Manchester United is becoming the impossible job, according to Patrice Evra. You may have heard that one before. England used to be the impossible job, remember. Then Gareth Southgate came along.
Oldham. That looks pretty impossible right now. Maybe Newcastle, although that will change. Derby, too. But Manchester United? Are you kidding? The club that left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench on Sunday? The club that could not find room in the starting line-up for Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood or Donny van de Beek?
That is waiting for Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Raphael Varane to come back from injury or suspension? Impossible? That they should currently reside in eighth place might be; or that they are two points behind Wolves. Yet Ralf Rangnick left permanent employment for a temporary managerial position for one simple reason: because any coach with the slightest self-regard looks at Manchester United and licks his lips.
Ex-Manchester United defender Patric Evra said Old Trafford job was 'impossible' this week
But how can that be for a team good enough to leave out a player like Cristiano Ronaldo?
They are a fabulously wealthy club with every competitive advantage and a place in the last 16 of the Champions League guaranteed. Come fourth — five points away, with 25 games remaining — and they’ll be pathetically grateful. And that’s beyond capability?
‘You need to play the United way and win,’ said Evra. ‘It’s an almost impossible job.’ No, it isn’t. Every league champion in recent memory has combined winning football and a recognisable style. Even Leicester, even Chelsea with managers as disparate as Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, or Manchester City with Roberto Mancini and Pep Guardiola.
We can argue that United’s squad lacks balance or has weak areas, but many of their players would walk into any Premier League team bar three. Lingard played 16 games for West Ham and returns there to the sort of reception traditionally reserved for Sir Geoff Hurst.
United’s squad lacks balance, but many of their players would walk into any top flight side
And this is the club United need to hunt down in fourth? The one where Lingard would be considered among their best players — and he can’t even get in United’s team?
If Rangnick is as good as advertised, then coaching is not an impossibility. And that is what United need, just as England did, in the days when they lost direction under managers such as Graham Taylor. A documentary was made about those times. Its title? The Impossible Job.
Yet it did not seem impossible for Terry Venables, who followed Taylor. And it hasn’t proved impossible for the clear-thinking Southgate, whose semi-final and final finishes have been England’s best tournament performances since 1966. Why? Good coaching and good players. It’s not an easy job, but it’s not futile.
Nor is what awaits Rangnick. He will not have much time to prepare for Thursday’s meeting with Arsenal, if that is to be his first game, and Manchester United blew the chance to make a change during the international break. Now he’s approaching a month in which matches come in torrents. So, no, not perfect. But not impossible.
Most managers will lick their lips at the chance to manage United - and new boss Ralf Rangnick could now give them what they need - quality coaching
DELIGHTFUL DEFEAT FOR AGNELLI
Atalanta are the club Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli thinks do not deserve to be in the Champions League. Too new, too small, not enough history.
He felt places should be reserved for the traditional elite.
He cited Roma, presumably because he thought Juventus would never be in need of charity.
Delightfully, at the weekend, Juventus lost 1-0 at home to Atalanta, who are four points behind second-placed AC Milan.
Atalanta beat Juventus on the weekend after the Turin club's chief Andrea Agnelli said their opponents should not be in the Champions League
Juventus are seventh and seven points adrift of the Champions League spots. Also, they face allegations of artificially inflating the valuations of players, to improve their financial status in the accounts. Agnelli, and five other directors, are being investigated over false accounting, false company reporting and billing for non-existent transactions.
Italy’s stock market regulator and the Italian federation are following the investigation by Turin-based prosecutors. Interesting to see how Agnelli’s take on Financial Fair Play pans out. Meanwhile, we can only wish him well in his pursuit of Atalanta’s richly deserved fourth place.
POTTER SHOULD IGNORE THE BRIGHTON BOO BOYS
Graham Potter shouldn’t be surprised at the boos Brighton received on Saturday night. It is the standard reaction these days if a team disappoint. The past, the performance, are barely taken into account. Lose or drop points at home, and the bird comes close to guaranteed.
Crystal Palace were booed for losing to an improving Aston Villa side at the weekend, although everyone agrees Patrick Vieira is doing a good job. Brighton have the same points after 13 games as Manchester United and Leicester, and fans would have bought that start in a heartbeat before the season.
Graham Potter shouldn't read too much into Brighton fans booing his side - we live in a social media age where supporters feel their voices must be heard
Yes, it can be argued there have been too many draws of late. Brighton have only lost two games since August — against Manchester City and Aston Villa — but haven’t won in the league since September 19. Then again, they’re Brighton. For a club of their size, however well run,