EPL

Ralf Rangnick: Who is Man Utd's interim manager and is Cristiano Ronaldo really a problem?

By Sports Desk November 30, 2021

For many, Ralf Rangnick's arrival at Old Trafford has come eight years too late.

Manchester United have struggled since Alex Ferguson delivered a 20th league title in his final season in 2012-13.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have come and gone – the latter relieved of his duties following humiliating losses to Liverpool, Manchester City and lowly Watford at the end of a trophyless tenure dating back to December 2018.

There have been Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup successes and a couple of runner-up finishes in the Premier League since Ferguson left, but United have never looked close to competing for the title.

A lack of direction and vision from the top at United has seen the Red Devils slip behind their rivals – the absence of a clear footballing philosophy leaving the English powerhouse stuck in the past.

But Rangnick's appointment on an interim basis until the end of the season suggests United are ready to come to the party and adapt to modern football – the most telling aspect of the former RB Leipzig boss' arrival being the two-year consultancy role he will take up following the 2021-22 campaign.

Rangnick – seen as an innovator who is known for his high-pressing philosophy and influence on some of German football's brightest minds, including Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel – could potentially be set to oversee a long-term transformation of United after leaving his role as head of sports and development at Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

"The question is always what vision and philosophy do they want," former Australia international David Zdrilic – previously a player and colleague of Rangnick – told Stats Perform, with United eighth in the table and 12 points off the pace. "If they want that type of football, then he's definitely the guy that can implement that on all levels, not just the first team. He can produce that right through the club and give it a real identity. That's if they want that identity. So that's the only question really.

"But when they say, 'Yes, this is the type of football we want to play,' and it seems like it's going in that direction, then clearly you can see [that identity] with all the clubs that he's worked at. Hoffenheim is a club that he brought from scratch and now they have that clear identity. Leipzig's another one. This [United] is different because this is a big, traditional club and they already have an identity of their own. I think the football they play is very similar to that style."

Rangnick will have his work cut out with a United side well adrift in terms of pressed sequences (12th, 164), passes allowed per defensive action (14th, 14.6), high turnovers (11th, 98), kilometres covered per game (17th, 104.6), defensive actions (17th, 296) and pressures in the attacking third (15th, 589).

"When you think of the old Manchester United days under Ferguson, it was always very attacking, very exciting type of football," Zdrilic said. "So, this certainly has its similarities. So that's going to be exciting to see how that develops."

 

Zdrilic knows Rangnick better than most – the pair's relationship dating back to 1998.

A 30-time international, Zdrilic was signed by Rangnick during his time as head coach of 2.Bundelsiga outfit SSV Ulm, who had just stepped up from the third tier of German football. The 63-year-old left for Stuttgart before the end of the season, though the club went on to gain promotion to the top flight.

They reunited at Leipzig, where Rangnick brought Zdrilic to the emerging Bundesliga outfit as a youth-team coach over three years.

Recalling life under Rangnick at Ulm, Zdrilic said: "It was not only the football, but just the way he approached his philosophy. Basically, his philosophy was just at the forefront for him from day one, and that was something I wasn't used to. We were playing football, but we weren't really talking about tactics in that degree back then. But he was very, very convinced in his philosophy.

"When I joined, they had just come up from third division to second division. I had one year in Switzerland and then he signed me for Ulm. When we were there, I just remember one conversation I had with him and we were talking about, because we started the season really well and by the halfway point in that year we were first and he was getting a lot of attention because of the way we were playing. The German public were looking at it, going, this is a new way of playing this pressing style with a back four. Everybody was playing a sweeper back then. A conversation I had with him was about, you know, how this season's going to go. In my head, you don't go from third division to second division, then straight to first division. So, I joined in second and I sort of said something to that effect, like, 'Yeah, but you know, it's not really realistic that we're going to go straight up to the Bundesliga.' The way he looked at me was incredible, it was like, 'Why not?' But not, 'Oh, why not?' It was like looking at me like I'm stupid, 'Why not?' Then sure enough, third division, second division, Bundesliga. He did it with Hoffenheim, third division, second division, Bundesliga, and then obviously with Leipzig, he took them from the fifth division all the way to Champions League and to one the best clubs in Europe now.

