instagram post rejecting that assertion.

Some sources believe whatever fault was Martial’s, the friction could have been avoided had Rangnick asked himself.

Rangnick’s candidness in press conferences was refreshing for supporters and uncomfortable for players. Jesse Lingard also posted a correction of sorts on Twitter after Rangnick said the player had asked for time off following the collapse of his move to Newcastle. Footballer director John Murtough had originally offered Lingard a break if he needed, and then stepped in to mediate, reminding Rangnick that such conversations should remain private.

At United, issues have seemed to pop up like whack-a-mole.

In December, the club recalled Eric Bailly from Ivory Coast duty when staff discovered he was in a different location to that agreed upon. United had granted Bailly an early departure to prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations but he was told to return to Carrington. Bailly then returned late from the tournament and was injured, too. Rangnick tore into him in front of the squad.

Recently, Rangnick raised concerns in a press conference over the number of injuries sustained by members of his squad, but he was taking aim at the profile of players recruited rather than the medical department.

He had felt January could remedy some of the issues, both in sales and signings. A bloated squad of 26 players was regarded as unwieldy, with Martial and Lingard affecting the mood in particular due to their desires to leave.

But Rangnick could not get a meeting with outgoing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward or Matt Judge, United’s head of negotiations who is also leaving the club, ahead of the transfer window opening. He was referred back to Murtough and Fletcher, who never really engaged in genuine talks over signings.

At the beginning of the new year Fletcher relayed the message that United — meaning owner Joel Glazer, Richard Arnold and Murtough — did not view January as a good period to do business. Arnold was by now in the process of taking over from Woodward as chief executive and additionally felt it imprudent to sanction tens of millions of pounds to an interim manager when top four, rather than the title, had become the objective.

A strategy meeting early in January led by head of recruitment Steve Brown spelt out United’s approach. Long-term targets were discussed without any decisions being taken, a consistent theme of recent years.

It left Rangnick perplexed at the lack of conviction.

Rangnick asked internally why United had not planned for the expected departure of Nemanja Matic by signing a defensive midfielder ahead of time. He questioned why in summer 2020 some £90 million had been spent on Amad, Facundo Pellistri and Donny van de Beek rather than a guaranteed first-team starter. He wondered why various players had been given lucrative contracts and was told the deals were reward for playing well.

Fletcher referred to “upstairs” and ultimately, it was a strategy implemented by Woodward and Judge, endorsed by Joel Glazer, to protect book value.

United’s stance did not shift even when Greenwood got arrested, an event totally out of Rangnick’s control which removed an important player.

Greenwood was the forward most closely aligned to Rangnick’s way of playing and the interim manager, as he has now stated publicly, felt a deftness in the market could have provided cover, namechecking Julian Alvarez, Luis Diaz and Dusan Vlahovic. All three moved clubs in the winter window. Rangnick would not have let Martial go had he known what was to come with Greenwood. He made a deadline-day plea to no avail.

Multiple sources say United’s transfer process lacks agility for having so many checks and balances, eroding a sense of clear direction.

United have privately argued it would have been folly to rush an emergency signing, with leverage to the selling club, and a smaller budget for an incoming manager.

Some at Carrington felt Rangnick became more focussed on the wider landscape of United than results on the pitch, although building club structure is how he has made his name. Club staff tried to steer him to focusing on coaching but, having worked as both a sporting director and manager, he felt the tasks required of each role could not be as neatly separated.

In Rangnick’s opinion, United’s results were being affected by a fractured squad put together by five different managers.

He did still consult his players over ways to rectify form. There was also a meeting led by Ronaldo about United playing two up top. But Rangnick was uncomfortable that captain Harry Maguire was not included and ended discussions relatively early. Maguire’s confidence as leader has appeared shaken this season and reports questioning who should wear the armband permeated the dressing room.

It might be argued that a manager with greater experience would set the agenda, rather than be guided by others. Then again, Carlo Ancelotti asked the opinions of senior players during Real Madrid’s comeback Champions League win over Manchester City. Decisiveness after holding a focus group is crucial, though, and Rangnick developed a reputation for wavering.

For the trip to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League round of 16 match in February, arguably the most important game of the campaign, Rangnick deliberated over which player to pick at right-back until a few hours before kick-off. His instinct was for Diogo Dalot but others advocated Aaron Wan-Bissaka owing to his defensive qualities. In the end Rangnick picked Victor Lindelof for security and his relationship with Rashford. The debate added an element of drama to preparations.

That kind of eleventh-hour call was a theme under Rangnick. Owing to an imbalanced squad, he wrestled with formations and personnel throughout his tenure, selecting at different times 4-2-2-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-2-4 and then 3-4-1-2 at Anfield in April. He had been looking to field a back three since arriving but injury issues in defence, especially for Varane, undermined his options.

United had only lightly trained the Liverpool line-up the day before and the performance looked confused.

Systems sometimes changed late, such as for the home game to Burnley in December. In the build-up Rangnick oversaw sessions of 4-2-2-2 and 4-2-3-1, narrow teams designed to target a perceived weakness to straight aerial balls in Ben Mee. Video analysis had been conducted by Armas and Sharp, but without the consideration that clips would be found of Mee missing some headers because of the higher volume he had to repel playing for a side battling relegation.

