Manchester United’s flat, feckless squad are hard to like – the club’s decline is on them

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It is staggering that, at 34, Edinson Cavani is doing so much more than his younger, attacking team-mates, averaging 11.7 km per game. That’s second only to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino as the hardest working forward in the Premier League. Rashford (9.9km) and Greenwood (9.8km) are 44th and 46th on that list. The numbers are damning in demonstrating the underlying issue Rangnick is dealing with at United.

“Cavani came into my office and we spoke for almost half an hour,” Rangnick said earlier this week. I bet the ears of some of his team-mates were burning!

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, how many academy players or signings have improved since they broke into the team?

Every team playing United looks better than they are, often giving their best performance of the season. Watford, Norwich and Newcastle have been poor against most sides. Watch their games against United and you can convince yourself they will definitely stay up. Wolves ought to have won by three or four at Old Trafford, and I doubt Aston Villa fans can recall the last time they dominated an opponent and lost as they did in the FA Cup third round.

This criticism is deserved because when you look at the talent available in the United squad, they should be playing a more entertaining and energetic brand of football.

They were never going to win the biggest trophies under Solskjaer, but I would be the first to admit – as a Liverpool supporter – I had a fear that when a superior coach took over, United would get their act together and start to challenge. There was enough there during Solskjaer’s spell to suggest a foundation was in place for his successor, especially the many comeback victories, emergence of Bruno Fernandes and the prolonged unbeaten away run.

Now? It looks like a mess again. Whoever takes over will have to spend the first few months shifting out the big egos, and delivering home truths to younger players about the minimum requirements in a modern team trying to win the Premier League and Champions League.

Many fans will sympathise with the idea that Solskjaer and Rangnick were never going to be the right coach. But a banner unveiled at Old Trafford on Monday felt especially timely.

“Standards,” it read, with a silhouetted image of Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson and Roy Keane.

The Stretford End will not be conned by attempts to pin the blame on Rangnick.

The message to the players could not be clearer: the biggest problem is not him. It is them.

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