Ralf Rangnick’s tenure as Manchester United interim manager was a disaster, recording the club’s worst-ever Premier League season in 2021/22. But the Glazer family thwarted the German coach in his attempts to add much-needed reinforcements to his squad in January 2022.
Rangnick won just 11 of his 29 matches in charge of the Red Devils (38 per cent), drawing nine and losing just as many.
A mid-season attacking crisis soured United’s miserable results, with injuries in Rangnick’s squad rife.
Mason Greenwood had been suspended late in the January transfer window, and Anthony Martial had already left on a short loan to Sevilla.
It left Rangnick desiring an attacking signing to help conjure something from United’s calamitous campaign, and there were options available.
One of them was Julian Alvarez, then a 22-year-old striker making waves for River Plate and set up for a successful career with the Argentina national team.
But the United hierarchy dismissed Rangnick’s request, citing a potential disagreement with the club’s summer managerial appointment as the reason for avoiding a January signing.
“The answer at the time was no; there was no player on the market that could really help us,” Rangnick bemoaned.
“[But] there were a few: Diaz, who is now at Liverpool, Alvarez, who will be at Manchester City in the summer, Vlahovic, who at the time still was with Fiorentina. Those are just three of them that come across my mind now.
“We had four days off at the time, and on the Sunday, I was informed about the issues with Mason Greenwood, and obviously Anthony Martial had already left, and then I was aware that within four days, we had some strikers missing, and it might make sense.
“We were still in three competitions – Champions League, FA Cup and fourth in the league, but that’s in the past and it doesn’t help us anymore.
“I spoke to the board and said, ‘Shouldn’t we at least speak and try and analyse if we could get a player either on loan or as a permanent deal?’ but in the end, the answer was no.
“I still believe that we should have at least tried. If we would’ve found and been able to in 48 hours, 48 hours is short notice, but it’s still 48 hours.
“It might have been worth to try and internally discuss, but we didn’t, and it was not done.”
Alvarez had scored 36 goals in 96 appearances for River and helped Argentina to the 2021 Copa America.
United didn’t take a chance on Rangnick’s suggestion – despite his commendable track record as a director of football, desperately needed at Old Trafford.
But Manchester City did, sealing a deal for just £14million on transfer deadline day. And Pep Guardiola has been rewarded for every single speck of faith.
Since the start of last season, Alvarez has scored 23 goals in all competitions for City, a tally only bettered by Erling Haaland (60).
The talented forward has registered six goals and five assists in 12 appearances this term, while Erik ten Hag faces attacking struggles at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag’s attacking regiment has managed just six goals combined through Rasmus Hojlund, Marcus Rashford, Antony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho.
United’s sporting department has invited mass criticism for failing to follow up on scout recommendations, instead opting for high-profile signings to service transfer-hungry fans and commercial wealth.
It’s a significant reason why the two Manchester clubs are heading in contrasting directions.