Ralf Rangnick’s Manchester United have flattered to deceive so far. There were plenty of expectations from the 63-year-old German coach when he was first appointed as the interim manager of the Red Devils. Gary Neville, former United great went on to say that he has six months to coach the team and then two years to coach the club. But all these talks of positivity have been shunted with what we’ve seen of Rangnick’s Manchester United.
The team lacks the intensity, creativity and willingness to work hard on the pitch under Rangnick, all of which were a part of the non-negotiables when the German first took over. So why haven’t things been as plain sailing as one would have expected? Let’s find out.
TOO MANY PLAYERS FOR ONE POSITION
The balance in the Manchester United squad is completely off. The team is filled with remarkable attacking players but the issue is that all these players want to play in similar positions. They have five strikers in Cristiano Ronaldo, Edison Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood. All these players are best suited to the number nine position but in Rangnick’s system, only two can play upfront. Sometimes with one striker, Ralf has gone with Bruno Fernandes meaning that these players have been on the bench or played out of position.
LACK OF PRESSING ABILITY
Ralf Rangnick is known to be a big fan of the Gegenpressing. We’ve seen this kind of pressing in the Premier League with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. But the issue that Rangnick is facing at Manchester is that the players in the squad don’t have the attributes to press with relentless intensity. His forwards don’t press to begin with and in Gegenpressing, the team can’t carry any passengers. It is difficult to deploy such a high pressing style with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line. We’ve seen the United players in the past just jogging back after losing their man, such an attitude doesn’t work when you have to play with the intensity that Rangnick desires.
NO WIDTH IN 4-2-2-2
Ralf Rangnick has deployed his trademark 4-2-2-2 so far in his early Manchester United career. From the initial few games, it is safe to say that this system hasn’t worked in the Premier League. The biggest issue with 4-2-2-2 is that there are no natural wingers and all the width in the attacking third is provided by the wing-backs. Two number 10s are deployed in this system who tend to cover the half-spaces near the opposition box. Most of the attacking play comes from the middle and it is easy to defend against this system by having a compact low block. The team tends to have useless possession of the ball in less threatening areas of the pitch and the strikers usually are covered by the opposition centre-halves.
DEARTH OF CREATIVITY BY FULL-BACKS
The only way this 4-2-2-2 can work is if the squad is blessed with attacking full-backs whose work rate is tremendously high. Manchester United have Aaron wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot on the right side. Wan-Bissaka is poor when it comes to going forward. He is solid defensively but that isn’t what is required in this system. Hence we’ve seen Diogo Dalot leapfrogging him in the pecking order but Dalot lacks the desired work rate.
On the left side, Luke Shaw is capable of providing the attacking impetus but is going through a tough phase. Alex Tellas is brilliant going forward but defensively can be taken apart.
LACK OF A QUALITY HOLDING MIDFIELDER
Now coming to the biggest issue on the pitch, the midfield. Some people have described United’s midfield as a relegation standard one. Rangnick has switched around between Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic so far in the middle of the park but none have convinced. Dutch international Donny van de Beek represents another potential option there but he has been seldom used ever since touching down in the Premier League from Ajax in 2020.
Manchester United aren’t likely to make major signings in this January transfer window. Hence he needs to find solutions in-house which seems difficult currently.
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