Under Ralf Rangnick, Man United fight for identity as doubts grow over acting boss


There are two ways a manager can impress players when he first walks into a new dressing room, but Ralf Rangnick fails on both fronts as he grapples with the challenges as interim Manchester United boss.

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Rangnick must either present himself as a proven winner, someone whose reputation precedes him, or stand out on the training ground and with his tactical acumen. Six games after Rangnick’s spell began, there have been very few signs of the so-called “new manager rebound”.

Three wins, two draws and most recently a 1-0 loss to Wolves at Old Trafford on Monday are unimpressive stats, but there has also been a disturbing failure to motivate a very talented group of players into a functional unit.

Add in the candid comments of United defender Luke Shaw, who spoke of a lack of cohesion within the squad before adding, “maybe the manager can contribute more ideas on what he wants in the field”. It’s clear Rangnick is already under pressure to increase his level of play as much as he is to increase player performance.

The players, of course, will take the brunt of the criticism, and United have underperformed for so long now that it is inevitable that they will continue to be scrutinized. But players need to be inspired and motivated, so all eyes are now on Rangnick to react.

Footballers, whatever their level, are quick to decide on a new boss. A former multi-title winner told ESPN that the first 15 seconds of a new manager’s introductory message is enough for most players to decide if he’s the real deal or “just another salesman who speaks a better game than he delivers “.

Fifteen seconds may be pushing to the extreme, but footballers largely want their manager to improve them, keep them focused and, above all, make them win, so any doubt about their boss’s credentials cannot. that detract from the prospects of success.

If a manager does not have trophy references on his CV, he has to make a difference with his tactical approach, which allows him to quickly improve the team and improve the players on an individual basis. But after just six weeks in charge at United, Rangnick is grappling with the latter failing to convince skeptics with his reputation.

A source close to a prominent United first-team member told ESPN the player “owed Google” Rangnick when his appointment was confirmed in late November. This is not necessarily an indictment against the player because, while many fans or bloggers may know Rangnick’s career path in great detail, footballers largely focus only on the daily practice and play and not so inclined to study motors and shakers. in the game beyond their own sphere.

– Godfather of Gegenpressing: the philosophy of Rangnick

Had United nominated Antonio Conte, Zinedine Zidane, Mauricio Pochettino or Brendan Rodgers – all of which were discussed by United’s board when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left – neither player would have had to seek out the new one. man on google.

After researching Rangnick’s background, United players reportedly quickly found a manager who has well developed teams and mid-level players in the game in Germany with clubs such as Schalke 04, TSG Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, but didn’t has not coached a top club or won a major trophy. Based on that Rangnick must have made a quick impression with his tactical acumen, but after six games in charge – a race disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak at United – it was anything but convincing.

Tactically, United have tried to press high on the pitch in some games and have visibly failed in others. Against Newcastle and Wolves they started with a 4-2-2-2 formation which led to two dismal first-half performances before changes were made at half-time. Against Wolves on Monday, United were passed in midfield before going from 4-2-2-2 to 3-5-2, which only stemmed the tide slightly before Bruno Lage’s side broke. Seals the win with a late goal from Joao Moutinho.

When a manager’s tactical plan doesn’t work, it leads to doubt and confusion among players. The manager is supposed to bring clarity, but Rangnick has failed in this area so far.

After Solskjaer came under criticism for leaving the players under-trained by a behind-the-scenes squad largely populated by former United players or staff who had worked with him at Cardiff City and Molde, Rangnick bet on his credibility by hiring two coaches – Chris Armas and Ewan Sharp – whose previous experience was limited to periods in MLS with the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC.

A source told ESPN that some players have been disappointed with Rangnick’s early impact, on the pitch and with his recruiting, but that he also needs time to get through a troubled December in order to assert himself in the field. work.

Still, the initial momentum all new coaches want – and need – is pretty much gone before it even gets to Rangnick. Now he is fighting for results and credibility. It’s never a good place for a manager.


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