The Red Devils are already out of the EFL Cup, the Premier League title race and have just a slim chance of winning the Champions League.
United’s best hope of ending a five-year wait for silverware is the FA Cup, leaving Rangnick with no choice but to play star man Cristiano Ronaldo.
When the Portuguese sensation agreed to return to Old Trafford in August, he wasn’t coming for one last pay day.
Despite turning 37 next month, Ronaldo still wants to win trophies and remind everyone why he’s a five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“I win everything, so am I going to be worried about the people who say bad things about me?” said Ronaldo in October when asked about his critics.
“I sleep good at night. I go to my bed with my conscience very good. Keep going with that because I will still close mouths and win things.”
And many believe that’s why United re-signed Ronaldo: not to challenge rivals Manchester City for the Premier League title but to make the club a winning machine again.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in May 2013, the Red Devils have won just three major trophies… and none of those were the title or Champions League.
“If you sign Edinson Cavani, [Bruno] Fernandes, Ronaldo, [Jadon] Sancho and [Raphael] Varane, you have got to then win a trophy at some point in the next 12 to 18 months,” said United legend Gary Neville in September.
“This season or next when Ronaldo is here, that is why it is a make or break signing. They have to win a trophy.”
Neville then set United a target after they hired Rangnick to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager in November.
“I think they can certainly have a good season and finish in the top four,” said Neville in December.
“It would be incredible if they could win one of the cups. That would be a fantastic season for Ralf Rangnick.”
If United suffer a defeat to Steven Gerrard’s Villa on Monday evening, however, that dream would be all but diminished.
It’s been nearly 40 years since the Red Devils went six years without winning a major trophy, that stretch running between 1977 and 1983.
And Liverpool icon Gerrard will be confident of getting one over the club he – most likely – despises the most. Villa have won four of their last eight Premier League games since his appointment in November.
The West Midlands outfit also won the last time they played at Old Trafford in September, United’s first league defeat of the season.
Although the FA Cup no longer has the same appeal as the Premier League or Champions League, it’s still a major trophy and one that United should target this season.
Playing Ronaldo – a serial medal collector – is Rangnick’s best chance of stopping their silverware rot and taking the first step back to success.