Has Rangnick failed to inculcate his philosophy?


Thursday, January 20, 2022 3:33 p.m.

Has Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick instilled his gegenpressing? (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

When Ralf Rangnick arrived at Manchester United last month, the caretaker manager had to reinvent the philosophy of a lethargic and confused style under the previous regime to its trademark gegenpressing.

“It’s the only way to compete at this level,” Rangnick said earlier this month.

“Every time you watch games, even if they’re not the best teams, they play with intensity, physicality, energy and they sprint. That’s what we have to do. We have to evolve into that kind of team.

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The question is why United failed to do so other than for 30 minutes against Crystal Palace in Ragnick’s first game in charge.

Since then, statistics show the Old Trafford club have failed to maintain a pressing approach and are arguably playing worse than they were in the final days of Rangnick’s predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Under full pressure from outfield players in the middle and final third, Rangnick’s United racked up 114 goals in that 1-0 win over Palace on December 5.

That number had dropped to just 53 in the German’s fourth game against Burnley. In Wednesday’s win at Brentford it was 57.

The number of times United regain possession of the ball within five seconds of applying pressure has also decreased. After reaching 55 against Palace, it slowly declined to 34 against Brentford.

A failure of Rangnick?

The dwindling numbers show that Rangnick failed to instill his philosophy as intended.

But it would be unfair to blame only the manager. The players were too passive under Solskjaer and, after a brief improvement under his successor, the aggression and positivity has now dissipated.

Rangnick having an expiration date as caretaker manager naturally weakens his authority and could be a factor in United’s lack of enforcement. This in itself may be due to players not being mentally or physically suited to such a demanding style.

The former Red Bull sporting director seems to have made a compromise, switching from his preferred 4-2-2-2 to a 4-3-3. But although United beat Brentford, there was no clear style of play, with a mix of counterattacking, long balls and side passes.

It’s a problem that the man charged with bringing a philosophy back to Old Trafford has abandoned his plans after just eight games, and putting that plan on hold in the name of short-term results is risky.

United still have the FA Cup, Champions League and a Premier League top four to aim for, but only the coming months will tell whether Rangnick, who is expected to stay on as a consultant after the summer, made the right choice.

Identity has been an issue for the club since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. In the long term, Rangnick must find a way to give this team a style to live up to if United are to return to being a top team and escape Ferguson’s shadow.

Pressing Manchester United stats

Total pressures in the middle and last third Successful takeover within 5 seconds of pressing
crystal palace 114 55
young boys 110 55
City of Norwich 105 50
Newcastle United 89 60
Burnley 53 26
wolves 94 36
AstonVilla 76 26
Brentford 57 34
Manchester United’s pressing stats against their last eight opponents
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