Ralf Rangnick has dismissed Louis van Gaal’s criticism that Manchester United are a “commercial club” by pointing out that despite holding this opinion the Dutchman signed a contract to be manager in 2014.
Van Gaal’s comments came when discussing the candidacy of Erik ten Hag, the Ajax manager, who is on the shortlist to be United’s No 1 when Rangnick’s interim management ends in May. Van Gaal, who led United for two years, warned his compatriot to go to a “football club” rather than to Old Trafford.
“Louis himself as an experienced coach signed a contract here some years ago and he could have known that in advance if he had that opinion,” Rangnick said. “Football worldwide is a commercialised business that’s for sure.”
United’s spend under Van Gaal was more than £315m, part of a total £1.1bn outlay in the nine seasons since they were last champions. Rangnick stated that this was a benefit of commercial viability. “It’s always good if you have money available to sign players,” he said.
Rangnick did partly agree with Gary Neville, the former United captain and now Sky Sports pundit, who accused Rangnick, United players, and members of the executive of being “tone deaf” after they posted on social media and travelled to different global locations after being knocked out of the Champions League by Atlético Madrid on 15 March.
The defeat came four days before the Premier League matches and FA Cup quarter-finals that led into the international break, with United not involved in either.
“The situation was a particular one: we had two and a half weeks until the next game after Atlético [Leicester City on Saturday at home] including an international break, which meant we only had six or seven players for training,” Rangnick said. “I don’t think it would have made sense [to train], although maybe for public perception it might have made sense to show we’re training every day with five or six on-field players.”
He conceded it was a corollary of United having only Champions League qualification to compete for. “Hopefully we will [again] never be in a situation where we have no competitive game for two and a half weeks,” said Rangnick.
Harry Maguire is preparing to play for United for the first time since his substitution against Atlético was cheered by a section of fans and he was booed by England supporters at Wembley. Rangnick says Maguire draws criticism on social media from United fans because he is compared with former players.
“Maybe it’s still got to do with the high expectations around this club and how people tend to compare with former players and legends,” he said. Questioned about booing by England fans, and seemingly ignoring the incident against Atlético, he added: “I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in our stadium.”
Rangnick dismissed Paul Pogba’s complaint that having to play recently in a wide berth instead of his usual midfield position is difficult, the Frenchman contrasting this with how he is fielded in his preferred role consistently for his country.
“Since the game against West Ham [in January] we have lost three strikers: Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and [the injured] Edinson Cavani: so you have to play in a different role,” said Rangnick.