Other staff more familiar with the Premier League had different ideas, believing width was the key to unlocking Burnley’s defence. Rangnick switched that evening to a 4-4-2 and United won 3-1.

Darren Fletcher’s presence on the touchline became an aspect of interest early in Rangnick’s reign. Fletcher took up the position after Solskjaer’s sacking and stayed there, vocally, for the first few games under Rangnick. United’s interim manager was not always sure of the instructions Fletcher gave out and requested after the Wolves defeat that he stay predominantly in the dugout.

Fletcher’s involvement in coaching and match days is unusual for a technical director, but these are viewed as special circumstances. The 38-year-old, who has deep affection for United, is trying to help where required in a turbulent season. He is learning in the role, having been invited to first-team coaching by Solskjaer in January 2021.

There has been much to occupy Fletcher, who is across many aspects at Carrington. One such issue concerns timetables, with Rangnick giving players more days off than Solskjaer and therefore support staff — namely sports scientists, masseurs and yoga instructors — being uncertain of when they are needed.

Fletcher has also often acted as a mediator after a particularly bad performance. He sought to pacify things after the derby defeat in March and also tried to calm down Phil Jones after Rangnick replaced him at half-time at Liverpool. Jones has made himself available all season and was upset at being replaced midway through his first game in two months.

Eric Ramsay, brought in as set-piece coach, had designated time under Solskjaer for going through routines. That became more impromptu after the Norwegian’s dismissal, with the departures of Carrick, McKenna and Martyn Pert meaning Ramsay was needed for general coaching.

United and Rangnick would have preferred all three to stay. Murtough tried to keep McKenna by offering a new, improved contract during talks at his home, but by then he was well down the line in negotiations for the Ipswich job. Some sources believe the departing coaches may have been persuaded to remain at United had the club been even more proactive as soon as Solskjaer went.

United regarded Rangnick’s appointment as a free hit, allowing time to get a proper process done for a permanent manager while tapping into the expertise of a man regarded as an innovator in German coaching.

From a sporting perspective the appointment has not worked, however, and now United are facing the loss of Champions League revenue for the first time since 2020, bringing with it the complications for signings in Ten Hag’s first summer.

The responsibility for Rangnick is Murtough’s and, while it may have seemed a smart move in theory, football directors earn their crust from what happens in reality.

There are others who feel Murtough could have stepped in to galvanise a squad that had doubts over the set-up from an early stage. That role, though, was delegated to Fletcher, who was asked to operate as the link between the first team and the club’s decision-makers. Others point out that Rangnick was being paid to motivate the playing squad, while Murtough focused on the job of finding a new permanent manager. Getting that decision right was his overwhelming priority, with Ten Hag selected.

Rangnick has at least brought on Anthony Elanga, and Ten Hag will hope the winger can maintain his development.

There was not a steady flow of dialogue with the academy under Rangnick, however, in terms of which young players might deserve a debut because of training application. Some, for instance, disagreed with him throwing on Hannibal Mejbri in the closing minutes at Anfield, feeling it did not give the 19-year-old chance to show his skills on the ball.

Rangnick has at least brought on Anthony Elanga, and Ten Hag will hope the winger can maintain his development.

Rangnick gave a debut to 17-year-old Alejandro Garnacho but was absent from United’s victory in the FA Youth Cup final. He went to Leigh Sports Village earlier in March to watch United’s Under 19s face Borussia Dortmund yet watched Middlesbrough beating Tottenham in the FA Cup on a television during the second half. United faced Spurs 11 days later.

Rangnick has had to pick his battles and as results have become worse some feel his press conferences have become an exercise in protecting his reputation. Nevertheless his points are still valid. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer, privately, all made the same complaints.

Rangnick has urged Murtough to act quickly in the market for Ten Hag, and smart, efficient recruitment is the primary aspect to the club getting back in the mix to win the Premier League title. Rangnick will doubtless speak to his successor, just as Solskjaer did with him.

The mirror he has shone during his tenure may have some cracks of his own, but is nevertheless worth looking into.
 

11kgm

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Also Rashford wanted by Bayern

 
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eth-dog

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Might be best Rashford goes to Bayern, if there’s any truth to it.

I want as many of the toxic players out of the club.
Only reason I'd hold Rashford is because apart from Elanga and Sancho he's pretty much our last winger.
 

kozi

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Might be best Rashford goes to Bayern, if there’s any truth to it.

I want as many of the toxic players out of the club.
Not opposed to it.

Wouldn't shed a tear for anyone outside of DDG, Ronnie, Sancho, Donny, Elanga and maybe Bruno.
 

Crimson King

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Erik ten Tag has spent his first few days as mufc manager drawing up recruitment plans. He has met with Murtough, Fletcher and Arnold. Ralf Rangnick has been involved in discussions and has been passing on information about the squad Ten Hag will inherit.

Glad to hear Ralf has been involved.
 

11kgm

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Mupdates saying figure agreed to for FDJ

Torres and Timber likely

Benfica being dicks regarding Nunez asking for 100 mil
 

11kgm

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The Benfica one is not true, just Portuguese rags bumping up the price. Did the same with Bruno.
Unusual mupdates is running with it or retweeted it, let's hope they don't and we can secure him
 

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