Man Utd’s rebuild: players, manager and stadium upgrades are needed 

It’s another trophyless season after the Red Devils crashed out of the Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo applauds the Man Utd fans after the loss against Atletico Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo applauds the fans after the loss against Atletico
(Image credit: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo’s reaction summed up the feeling around Old Trafford after Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night. Dumped out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage, the 2-1 aggregate loss means United will be without silverware for the fifth season running.

At the final whistle the Man Utd fans “reacted furiously” to the result and there were “ugly scenes” as Atletico boss Diego Simeone was pelted with bottles, The Mirror reported.

The supporters “weren’t the only ones upset”, Ronaldo was also “visibly frustrated” as United crashed out of Europe’s top club competition.

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It was a “dismal exit” for the Red Devils, said the Daily Mail. And for Ronaldo it also means that he has been “condemned to his first season without a trophy for 17 years”.

“There are too many years without any trophies, even without fighting for trophies,” goalkeeper David De Gea told BT Sport after the match. “We need much more from everyone because this club is too big for where we are now.”

‘Watershed moment’

United’s “limitations were laid bare” as Atletico did a “classic Champions League number on them”, said the BBC’s Phil McNulty. This had the feeling of a “watershed moment for those in charge” at Old Trafford.

A last-16 exit is “about par for the course given their current reduced status”, McNulty added. Their only hope of salvaging anything this season is by finishing in the Premier League top four. As things stand Arsenal are currently fourth with 51 points, one more than United. The Gunners have played three games less, but face title contenders Liverpool on Wednesday.

So “that’s that” for United in this year’s Champions League, said Ian King on Football365. And it’s “probably over for next year as well”, considering Arsenal are in good form. “It would be easy to blame” interim boss Ralf Rangnick, but “considering that this keeps on happening through manager after manager, might it be that the problems at the club run somewhat deeper than just one person?”

12 players out, Tuchel in as boss?

United will prepare to rebuild once again and the Daily Express has looked at every player who is “nowhere near good enough and should leave in the aftermath of the defeat – whether they played or not”. Among the names on the 12-player list were captain Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba.

Player transfers will be a major focus for the club this summer – as will their search for a new manager to take over from Rangnick, who is in interim charge until the end of the season.

United are “monitoring” Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, The Guardian reported. The German’s future at Chelsea is unsure after the government imposed sanctions on their owner, Roman Abramovich. Paris Saint-Germain’s Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag are among the other candidates under consideration.

Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is Old Trafford fit for purpose?

It’s not just on the pitch where United need major improvements. The club are exploring plans to redevelop Old Trafford and this week issued an update on the scheme, the Manchester Evening News reported.

United have “listened to a range of ideas” on how to improve their home stadium, “with the intention of bringing the ground back up to standard amongst the leading clubs in the Premier League”. The “new builds” at Arsenal and Tottenham “now set the standard and it’s become clear Old Trafford needs an upgrade”.

It’s certainly been a long time coming, King said on Football365. The lack of investment has had a “damaging effect on the old place” and “questions have even been asked over whether it’s fit for purpose in the 21st century”.

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Mike Starling is the digital features editor at The Week, where he writes content and edits the Arts & Life and Sport website sections and the Food & Drink and Travel newsletters. He started his career in 2001 in Gloucestershire as a sports reporter and sub-editor and has held various roles as a writer and editor at news, travel and B2B publications. He has spoken at a number of sports business conferences and also worked as a consultant creating sports travel content for tourism boards. International experience includes spells living and working in Dubai, UAE; Brisbane, Australia; and Beirut, Lebanon.