Another day, another claim about friction inside the Manchester United dressing room. The club has been beset by problems over the past year and Ralf Rangnick’s arrival to take over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November has done nothing to quell the unrest.
Manchester United has become a leaky ship, with stories referring to unhappy squad members emerging with alarming frequency.
The latest concerns captain Harry Maguire, who has been at the centre of much of the reports, rumour and counter-claim this season.
According to The Times, there are tensions behind the scenes at United due to Rangnick’s continued selection of Maguire.
Maguire’s season has been interrupted by calf and rib injuries and his form has been patchy at best across his 27 appearances.
Out of form players would usually be dropped or rotated by the manager, but Maguire’s status as captain and his £80million price tag means he is an exceptional case.
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Just last month, The Mirror was reporting that Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo were at loggerheads due to a power struggle inside the dressing room.
Ronaldo has been asked by Rangnick to mentor the younger players in the squad in a move which has left Maguire feeling increasingly undermined as captain.
United must have hoped that the January transfer window had helped put out fires in the squad, with Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial and Amad departing on loan to trim a bloated squad.
But those remaining are still causing problems, with the dressing room beset by cliques and infighting. That is not a winning combination.
And the fact much of the unhappiness stems from Maguire is particularly helpful for Rangnick, who was hired primarily for his expertise in the tactical side of the game rather than his man-management.
Maguire has looked completely out of sorts at times this season, with his lack of sharpness frequently shooting United in the foot.
“For all the good traits that he has in his game, [pace] is a big weakness and that is a fundamental of all of the top teams; to be able to play one-v-one on the halfway line,” former United centre-back Rio Ferdinand said recently on his YouTube channel, Vibe with Five.
“So, I think for Maguire, long-term, unless he can find that extra yard of pace, it’s gonna be difficult for him.”
It’s going to be difficult for Rangnick too. The German manager did leave Maguire out of the most recent game – a disappointing 0-0 draw with Watford – but he did so behind the excuse of needing “fresh legs, energy” for the match.
He will find it very difficult to keep his captain on the substitutes’ bench for much longer, even if that is the best move strategically.
The problem is even more acute due to the fact that United face Manchester City in the derby on Sunday.
Squad infighting is hardly ideal in the build-up, while Maguire is likely to give him further headaches no matter what he does.
Start Maguire, as he is likely to do, and he risks another embarrassment, like in the most one-sided 2-0 defeat ever seen by City at Old Trafford in November.
Drop Maguire, then the issue risks blowing up further and overshadowing what is a hugely important match at the Etihad Stadium.
Maguire’s form and the ongoing backlash behind the scenes has left Rangnick in a lose-lose situation ahead of one of the biggest games of the season.