Life under Ralf Rangnick has generally been a good thing for Manchester United. But, Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle was ladened with disappointments and setbacks for United’s new chief.
Rangnick saw his side put in a lacklustre display against one of the Premier League’s poorest teams this term – and dropped points in the race for the top four in the process.
To add to that disappointment, Bruno Fernandes picked up his fifth booking of the season against the Magpies.
Fernandes, who has been an ever-present for United this term, had another subdued night for United and will now have to sit out Thursday night’s clash with Premier League strugglers Burnley.
That should open the door for Rangnick to bring Donny van de Beek back in from the cold – and the Dutchman has a real opportunity to nudge ahead of the previously untouchable Fernandes in Rangnick’s new-look United pecking order if he can impress in his first real audition under United’s new boss.
Fernandes delivered time and time again for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the Norwegian was dismissed last month. The 27-year-old has arguably been United’s standout player ever since his £40.5million move from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020.
But Fernandes has been a major disappointment this season.
He’s failed to find to impress since he plundered an opening day treble in the 5-1 mauling of Leeds. He’s netted just two league goals since then.
Despite his alarming drop-off in form, Fernandes has still managed to stay ahead of Van De Beek.
That could change if the former Ajax man can inspire United against Burnley, though.
Van De Beek’s ability to drive forward with the ball was something that was sorely missing from United’s feeble display against Newcastle on Monday night. The challenge against the Clarets on Thursday represents a similar one to the Newcastle clash where United will be expected to take the game to their struggling opponents.
And van de Beek can provide some of the dynamism that was desperately lacking against the Magpies by replacing Fernandes in one of the two No 10 roles.
He’s more than earned a crack at overthrowing Fernandes after showing unmitigated patience over the past 18 months. In fact, Van De Beek’s dignified approach, coupled with a handful of promising cameo appearances – including his goal in the 4-1 defeat at Watford that proved terminal for Solskjaer – should stand him in good stead if he can make the most of the opportunity Rangnick is likely to afford him on Thursday night.
Fernandes’ stunning form under United’s old boss practically made him Solskjaer’s defender and, as such, untouchable.
But those days at Old Trafford appear to be gone.
Van De Beek isn’t likely to require any additional motivation to impress against Burnley, but if he does, then Rangnick has already shown he isn’t afraid to wield the axe on underperforming stars.
Even Michael Carrick, in his brief stint in a caretaker role prior to Rangnick’s arrival, didn’t shirk the decision to drop Harry Maguire after the United captain turned in a string of hopeless performances under Solskjaer.
It’s a new regime at Old Trafford right now nobody is safe – not even the blockbuster names, like Fernandes.
That should enthuse Van De Beek; who now has a chance to go from an understudy to a starring role under United’s new director-in-chief.