5 Things Ralf Rangnick Needs To Address At Manchester United

Old Trafford - Manchester United

Ralf Rangnick arrives at Manchester United as one of the most highly rated minds in world football, with a reputation at an all-time high, but there’s much work to do.

With the news that Ralf Rangnick would be taking the reigns at Manchester United, hope sprang up around the red half of the the city for arguably the first time since the opening day of the season. On that occasion, Paul Pogba turned in one of his best performances in a Manchester United shirt as they easily dispatched Leeds United with a free-flowing display in the August sunshine.

Since then, there have been other wins, Cristiano Ronaldo returned, Raphael Varane signed, but United’s season quickly fell apart. After one league win in five, and 15 goals conceded in that run, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was shown the door.

In his place comes Ralf Rangnick. The man credited overhauling RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig, as well as influencing the footballing philosophy of Julian Nagelsmann, J├╝rgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel.

It’s understood that the German will operate as interim manager for six months, before moving into a consultancy role for a further two years. With United lacking direction, confidence and most importantly results, the former Hoffenheim boss will need to act quickly arrest the slide.

Here are five things that Ralf Rangnick needs to address in order to save Manchester United’s season.

Make a case for the defence

Manchester United currently sit 8th in the Premier League table with a goal difference of -1. Only two teams have conceded more goals than United this season, and they occupy the bottom two places in the league table.

While defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City aren’t exactly welcome, to a degree, they are at least understandable. However, the manor of those defeats and shipping four goals to Leicester City and Watford have laid bare United’s defensive woes of all to see. Whether playing four at the back or with three centre-backs, United have been unsteady to say the least.

Despite David De Gea returning to something like his best, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have struggled for form. Though, Maguire’s attempts to play although not fully fit are admirable, he may need a spell out of the firing line to return to full fitness. The new man will surely also be praying on the return from injury of Varane, who can undoubtedly be a steadying influence.

Rangnick has more often than not favoured four at the back throughout his career, and it’s a system that United’s players are comfortable with. A return to a consistent foundation could be key.

Be a man with a plan

One of the major criticisms of Manchester United in recent times has been the team’s lack of clear direction on the pitch. No matter the formation, it has often seemed as though the team are waiting for one of their star men to do something spectacular, rather than having a clear plan in place to try and win any given game.

It’s difficult to believe that this is something that will continue with Rangnick.

The “Godfather of the gegenpressing’ is known for his teams having an identity and a set way of playing. Much of this at United will revolve around making them more effective without the ball. The general feeling being that he will provide a structure, and get the team defending and working as a unit.

While Rangnick isn’t married to one particular formation, it seems likely he’ll adopt a variation of 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1, something that will suit the current squad.

Get the best out of Jadon Sancho And Donny Van De Beek

Jadon Sancho left English football in August 2017, as a teenager with the potential to rise to the top the world game. He returned four years later as one of the most highly-rated young players on the planet after a fine spell in Dortmund. However, his time at United is yet to catch fire.

He’s flitted in and out of the starting line-up, unable to gain any kind of consistency in performance. However, in the midweek victory over Villarreal, Sancho appeared to turn a corner, finally scoring his first goal for the club. Before following up with another goal against Chelsea.

If there is one man at the club who can relate to Sancho’s relative struggles it is Donny Van De Beek. The Dutchman arrived at Manchester United with his reputation at an all-time high, off the back of a stellar career with Ajax. Although the versatile midfielder has found himself lost in the shuffle.

He was never going to replace Fernandes or Pogba, but at the same time he isn’t the defensive midfielder to play with both of them.

With that being said, somewhat ironically, the midfield misfit scored the last goal of Solskjaer’s reign and started against Villarreal. And with Paul Pogba currently out injured this might just be the moment for Van De Beek to make his mark.

The arrival of Ralf Rangnick arguably couldn’t have come at a better time for two of United’s fringe men. The remainder of the season could prove vital in the careers of both.

 

You can’t go forwards if you’re only looking back

Since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped out of the Manchester United dugout for the final time, the club have never really moved on. This is something that was only heightened during Solskjaer’s time as manager. The obsession with the ‘United Way’ despite no one really quite knowing what it is, has kept the club looking back at it’s past for so long, it has seemingly forgotten to move forwards.

There has been a perception that all of the managerial appointments since David Moyes departed have had their best years behind them, while Solskjaer is so inextricably linked to United’s past he was unable to escape it. But in appointing Rangnick, United have given the reigns to a man who is credited with fathering the style of football which has come to define European football in recent years.

There is a feeling that for the first time in a long time, Manchester United have appointed the best man for the job, and at the right time. Should the club follow Rangnick with another forward thinking appointment in the summer, it would go a long way to righting the wrongs of the last eight years.

Solve the Ronaldo conundrum

On the surface, the signing of Ronaldo was a can’t miss for United, but dig a little deeper, and beyond the prevailing narrative of a ‘legend returning home’ it made little sense. His arrival completely changed the way that the team needed to operate, and it’s a change that the team never properly managed to make.

Of course, he has chipped in with goals, often important ones, but the team have lacked balance with him in it, both with and without the ball.

How to utilise Ronaldo is something that will prove an interesting puzzle for Rangnick to solve. While the German is known for his commitment to high energy-pressing and fast paced football, it’s unclear as to whether Ronaldo will be able to carry out the job without the ball as required. However, that’s not to suggest that Rangnick is also incapable of adapting to the tools at his disposal. In this case, what Ronaldo is capable of with the ball, rather than what he isn’t without.

The coming weeks will be a fascinating test of not only how the Manchester United squad adapt to a completely new way of playing, but also how Rangnick goes about moulding those players into the team he feels they can be.

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