Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position at Manchester United is almost reaching an untenable position with recent one-sided defeats to big rivals Liverpool and Manchester City highlighting the magnitude of the gap between the clubs.
Unfortunately for Solskjaer, though he still remains the United boss, many fans are growing excited by the prospect of who’ll inevitably replace him, and the leading candidate to do so looks to be the highly-revered Ralf Rangnick.
The German is a unique character in football.
Though an established manager who has done stellar managerial work at clubs like Schalke, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, his astute football brain has seen him undertake furthermore significant club roles away from the dugout too.
Ralf Rangnick is in the frame for the Manchester United job ( Image:
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He successfully operated as the Red Bull Group’s Director of Football from 2012 and was later appointed as Head of Sport and Development in 2019. He continues to work in such a capacity for the Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.
And there’s a hope he’d use all of his experience across different departments to come in at Old Trafford and have a transformational impact for the club in a number of key areas.
Identity First and foremost on the pitch, United fans are screaming out to see some form of identity in their team’s play.
Right now under Solskjaer, this is something that’s amiss. The Norwegian has regularly spoken of his United team being a side on the front foot, pressing high with plenty of intensity to their play.
However, the reality has often been very different. For example, based on a metric called Passes Per Defensive Action (PPDA), which measures how aggressive a team press high up the pitch, United currently rank 18th in the Premier League, above only Newcastle and Norwich City.
Meanwhile, more cohesive and aggressive rivals such as Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester City each make up the top three in this department.
Read More Additionally, in bigger games, United tend to revert to a more counter-attacking approach, sitting deep before trying to explode on the break using their quick forwards. Although it can be an effective and match-winning tactic, the same is in contrast to the longer-term ideology Solskjaer has talked about trying to implement at the club.
For Rangnick, a clear team identity is absolutely fundamental, as he reiterated when speaking in a recent coaching conference put on by The Coaches’ Voice.
“If we are very honest, as football coaches, like we all are in this room, what is the job of a football head coach or manager? To have a clear idea of how our teams should play,” he said.
Playing style In terms of playing style, Rangnick’s is best described as intense. At Hoffenheim, he utilised a 4-3-3, whilst at RB Leipzig he played versions of a 4-4-2, which sometimes resembled a midfield diamond or a 4-2-2-2.
No matter which formation he played though, the fundamentals of his play remained the same. He was heavily inspired by the great Arrigo Sacchi who was largely considered an innovator of the pressing game. Rangnick instructed his teams to press high up the pitch with a focus on winning the ball in favourable areas close to the opposition goal.
His pressing intentions were a little bit different when compared to other teams known for their pressing, such as Man City. Pep Guardiola’s men press with the intention of regaining possession and controlling the ball.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is in danger of losing his job at Manchester United ( Image:
Pool via REUTERS) Rangnick though likes his team to win the ball back not for possession, but instead to create chances quickly. His team had various triggers, traps and schemes that would aim to maximise opportunities to press players inside their own half.
When the ball is won, Rangnick has previously stated he wants his teams to generate a shooting opportunity within ten seconds of the turnover, as he believes this is the optimal window in which the dispossessed opponent is unorganised from a defensive standpoint.
With the ball, he wants his teams to play quick vertical football. The same involves less reliance on individual brilliance, but instead more team overloads, using neat triangular and diamond structures aimed at helping the team penetrate through opposition set-ups.
How United might line up With Rangnick’s philosophy clearer, we can probably assume with some certainty that a back four would remain at United.
You can’t imagine that Solskjaer’s current favoured foursome of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire or Luke Shaw would be broken up, even despite their struggles as a group this season.
Ahead of them though, things get a little trickier. It’s likely, based on what we know, that Rangnick would play two central midfielders, two wide men and two strikers.
Right now, the team lacks enough high-energy and versatile profiles that made up his previous squads at other clubs, and that’s something he might want to address in January if he comes to Old Trafford.
Results have been going against the Red Devils ( Image:
PETER POWELL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock) In any event, his midfield duo tends to offer protection, though it’ll be music to the ears of many United fans that the same isn’t nearly as conservative as the Scott McTominay and Fred partnership the United faithful have come to loathe.
We’d possibly therefore only see one of those two players feature, and they’d be partnered by Bruno Fernandes or even Donny Van de Beek.
The latter has been out in the cold for pretty much all of his United career so far, yet his well-rounded skill set makes him a worthy candidate to play in the midfield role in Rangnick’s system.
Fernandes would be lining up a little deeper than what we’ve grown accustomed to, yet with no room for a No.10, plus his strong passing and ball-carrying abilities, this would be the best position for him to influence United’s play.
Pogba’s style, plus the fact he’ll be departing at the end of the season, means a spot in the starting 11 would be hard to come by.
Up top, you’d expect to see a rotating attacking duo consisting of Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood or Marcus Rashford, though each of Greenwood and Rashford could also be regulars in the wide positions, along with Jadon Sancho.
Sancho hasn’t found his feet yet at United, however, Rangnick’s system likes to see his wide-men make plenty of inside and outside rotations, meaning he needs skilful and dangerous attackers who are comfortable playing both on the wing and coming into central areas.
While he’s not shown it yet at United, Sancho is ideal for this role and Rangnick’s arrival could be key to kickstarting his Old Trafford career.
Recruitment Beyond playing an influential role in transforming his team’s successes and playing philosophies, it’s also been Rangnick’s standout work in terms of recruitment when operating as a Director of Football that’s helped elevate his stature in the game.
For a number of years, United have struggled on the recruitment front. Despite boasting one of the bigger budgets in the Premier League, there hasn’t always been a well thought out plan or structure to their purchases.
They have often made moves for big names who’ve already built a sizable reputation, meaning their signature comes at a financial premium.
Rangnick has shown himself to be a master of overseeing an elite scouting network that has unearthed and recruited multiple future Premier League stars – Sadio Mane, Erling Haaland and Timo Werner to name a few.
At United, his experience means he’d have the potential to identify the holes within the squad and fill them with top-class talents who perhaps aren’t yet on the radar of other elite European sides.
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