Manchester United’s pursuit of a new manager, at least for the time being, looks set to be at an end with Ralf Rangnick reportedly set to join the club.
The 63-year-old German is set to leave his post as sporting director at Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow to take up the role as interim manager at Old Trafford until the end of the season.
Rangnick will then apparently remain at the club in a consultancy position as the club look to appoint a permanent replacement for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was sacked following a dismal run of games, culminating in a 4-1 hammering against Watford.
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Initial reaction to the news is one of excitement. Rangnick’s reputation precedes him, with many in his homeland full of high praise for the work he has done at previous clubs as well as his wider influence on the game in general.
"The Professor,” Eurosport Germany’s Tom Mueller calls him. “Because of his impressive tactical knowledge and perfectionism.
“He has been a thought leader throughout his career with his disruptive tactical approach which is standard nowadays."
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Godfather of the Gegenpress
The intense Gegenpressing style that has gained huge popularity as a continually successful tactic – curiously adopted by his compatriot Jurgen Klopp at United’s arch-rivals Liverpool - is said to be the brainchild of Rangnick.
“That's why he is known as a father of modern football and a whole generation of successful coaches like Julian Nagelsmann, Ralph Hasenhuttl or Marco Rose learned from him.”
It’s not just tactics which are his forte, Rangnick is said to be a dominant figure wherever he works, making sure he is more than just a passing input in the organisational side of things beyond what happens on the pitch.
“He also has a very strong mind and likes to control as much as possible in a club,” continues Mueller. “As he did in Leipzig, when he was coach and technical director in one as they made their way up to the Bundesliga and then stepped back to only be technical director.”
RB Leipzig, of course with the help of their wealthy backers, climbed from amateur level all the way to the top flight and even qualified for the Champions League. But for the dominance of Bayern, they may well have even boasted a Bundesliga title by now – all of this coming under the watchful eye of Rangnick.
He previously achieved similar success with Hoffenheim and even almost achieved the unthinkable with Schalke.
“His obsession also had its downsides, however,” warns Mueller. “In 2011 for example, when he had to leave Schalke after reaching the Champions League semi-finals because of burnout.”
Coincidentally, that defeat came at the hands of United, with the underdogs falling to a 6-1 aggregate defeat.
Upon his long-awaited return to Old Trafford, Rangnick is older, wiser and better equipped to deal with the demands that no doubt await.
With United currently in a state of flux following Solskjaer’s ignominious end, Mueller is convinced Rangnick is the man to turn things around.
“A clear tactical plan and leadership is exactly what United needs after sacking Ole, who was more of a man manager than a tactical expert.
“United will definitely press more and higher and Rangnick will demand from them to be a collective, especially defensively.
“It will definitely be a conversion for the players, but that's exactly what Ronaldo and the board - and fans I think as well - asked for, right?
“Even though Rangnick is not the most glamorous option, he is the one who can have an immediate impact and maybe turn the season around for the Red Devils.
“I don’t like the idea of an interim coach, especially for a team like Manchester United, who have big ambitions this year and really need to reach the Champions League.
“But I think if someone can fill the role, then it is Rangnick – but only if the players let him and adopt to his strict, meticulously coaching style.”
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'A strict, meticulous control freak'
All being well, the appointment could be one of the best decisions made by the club since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, but Mueller warns the players will have to buy into his ideas if they are to work.
“Rangnick's tendency to be kind of a control freak can lead to tension with some of the ‘superstars’. Everyone in the squad needs to make adjustments for the team success. In Hoffenheim, Leipzig or Schalke Rangnick did not have to manage superstars like Ronaldo or Pogba.
“He has not been in management for more than two years now either.
“Rangnick won't let people talk over his ideas and decisions, which could also result in benching some of the stars, if they do not adapt."
Possibly the most interesting part of the agreement is the fact the club hope to retain Rangnick’s services beyond the original six-month agreement in the consultancy role, something that should be beneficial to all parties.
“Rangnick will give United a philosophy as a technical director,” added Mueller. “Which they are lacking most at the moment. The board made a lot of mistakes in the post-Fergie era, bought the wrong players and had in my opinion no clear vision for the club.
“If they give Rangnick power and a strong voice in terms of how the squad will look like next year and who will be the next coach, if they make it HIS project, they will be successful.
“Rangnick proved that he is best when he is able to develop his own project like in Hoffenheim and Leipzig – and I think this possibility was even more tempting for him than the temporary coaching position, because he does not see himself as a long-term coach anymore.”
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