The pair were subjected to abuse from supporters outside Old Trafford last week, but their form is not the reason the club finds itself in a mess
As the Manchester United players left Old Trafford after their Champions League defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, there were the usual autograph and selfie hunters milling about, waiting for a glimpse of their idols.
But in amongst that group were a few disgruntled fans, hanging around to voice their displeasure towards the Red Devils struggling stars.
Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford were the two to take the most flak.
Club-captain Maguire, whose name had been ironically cheered when he was substituted for Juan Mata late on against Atletico, was booed as he walked back to his car.
Rashford, meanwhile, felt the need to defend himself on social media a video of the England international reacting to being goaded over his poor form went viral the next day.
Rashford wanted to apologise and clarify his actions, but Ian Wright, among others, was vocal in his defence of the United forward, explaining that he did not have to justify his reaction.
Regardless, while the disappointment among United supporters was understandable after another terrible night in Europe amid a season of disappointment, was it really Rashford’s fault? Should the blame be laid at Maguire’s door, either?
There are 2 sides to every story. pic.twitter.com/Xl2PRyaX2c
The pair are both in a poor run of form, but they were not the sole reason why United have failed, yet again, to win a knockout Champions League tie.
Their two wins on such occasions in the past 10 years illustrates that this is a problem that goes beyond the poor performances of the current crop of players.
So, who is to blame?
Ralf Rangnick is the next in the firing line.Some sources believe the German coach is out of his depth at Old Trafford, and certainly when he came up against Diego Simeone, it was clear who was the coach used to navigating his team through difficult European knockout ties, and who was managing his first such game since 2011.
But again, how much of that is Rangnicks fault?The German was deemed to be the “standout candidate” by the clubs hierarchy as they searched for an interim manager to replace the sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.
The latest failure on their quest for European glory, then, cannot be laid entirely at Rangnick’s door, given his lack of experience at that level.
“I don’t blame Ralf Rangnick, by the way,” said ex-United defender Gary Neville on his Sky Sports podcast following the Atletico defeat. “There’s big players in this club, there’s big problems in this club. Structurally from the very top, from the owners.
“The owners, to be honest with you, are not good enough. The owners need to sell the club. I’ve said that all season.
“Something big is missing, and it comes from the top.”
Uniteds is a deep-rooted problem that stems back over a decade and, ultimately, rests with the club’s owners – the Glazer family – and those high up within the hierarchy.
A muddied vision of managers and a differing transfer strategy over the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired has left them in a position where they are no closer to the end of that mythical rebuild than they began in 2013.
There were times it looked close under Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer, but the departure of both has resulted in the process being back at square one.
Over £1 billion ($1.3bn) has been spent on transfers, meanwhile, but with no Premier League or Champions League trophies to show for it, the disjointed strategy and lack of vision, planning and foresightedness from those at the top has been showcased.
As if to makes things worse, on the day United’s rivals were learning their potential pathway to the Champions League final, Avram Glazer was pictured with Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum “discussing” a brand new Manchester United cricket team.
GOAL sources have dismissed the notion that United are planning on setting up a cricket team, and that it is not under consideration by the club, but that the suggestion was even on the table in the first place will be enough to back up many fan theories of the Glazers.
After the Super League fiasco, the owners made a number of pledges to United supporters, one of which was to communicate better with fans.
Joel Glazer virtually attended a meeting of the clubs newly-formed Fan Advisory Board earlier this year, and while that was welcomed, the feeling is that there needs to be more than a couple of virtual appearances at meetings if real progress is to be made. It is understood that he is expected to attend at least one more meeting before the end of 2022.
There have, of course, been changes in recent months.
Richard Arnold has replaced Ed Woodward as chief executive, and sources say that he is keen not to make the same mistakes as his predecessor.
The roles of John Murtough and Darren Fletcher as football director and technical director, respectively, are, meanwhile, there to aid the club in transfer decisions.
But while the latter is playing an active role in training – and getting booked on the touchline late on in Champions League games – there still seems to be a way to go for that new coherent transfer strategy to be fully functional.
This summer will certainly require a clear out. Big names, such as Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani, are out of contract, and their departures will free up a huge chunk of the wage bill.
In turn, though, those gaps in the squad will need to be filled, and there are big decisions that need to made that will help to determine the club’s path in the coming years.
The first big decision, of course, is the appointment the right permanent manager.
On four occasions, the Glazers and Woodward oversaw the wrong managerial appointments, as well as years ofa dysfunctional transfer strategy. Arnold is keen not to repeat Woodward’s mistakes, but will that really be enough to make it fifth time lucky?
Regardless, one thing is clear – some poor displays from Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire are not the reason for United finding themselves in this mess.