dark days | 

It is going to be a long time before Manchester United get back to a safe harbour

"The club I was so proud to play for, for so long, is adrift - and it is going to be along time before it gets back to a safe harbour"

Cristiano Ronaldo

Paul McGrath

It's a sad time to be a Manchester United fan.

The club I was so proud to play for, for so long, is adrift - and it is going to be along time before it gets back to a safe harbour.

Everton have been poor this season, and yet they looked the better team for most of yesterday's clash at Goodison Park.

In the second half of my career, I played regularly against United, and that was before they were the huge force that Alex Ferguson made them.

United came at you in waves, I always warned my team-mates about what was coming.

Yesterday they played in spurts, now and again, giving a diffident Everton team every chance to play their way into the match.

United had two good chances in the first few minutes and that was that, all the talent in the world never amounted to much.

With world-class players, headed by a contender for being the greatest player of all, they have to be better than this.

I'm glad Ralf Rangnick, after the match, did not offer up any excuses about the management situation being an issue.

As a professional footballer, you play with pride - pride in yourself above all.

After that come pride in your family and in your club.

But first of all, you must have it in your heart that you are being paid to do this and you have to give your employers, and the people who are giving your employers money, your very best.

Is that where Manchester United are now? I don't think so, there are players just ambling along, who don't seem to realise that every game United play is a fight - every team wants to take you down!

More and more it is becoming evident that the absence from the United board since 2013 of David Gill is a huge factor in where United are now.

Now Gill was no football manager, but he was a strong enough football man to say to Alex, when the great man was offered some player by an agent, "Is he really a Manchester United man?"

Who was there at United, when David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho were spending £1billion on players who were never going to fit United's playing style.

Alexis Sanchez and Angel di Maria are just two examples of that sort of not very joined-up thinking.

Nor you imagine would Ferguson and Gill have countenanced paying a record transfer fee for Paul Pogba - a player they once had at the club and let go for free.

That was not how United worked in the glory days and now are not the glory days.

Rangnick can do little about all that, except try to find that pride from within the players' hearts.

He's leaving in the summer and probably won't even take up the technical director job he has been offered.

The Austrian FA interviewed Rangnick last week for their vacant team manager's job.

It doesn't sound like an interview you would take if your career path was set in Manchester for the next two years?

The lack of creativity in United astonished me. They had Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, and Jadon Sancho on the pitch. These are quality players, who have spent a lot of time bumping into massed defences.

Surely, they knew how to get around, through, or over them? But then United brought on Juan Mata to join Nemanja Matic on the pitch.

I don't want to pick on them, but these are the facts of their cases.

These two players were let go by Chelsea a number of years go, and allowed to join top rivals United.

Since then Chelsea have won a Premier League and a Champions League with the players signed to replace the pair of them.

United are still using them, if only sparingly. This was Mata's first Premier League start of the season, but why are United using a player that Chelsea let go years ago? United are supposed to be bigger and better than that.

Marcus Rashford was taken off against Everton

Even if the results and trophy collection of recent times tell us they are not.

Fair dues to Everton, who battled hard all through yesterday's contest and were up for the fight in a way that United were not.

Those who doubted Frank Lampard's suitability to manager a team in a scrap got their answer yesterday.

He picked his team up from a devastating 3-2 loss to Burnley and made sure they were good to go in this big game.

That's what a top manager does, gets his team ready for the challenge, even when the odds are against you.

Manchester United don't need that type of manager. They need a manager who will put together a team that the football world will fear.

And to do it while spending money wisely on the type of players who fit his idea of playing the game.

It looks as though it will be Erik ten Hag's job. He has done a great job managing a team where good players roll into his team every season from a famed Academy.

This time, if it is to be the 52-year-old Ten Hag, he will have to, like a man doing a jigsaw puzzle, put it all together from outside.

Today's Headlines

More Soccer

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos