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red perils Manchester United crying out for a real leader as manager debates heats up

Manchester United have a series of lost weekends until mid-May.

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Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax manager Erik ten Hag are admired by Manchester United (Mike Egerton/PA)

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax manager Erik ten Hag are admired by Manchester United (Mike Egerton/PA)

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax manager Erik ten Hag are admired by Manchester United (Mike Egerton/PA)

There was a great movie made many years ago called The Lost Weekend.

Well, all that Manchester United until mid-May are a series of lost weekends.

Out of Europe, out of the FA Cup and with only that vital fourth place in the Premier League to play for. Even that seems beyond the Red Devils now.

Arsenal's fine away win over Aston Villa yesterday may prove a pivotal result.

The Gunners are now four points ahead of United in that fourth place - and still have a game in hand. And the matches are starting to run out.

To make it worse again, two of the managers who were surely on their shortlist for the job at Old Trafford, Mauricio Pochettino of PSG and Erik ten Haag of Ajax, have bombed out of the Champions League in the last fortnight.

Failed

Now they have not become bad managers because they lost one match, but both of them were expected to guide their teams into the quarter-finals of the top[ competition - and they failed!

United are a mess right now. Any well set-up team, with quality players, can get the better of them.

I come back to the point I have made time and again.

Boss Ralf Rangnick has spent only two of the last 10 seasons as a straight-up manager.

For the other eight he was a Football Director at clubs, the job it seems he will be taking up with United come August.

But how on earth did that happen? How have United fallen so low that the club's bosses could not get a high-calibre manager?

They will get one in the summer, but the notion that a Zinedine Zidane, or Antonio Conte, or a Pochtettino would then take instructions from Ralf Rangnick are off the wall.

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Or might the United board be willing to write off next season too in order to get the right man?

Would they leave Rangnick in charge until January, when you suspect any or all of Didier Deschamps (France), Roberto Mancini (Italy) or Roberto Martinez (Belgium, below)) might be available after the World Cup in Qatar?

Would the Glazer family bet the house on one of them being the man to bring back the glory days?

None of that will happen. They cannot afford a lost season.

Next term has to be about United being a better team and squad than this one and maybe improving so much, in the transfer market, and through good coaching, that the team can challenge for Premier League and Champions League success in 2023/4.

Before then, the new man has big calls to make. On the futures of Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire, David de Gea, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo too.

Remember the great man is only contracted to United until June 2023.

Is he part of their long-term future when he will be 38 when that deal ends?

They are massive decisions to come, but United have to let a football man get on with them.

For the last decade, United have been without a man with proper knowledge of the game deep within the club's management team, as distinct from the football management team.

None of David Moyes, van Gaal, Jose Mourinho or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ever complained about the financial resources available.

They did complain about the fact the club did not always sign the players the manager wanted - and then signed somebody else!

It has been a mess and the Stretford End will have to grit their teeth and look between their fingers as Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea chase the big pots over those lost weekends.

But that's what the club's loyal supporters have got sadly used to in the last few seasons.

An FA Cup, a League Cup and a Europa League won are hardly a decent returned for the money invested in top players by Manchester United of late. But they have only themselves to blame.

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