Manchester United will finish yet another season empty-handed; their final chance of silverware this term ending with Tuesday night's defeat to Atletico in the Champions League last-16.
That's not good enough for a club of their size and ambition, and much needs to change if they're to arrest this worrying trend next season. Here, FFT lists five key things the club need to fix before the beginning of the next campaign.
Sort the manager situation out
The biggest cloud hanging over the club is their lack of a long-term plan, and that all stems from the manager. Ralf Rangnick has failed to convince the board that he's the right man for the job but his expertise behind the scenes could prove hugely valuable from next season. As a Sporting Director, the German masterminded RB Leipzig's rise to the Bundesliga and is famed for his ability to unearth top talents.
But a new face in the dugout is needed – a manager with a clear philosophy, who is unafraid to make the big calls and won't be overwhelmed by the size of the job. Whether that man is Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag or someone else remains to be seen, but the club must make a call as soon as possible.
Clear out the deadwood
Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard look set to run down their contracts this summer, while Mason Greenwood's situation could be mean he never plays again either. Those departures would clear a chunk off the wage bill, but that's still not enough – even without them, United's squad remains bloated, and the following players should have their future's considered: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Dean Henderson, Anthony Martial, Nemanja Matic and even Cristiano Ronaldo.
This isn't Football Manager, they can't all go, but the club should decide who they intend to keep and sell those that don't make the cut.
Sign a proper striker
Cristiano Ronaldo has ensured United have had some bite in attack this campaign but, at 37, he's not a long-term solution and, as much as fans love the Portuguese superstar, he hasn't been consistent enough. Last year, the club signed a 34-year-old Edinson Cavani and he, too, performed admirably before falling down the pecking order this term.
But no more quick fixes and short-term strikers. Manchester United were once known for having three of four world class no.9s in their squad at any given stage; players in their pomp who could all have scored 20 goals a season elsewhere. They need a player or two of that calibre again. Harry Kane has been touted in recent weeks and the Spurs striker could be ideal.
Bring in a deep-lying midfielder
Fred and Scott McTominay are both good players – with the former actually excelling in recent weeks – but neither looks comfortable anchoring the midfield alone. A proper deep-lying midfielder has been needed since Michael Carrick retired in 2018 – someone who can break-up opposition moves, start counters and orchestrate play from deep.
All the other top sides have at least one: Fernandinho and Rodri at Man City, Thomas Partey at Arsenal, Jorghino and N'golo Kante at Chelsea and Fabinho at Liverpool. United need their own blend of silk and steel in midfield.
Get Rashford back on board
It must have hurt Marcus Rashford to admit he was considering his Old Trafford future. The England intentional has been at the club since the age of eight, and has long been considered a future United captain. Yet he has grown dissatisfied with his role in the team and the lack of success at the club in recent years.
Some fans have suggested letting him have his wish; cashing-in and allowing him his move. This isn't the right idea. Players like Rashford – local lads who have a deep-rooted connection to the club and the area – should be treasured and the 24-year-old can still become a legend if he's talked round. United already look destined to lose Lingard, another local boy. They mustn't repeat the mistake with Rashford.
Subscribe to FourFourTwo today and save over a third on shop price
DECISIONS, DECISIONS What are Marcus Rashford's options if he does leave Manchester United?
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1