MANCHESTER, England — On the pitch on Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo kept Manchester United’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League alive, but apart from that the 3-2 win over Norwich City went down in a backdrop of heightened fan unrest.
The day ended with United three points closer to the top four thanks to Ronaldo’s hat-trick – his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the season – and defeats for Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. But while Antonio Conte and Mikel Arteta were busy shooting themselves in the foot, United fans demonstrated outside the entrance to the directors’ box at Old Trafford, chanting ‘we want the Glazers out’ and ‘sack the board”. The anti-Glazer songs went on all afternoon: “Get Up If You Hate The Glazers” and other versions with more swear words.
Fans who opted to stay out for the first 17 minutes – one minute for every year Glazer was owned – missed Ronaldo’s opening goal after seven minutes but saw his superb free-kick crash into the post midway through the second half to secure Ralf Rangnick’s side pretty much took advantage of their rivals’ slip-ups. It’s not so much a race to finish in the top four, but more of a slow crawl.
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“We shouldn’t have to rely on Ronaldo,” Rangnick said afterwards. “Defensively, I wasn’t happy at all. The results elsewhere were good but it doesn’t make sense to look at other results. We have to raise our game.
“It was very important that we won but the way we played was not good enough. It’s about intensity and physicality. Like against Tottenham, Ronaldo was very crucial. It wasn’t easy goals, it was just exceptional.”
United’s next two games are trips to Liverpool and Arsenal.
“If we want to score points in these games, we have to raise our level and play our best,” added Rangnick.
Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, this summer promises a kind of fresh start with the arrival of a new manager – probably Erik ten Hag – and more money injected into the team, but for the majority of fans, there may not be a new era until the Glazers leave.
In the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all tried and failed to re-establish the club as a significant force in the Premier League and Champions League. . The fear is that Ten Hag will run into the same old problems, and in a year or two Joel Glazer will be looking for another new coach. Mourinho, in particular, arrived with a much more impressive CV than Ten Hag and still failed to make it work.
The idea behind the Ajax boss’ appointment of, say, Mauricio Pochettino, is that he is seen as having the talent to become one of the best in the world, but that potential is unlikely to be realized. he gets his wings clipped by a club. that’s not working the right way behind the scenes. He will have enough problems to deal with on the pitch.
Norwich’s two goals, scored by Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki, were so weak they only served to fuel the rage already simmering at Old Trafford. After Pukki’s goal made it 2-2, some fans started chanting “you’re not fit to wear the jersey”.
The decision to replace Paul Pogba was first met with loud cheers and then boos as the Frenchman started to walk away. As he sat on the bench, fans started chanting “f — off Pogba”, and you can understand the frustration of a player who repeatedly said he wanted to leave and that he is six weeks away from a free transfer. . Full time, he managed to make matters worse by straining his ears towards the Stretford End.
“I didn’t hear it myself, but I was informed after the game,” Rangnick said. “I can totally understand that the fans are frustrated, so are we, but I don’t think they should be going up against individual players. I don’t think that’s fair or correct.”
The already gaping hole in United’s midfield was demonstrated by Rangnick’s decision to start with Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard. Pogba and Lingard are out of contract this summer and Nemanja Matic, who came on in the second half, announced on Friday that he would also leave at the end of the campaign.
Ten Hag needs at least one midfielder in the summer, but he probably feels the same about centre-back, full-back and centre-forward. It will not be an easy rebuild and the road to the top remains long. Meanwhile, most fans believe the journey can’t even begin until the owners leave.