"It's just incredible that he has no doubts that that's possible, whereas most people would say you can't do that. He just knows 100 per cent that this is possible and he brought that from day one. That's something I saw and it stuck with me, not only in my playing days, but then as a coach was exactly the same thing about how we approach coaching, developing players and coaches. Everything is just like he knows 100 per cent what he wants and how to do it and that conviction is why he's so successful."

At Leipzig, after spells with the likes of Hoffenheim, Hannover and Schalke, Rangnick took charge of the team in two different spells, having initially joined parent company Red Bull as director of football in 2012.

Under Rangnick's leadership, Leipzig had gone from the regional league to Champions League qualification by 2017.

Rangnick – who will become only the sixth German to manage in the Premier League – was promoted to the head of sport and development for Red Bull in 2019, before eventually joining Lokomotiv earlier this year.

Indeed, Rangnick has only faced United twice in his managerial career when in charge of Schalke, who were outclassed over two legs in the Champions League semi-final in 2011 as Ferguson's side made their third final in four years.

"His network that he's built and his ability to find talent and produce talent," Zdrilic said of Rangnick's biggest strength. "You just have to go through all the names that he's found and produced. Now just recently you've got [Dayot] Upamecano going to Bayern Munich and he was at Leipzig. [Ibrahima] Konate's gone to Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp takes a lot of the players that he's developed because it's the same principle behind the philosophy. So [Sadio] Mane is over there with him as well, [Naby] Keita he took from Leipzig. All of these guys, so many talented players and he really has a strength in finding those players and developing them and obviously selling them on to big clubs. They are huge talents.

"I think the thing about him is he has the whole package. He can step in and coach like when he did at Leipzig two times when he wanted to get up to the Bundesliga the first time. He stepped in in the 2.Bundesliga and took them straight up. Then he stepped aside and gave [Ralph] Hasenhuttl the job. Then he did it again when they needed a coach after Hasenhuttl to step in before he got [Julian] Nagelsmann. So, it's just incredible his eye for what is needed and how to correct things. Not everybody sees that at the beginning. They see the results at the end, and that's probably why he obviously controls a lot of things and a lot of aspects. So, it's going to be interesting to see how it goes, not only as the head coach, but then what happens after that in terms of his role in developing Man Utd."

Rangnick has never managed outside of his native Germany, taking charge of five different teams in the German Bundesliga in his career. The last side he managed was Leipzig, winning promotion with them from 2.Bundesliga in 2015-16 before returning to the club for the 2018-19 top-flight season and leading them to third place.

Across 294 Bundesliga matches, Rangnick has a winning percentage of 41. He first took charge in the top flight in May 1999 at Stuttgart, losing 2-0 to Bayern Munich, while his last game in charge in the competition came 20 years later in May 2019 at Leipzig, a 2-1 defeat to Werder Bremen.

His best win ratio in the competition came during his first spell at Schalke (55.4 per cent), whom he led to second place and into the Champions League.

 

In Europe's elite competition, Rangnick took charge of 10 games with Schalke across the 2005-06 and 2010-11 seasons – his last match in the Champions League was against Ferguson's United in May 2011 in the second leg of that season's semi-final, losing 4-1 at Old Trafford and 6-1 on aggregate. His 10 games in charge have seen 38 goals scored (20 for, 18 against, 3.8 per game), the third-highest ratio of any manager to take charge of at least10 games in the competition as the Red Devils prepare for the knockout rounds this term.

His best top-flight finish as a coach is second, achieved in 2004-05 with Schalke, a side he took over mid-season and led to a runners-up position and also to the final of that season's DFB-Pokal, ultimately losing 2-1 to Bayern.

Zdrilic added: "He's very charismatic. He can be very firm, but with the players, I remember back then he knew how to approach the individuals. With me he was very clear, but it was just always the right type of conversation.

