In the aftermath of a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool in April 2022 that left Manchester United sixth in the Premier League table, Ralf Rangnick mapped out a clear path forward - having spent the best part of six months getting to know the players and inner-workings of the club.
"If you analyse the situation, it's not that difficult to analyse," said United's former interim manager. "The team needs a rebuild. For me it's clear there will be six, seven, eight, maybe 10 new players. And before you sign those players, you need to be aware how do you want to play? What kind of football does the new manager want to play? And then take it from there and then bring every single player fitting into that kind of profile."
Rangnick would later add: "For me, it’s clear it’s not enough to do some little, minor amendments, some little issues here and there, some minor cosmetic things. No, in medicine you would see this is an operation at the open heart, so there are more things to be changed than some little things here and some minor things there, and this is the good thing."
Fast-forward 20 months, and United find themselves in arguably an even worse position. Erik ten Hag delivered the Carabao Cup and Champions League qualification in his debut season at the helm, but all that work has been undone in the first-half of the 2023-24 campaign.
United slipped to their sixth defeat in 14 Premier League games at Newcastle on Saturday, and the harsh truth is, the 1-0 scoreline flattered them. What was more alarming, though, is the fact that eight of the players in Ten Hag's starting XI also played regularly under Rangnick.
The Dutch head coach has followed his predecessor's blueprint to an extent, signing 16 new players, but very few of them have been successful, and they've done little to help United carve out a new, clear footballing identity. He's also held onto a number of misfits who have long outstayed their welcome at Old Trafford.
These players are holding United back, and do not deserve to pull on the famous red shirt anymore. All of them have been given countless chances to silence their critics, or justify their hefty price tags, only to continuously let the club, the supporters, and indeed themselves down.
Such is the sheer incompetence of those pulling the strings behind the scenes at United, there is a very good chance that none of them will be offloaded in the January transfer window. For all of Ten Hag's shortcomings, which have been laid bare in recent months, it is his failure to cut loose the stragglers that will eventually lead to him suffering the same fate as the rest of the United managers in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.