Four things Ralf Rangnick must solve on his Manchester United to-do list – George Smith


Experienced German coach Ralf Rangnick is set to be appointed as Manchester United’s next manager on an interim basis.

The Manchester Evening News understands that the former RB Leipzig and Schalke boss has agreed to take over the reins at Old Trafford on a six-month contract, before moving into a consultancy role at the club for an initial two-year period. It is believed that the 63-year-old has also been offered a role at United for next season.

Rangnick, who has not been in management since leaving Leipzig in 2019, is understood to have rejected an initial contract offer from the Reds but agreed to take the role after being offered fresh terms.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino remains the club’s main target to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a long-term basis, but PSG rebuffed United’s first approach to try and lure him to Old Trafford earlier this week.

Nevertheless, United may test PSG’s resolve once again next summer. However, all focus is now set to be on Rangnick and how he can turn United’s recent fortunes around.

With no shortage of challenges and obstacles to overcome, MEN Sport has picked out four things that the German must correct as soon as possible.

Implement a clear system and winning formula

After the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool, former United manager Solskjaer made the decision to make the switch to a back-three, starting with the 3-0 victory at Tottenham Hotspur. Although it worked on that occasion in north London, albeit against a very poor and lacklustre Spurs side, United soon started leaking goals again, conceding a total of four against Atalanta and Manchester City prior to the international break.

A more familiar-looking back-four returned against Watford last weekend, but, of course, United shipped four goals. However, it is worth remembering that they were down to ten men at the point when Watford netted their third and fourth goals of the contest.

Caretaker boss Michael Carrick went with a back-four against Villarreal on Tuesday evening and guided United to a clean sheet, even though they had goalkeeper David de Gea to thank on several occasions.

For the majority of his managerial career, Rangnick has tended to play with a back-four, whether it be in a 4-4-2, a 4-4-2 diamond or a 4-3-3, meaning it is highly likely that he will continue that trend at Old Trafford. A 4-3-3, however, seems more likely to a 4-4-2, with United well stocked when it comes to midfield options.

Rangnick is understood to like to push his full-backs high up the pitch, allowing the wingers to move inside and get closer to the central lone striker. That could make United a much more aggressive outfit up front and show the ruthlessness that has been lacking in recent weeks.

Resolve the defensive woes

As outlined above, adopting a system with a back-four seems highly likely, given what Rangnick has done throughout his career. He has, more often than not, gone with a flat back-four consisting of two natural full-backs and two centre-backs.

Although the form of the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw has been questioned in recent weeks, working under a new manager could be just what they need, with all of three of them likely to be regular starters, amid the options United have in reserve.

Wan-Bissaka and Shaw are likely to be asked to bomb forward as much as they can and offer support to the attacking players, but their primary aim has to be defensive work. United have been conceding too many goals of late, shipping a total of 19 in their last eight matches in all competitions.

Getting Raphael Varane back from injury will hugely bolster United’s defensive outlook, but Rangnick will be looking for an immediate improvement with or without him.

Every team has to build on its defensive foundations, something United have not done in recent weeks, and Rangnick will be looking to do just that.

Make Old Trafford a fortress again

It was not that long ago when Old Trafford was dubbed as the most difficult and intimidating ground to visit on the Premier League calendar. More often than not, players of the opposition would step off the bus trembling with fear, worried about what a United side, plus the backing of 75,000 fans, could do to them.

More recently, that has not been the case, with United failing to win any of their last four home games in the league, losing three. Aston Villa took all three points off them, Everton, who have not won a game since, grabbed a point and they were battered by both Liverpool and City, albeit in different circumstances as far as the scoreline suggested.

United have got to make Old Trafford a fortress again. It must be a stadium that opponents fear coming to. It has all become too easy recently.

Given that United’s next three home games in the league are against Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion – three sides currently in and around them in the table – the pressure will be on Rangnick from the off. Although they will be stern tests, United, with the players they have, should be looking to secure maximum points in each of them.

So far this term, the Reds have the 13th-best home record in the Premier League and only two sides have conceded more goals on their own patch. For a club of its size, it is not good enough. Rangnick has to address this as a matter of urgency.

Get Cristiano Ronaldo in the goals again

Although Ronaldo continues to be United’s hero in the Champions League, as proven once again by scoring in the win over Villarreal on Tuesday, his goals in the Premier League have dried up recently.

The Portuguese international will enter Sunday’s clash with Chelsea on a run of one goal in his last seven league appearances. By his standards, it is unheard of.

Whilst a lot of it is down to not enough chances being created for him, United cannot risk this run going on for too long, otherwise, no doubt, fingers will be pointed from those outside the United circle.

Whilst some pundits have, bizarrely, suggested that he is the root of United’s recent troubles, Ronaldo has bailed the Reds out on several occasions already this season, not least in the Champions League.

Ronaldo, as he has proven throughout his decorated career, will change a game in the blink of an eye. However, his recent drought in front of goal in the Premier League will be concerning him.

For Rangnick, this could be another task that he has to resolve fairly quickly, although much of it will depend on how he can get United playing behind their No.7 and moving the ball into the final third for Ronaldo to do his usual damage.

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