"There was a period when I had a little bit of an injury and I wanted to get back quickly and my head wasn't focused and he knew just to put his arm around and just get me back on track. The conversation just brought me right back to where I needed to be. You hear a lot of reports about players and that kind of connection that he has with the players. But at the same time, in terms of the business dealings and what he needs to do, he's very, very direct and he gets what he wants. He is very clear about that. So he's got all sides of that character, which is again, why he's done so well."

As soon as news of Rangnick's imminent appointment broke, attention swiftly turned to Cristiano Ronaldo and whether the five-time Ballon d'Or winner can fit into the high-pressing system.

Rangnick demands hard graft from every player, so can he accommodate a 36-year-old superstar not known for his pressing from the front?

Zdrilic pointed to Rangnick's time with Real Madrid and Spain great Raul at Schalke, saying: "Now you wouldn't think of Raul as being the typical pressing player, but he played a lot under Rangnick and [scored] a lot of goals. He was able to adapt to account for players that maybe aren't going to press as much as others. I don't see that being an issue.

"It's always a challenge anyway for any manager generally, but he's certainly equipped to do that. Back in my time, right at the start, I was the guy running and doing the pressing, and I had a striker with me who was a bit older. His name was Dragan Trkulja and he scored a lot of goals. He didn't do the same amount of pressing that I did, but basically still profited from that and was very clever in that system and we were a pressing side. So I have no doubts that he's able to put all the pieces together and find a way to make this team function with his philosophy and with Ronaldo."

Related items

  • Australian Open: Barty bests Anisimova to ease through to quarter-finals Australian Open: Barty bests Anisimova to ease through to quarter-finals

    Ash Barty's dominant form at the Australian Open continued as the world number one saw off Amanda Anisimova to reach the quarter-finals.

    Anisimova shocked 2021 champion Naomi Osaka in the last round but the in-form Barty proved a step too far on Sunday.

    Barty had not dropped a set in any of her previous matches and the Australian continued that trend with a 6-4 6-3 triumph that took just 74 minutes.

    The 25-year-old missed five chances to break before she finally nosed herself ahead in a tightly contested first set when Anisimova went long.

    Anisimova made the same mistake in the next game, failing to grasp the opportunity for an immediate response, and Barty struck a forehand winner to claim the set.

    World number 60 Anisimova responded by racing into a 40-0 lead at the start of the second set, only for some sloppy shots to allow Barty to haul herself level.

    The American held her nerve though and looked to be right back into it when she broke Barty in the next game.

    Yet two-time major winner Barty hit straight back, with a missed backhand from Anisimova gifting her a reprieve, and she did not look back, holding serve before breaking again to go 4-3 ahead.

    Anisimova saved two match points in her win over Osaka, yet another overhit backhand sent Barty through to a tie against Jessica Pegula at the first time of asking.

    DATA SLAM: BARTY'S HOLD STREAK OVER

    There was one negative for Barty, who failed to hold serve for the first time in 63 games when she was broken in the second set. However, the Queenslander responded to that streak ending with a display of her title-winning quality to reach a fourth successive Australian Open quarter-final.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Barty – 23/17
    Anisimova – 20/34

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Barty – 7/3
    Anisimova – 4/1

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Barty – 4/11
    Anisimova – 1/5

  • Burrow tired of 'underdog narrative' as Bengals topple Titans Burrow tired of 'underdog narrative' as Bengals topple Titans

    Joe Burrow is "tired of the underdog narrative" and said the Cincinnati Bengals are "here to make noise" after toppling the Tennessee Titans to make the AFC Championship game.

    Rookie Evan McPherson converted a last-gasp 52-yard field goal to send the Bengals to their first Championship Game since 1988 in a 19-16 win over the top-seeded Titans, while it represented their first ever postseason road win.

    The question of "Why not us?" has been a common theme of the Bengals' postseason run but for quarterback Burrow that is a motto that is no longer relevant.

    "I'm tired of the underdog narrative," said. "We're a really, really good team. We're here to make noise."

    Burrow added that McPherson called nailing his game-winning kick.

