Ralf Rangnick thought Manchester United’s pursuit of Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic was a joke while his three-player shortlist for the club was ignored.
Rangnick was appointed as United’s interim coach in December on a deal until the end of the season but it had been agreed that he would continue at the club in a consultancy role for two years.
However, that plan was subsequently scrapped as his exit was confirmed at the end of last campaign.
The 63-year-old took the reins of the Austrian national team to coincide with his United departure, where Arnautovic remains a star player and is the only member of the current international setup to have won more than 100 caps.
The Austrian international has emerged as a target for Erik ten Hag after United submitted a shock bid worth around £7million after their opening defeat of the campaign.
But despite Arnautovic sharing a personal connection with Ten Hag, the initial offer was rejected by Italian side Bologna, who view the former West Ham and Stoke talisman as pivotal to their aspirations this season.
However, United pulled out of a deal to sign the forward following a backlash from the club’s support over previous comments from the forward.
Arnautovic had been accused of using an anti-Albanian slur during Austria’s game against North Macedonia at Euro 2020 – with UEFA issuing him a one-match ban after the incident.
As detailed by the Manchester Evening News, Rangnick thought United’s interest in Arnautovic was a joke that had been devised by reports that were not true. However, the club’s interest was genuine.
Rangnick, who has spent the majority of the past decade as a sporting director rather than a manager, had handed United a three-player shortlist to sign this summer.
He advised them of a trio of RB Leipzig players – defender Josko Gvardiol, midfielder Konrad Laimer and forward Christopher Nkunku. However, United did not pursue any of the players.
Instead, United did sign six players – many of whom had personal links to new boss Ten Hag. They signed Lisandro Martinez and Antony from Ajax, alongside free agent Christian Eriksen – who had trained at the Dutch giants, while Tyrell Malacia was brought from Feyenoord. Casemiro and Martin Dubravka were also added to the United squad.
Rangnick’s tenure at Old Trafford is likely to be viewed as disastrous; with the club losing each of their final six Premier League away matches of the season and missing out on a top-four finish by double digits while ending the season trophyless.