Has Ralf Rangnick done enough at Manchester United?

Ralf Rangnick is one of the brightest minds in the world of football. A mentor to some of the biggest and most brilliant managers currently; Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp, Julian Nagelsmann to name a few, Rangnick is regarded as “the godfather” of modern German Football. While he has achieved plenty on and off the pitch, rejuvenating Manchester United from a lengthy lean patch back to their glory days will arguably be the biggest of them all. More than three months into his managerial stint with the Red Devils, has he lived up to his reputation and done enough as the manager? Let’s have a look.

By his admission, his main priority and responsibility coming in the middle of the season were about stabilizing the club and the team. He has been able to achieve that to great extent. Under Ole, Manchester United at times looked like a headless chicken. While they displayed plenty of heart, the team lacked structure and direction. United lost five of Ole’s last seven Premier League games. They were conceding far too many goals, 15 precisely in the last 5 league games. That 4-1 drubbing against Watford was the final nail in his coffin.

Image source: Manchester United

Upside and downside

Since Rangnick took over, there have been some encouraging signs for United. They are not conceding as many goals as they did at the end of November. Manchester United have played 17 games under Ralf Rangnick, winning 8 of those, losing 1, and tying 8. They have scored 24 goals, conceded 12 while keeping clean sheets on 6 occasions. The winning percentage is just 47.06%. United has been unbeaten for the last 11 games [in regulation time] and they also haven’t lost a single away game following Rangnick’s arrival. After he took over, only, Manchester City [34 points] and Liverpool [29 points] are ahead of Manchester United [26 points] in the Premier League.

Manchester United have created more chances (160) than any other Premier League club since Rangnick became the interim manager. But, 4 teams have scored more goals than MUFC [20] during that period. They have only scored 12 of the 44 clear-cut goalscoring chances they have had under Ralf Rangnick in all competitions. Now, that is an enormous issue. For a side that keeps making defensive errors and conceding goals regularly, not being clinical on the final third is a recipe of disappointment. Players have to take the onus on themselves and be more accountable.

While Manchester United have just lost a game, they have dropped far too many points unnecessarily. They haven’t closed the games, even after being a goal or two ahead in the game. They could have easily had six or so points more. If Manchester United want to be anywhere near the present-day elite clubs in England, they need to be more compact in the defense and more clinical in the attack – as simple as that. Rangnick himself knows that and has cited that.

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The Business End

With all being said, Rangnick and his men await bigger challenges ahead. First up Manchester Derby against a very formidable opponent led by wily Guardiola, then Conte’s Spurs followed up by Simeone’s Atletico in Champions League. The result in these games can not only have significant ramifications for this season, but also massive repercussions for the next season too. Rangnick has done reasonably well considering he took over the job on November 29, 2021. He had to adjust his strategies with the players at his disposal. Rangnick’s renowned style of Gegenpressing demands more endurance, stamina, and effort from his players, and he hasn’t been able to implement that at full throttle. So taking everything into account, he has done fine to a fair degree so far. It will be interesting to see how Manchester United will fare going into the business end of the season.

Rangnick is candid in his assessment and doesn’t beat around the bush even in interviews and press conferences. He doesn’t gratuitously protect players or sell his players down the river. The United boss appreciates a good performance and doesn’t pretend they played well when they didn’t. He says it as he sees it. If he’s speaking so honestly to the media, one will presume that is his approach behind the scenes. His continuation as a full-fledged manager next season onwards is unknown. However, this spell will keep him as well as the club in good stead as he is expected to continue as a consultant after this assignment is over. Be it the style of play, man-management, or recruitment – all of them have been problematic for United in recent years. Rangnick isn’t turning a blind eye on those aspects and one would expect him to alleviate those issues going forward.

P.S. The numbers are from games preceding gameweek 28.