    "He [McPherson] gave a little warm-up swing and he said, 'Ahh, looks like we're going to the AFC Championship,'" Burrow said.

    The Bengals managed to triumph despite Burrow being sacked nine times, tying the most in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era.

    But they did also manage three interceptions, with Logan Wilson getting in the way of a Ryan Tannehill pass with 20 seconds left that ultimately set up McPherson's kick.

    And Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said there is no limit for his team.

    "This is the expectation for this team," Taylor said. 

    "This is not too big for these guys. I know we haven't been here before, but it sure feels like we have. You just see the attitude of this team and the confidence of this team that we're going to find a way to win."

    Shortly before coming in for his news conference, defensive tackle D.J. Reader was asked what the Bengals' new team motto is if not "Why not us?"

    He replied "it is us" before saying the team was motivated by what he felt has been disrespect from pundits this season.

    Reader said: "As a journalist, do you want somebody to doubt your ability to do your job? No. It's disrespectful. 

    "You gotta go out there and get it and take it. You gotta earn respect, though."

    "We're confident in us. We feel like we [are] them. We're the people. We're going out there every game, feeling like we're confident, we're the ones that need to get beat."

    Tannehill had an indifferent night for the Titans, completing 15 of 24 attempted passes for 220 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

    It means the Titans suffered a third straight loss on home turf as the number one seed in the AFC, while their last home postseason victory came back in 2003.

    Titans coach Mike Vrabel said: "I don't think Ryan or myself or anybody did enough to win the game. That's how it goes. 

    "It's never going to be about one person, not as long as I'm head coach, which will be a while."

  • Shanahan had a feeling about 49ers special teams in upset victory over the Packers Shanahan had a feeling about 49ers special teams in upset victory over the Packers

    Kyle Shanahan had an inkling that the San Francisco 49ers' special teams would prove pivotal in their shock divisional round win over the Green Bay Packers.

    The 49ers gained seven points on special teams and saved three on a night where Robbie Gould's walk-off field goal earned a 13-10 triumph to send San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game.

    Green Bay had led for most of the game after AJ Dillon's first-quarter touchdown but the 49ers drew level late when Jordan Willis blocked Corey Bojorquez's punt allowing Talanoa Hufanga to collect the loose ball and run into the end-zone.

    The 49ers regained possession with 3:25 to play, with the excellent Deebo Samuel helping drive them into field-goal range before 39-year-old Gould nailed his 45-yard attempt on the final whistle.

    "We thought our special teams had an advantage in this game," head coach Shanahan said. 

    "We thought they had an opportunity to possibly win us the game. And to be able to say that and to actually come to fruition was huge for those guys and huge for our team."

    Gould, who has now succeeded with each of his 20 career playoff field-goal attempts, ensured his boot stayed hot in snowy conditions at Lambeau Field and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo paid tribute to his team-mate, with a little pun thrown in for good measure.

    "I always trust Robbie. He's as good as gold, man. He always is," he said.

    Garoppolo added: "It's dangerous, man. When a team gets hot, it's dangerous.

    "So we've just got to keep this thing going, focus on next week now, and keep this thing rolling.

    "It took everything. We knew it was going to. I mean, it was just offense, defense, special teams - everybody stepping up and doing their part. I wouldn't have it any other way."

    The stars certainly seemed to align for the 49ers, who lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, with Jimmie Ward having earlier blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt from Mason Crosby on the final play of the first half. Had he made the kick the Packers would have led 10-0.

    Victory means the 49ers are headed to their 17th conference championship appearance, the most for any team since the conferences were forged following the 1970 merger.

    With the Cincinnati Bengals having beaten the Tennessee Titans earlier in the day, it also meant it was the first time since 2010 both number one seeds lost in the divisional round in the same season.

    George Kittle said the 49ers proved they are a "gritty" team to make it this far.

    "This team has been through a lot," the tight end said. "We've been through a lot of adversity. 

    "We've dealt with a lot. We've lost games by making mistakes. We've won games dirty. This is a gritty team. It's a salty team, and we just keep bouncing back."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.