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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Manchester United

United journalist Tom McDermott on the season so far

19 January 2022

Prior to the originally scheduled fixture in mid-December – which was one of many to fall victim to Covid last month – Manchester United had won three on the spin and, since then, they have won one, drawn one and lost one. What have you made of what you have seen over the last month?

As Cristiano Ronaldo said in a recent interview, new manager Ralf Rangnick (above) needs time to implement his new ideas. Unfortunately, United don’t have time. They desperately need to start climbing the table and close the gap on the teams ahead of them. Champions League football next season is absolutely critical. Rangnick’s controversial 4-2-2-2 formation has had some teething problems as you would expect, which is why at the moment, you’re still seeing an inconsistent United. Every game really counts though, especially when you are chasing the leading pack and hopefully the players can adapt quickly to the manager and what he wants. Otherwise, it could well be a painful conclusion to the season.

There has been talk of discontent and unrest in the dressing room since Ralf Rangnick replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last month. Is the situation as bad as some of the recent reports suggest?

There are several factors at play that are making certain members of the squad unhappy. Firstly, any player that does not start will naturally become disgruntled if they spend weeks, or even months on the sidelines. Then there is the future of a number of key players. Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani are just some of the names that are out of contract in the summer and able to move on. Throw in a mid-season managerial change and the continuing of poor results, and it is easy to see why some players are disgruntled.

Three players have left on loan so far this month, including Axel Tuanzebe who has joined Napoli until the end of the season. Do you envisage any further incomings or outgoings this month?

I don’t think we should expect any incomings. The word from the club is that the winter window is a tough one to conduct business - particularly incoming deals. Work and planning for the summer window started in September and it is not expected that United will add to their squad between now and the end of the month. Further outgoings, and in particular loan deals, could happen, though. Eric Bailly has been heavily linked to a number of sides around Europe, and it would not be a surprise if he left on a short-term deal between now and the summer.

Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on Wednesday?

France World Cup and multiple Champions League winner Raphaël Varane is the standout player for me. He has not always been fit but, when he has been, his class stands out a mile. If only they had a decent partner for him to play next to.

How is Rangnick likely to set up his side in west London?

Rangnick has often used the unusual 4-2-2-2 formation that is rarely seen in the Premier League, but which he believes is ideal to exploit the ‘red zones’. The obvious issue with this formation is the lack of width during certain passages of play, which is essential when you have a player like Ronaldo in the middle who feeds on teasing deliveries from wide areas.

This is the first meeting between the two sides since United ran out 2-1 winners in a League Cup tie in September 1975. What is your score prediction for this one?

I never bet against United and that trend will continue today. A 2-1 win for the visitors. 

Tonight's game is live on BT Sport, kick-off 8pm, and around the world through the Premier League's broadcast partners.

Supporters can also listen to live Bees Player commentary with Jonathan Douglas and Charlie MacDonald joining Mark Burridge. 

All adult supporters must fill in a Covid-19 Self Declaration form before coming tomorrow and be able to show proof of an NHS COVID Pass or negative test result within the 48 hours up to kick-off.

Get yourself match ready here


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