Ralf Rangnick: Liberator or Liability?

Updated: May 2

Ralf Rangnick. Interim manager of Manchester United. Known as ‘The Professor’. ‘The Godfather of the Gegenpress’. A builder of clubs. And yet, a man who splits opinion. Some believe he can take this £3.3billion institution to a different level. Others? They think he’s the worst manager in the club's illustrious history.


Rangnick's past


Regardless of what you think of his time at United so far, he’s done some amazing things in his career.


One that stands out is coaching 1899 Hoffenheim to two successive promotions from 2006-2008, getting them into the Bundesliga.




He then joined FC Schalke 04 in 2011 as manager, where they conquered Inter Milan in the Champions League. And not just any Inter side. An Inter side containing legends of the game, such as Javier Zanetti, Wesley Sneijder, and Samuel Eto’o, to name a few. The score at the final whistle? 5-2 at the San Siro. This progressed The Royal Blues to Rangnick’s first career Champions League Semi-Final, where they ironically bowed out to Manchester United.


Ralf Rangnick was also a driving force behind RB Leipzig’s rise to success, where he acted as Director of Football, as well as two stints as manager, as they rose from the fourth tier of German Football to a Champions League Semi-Final. In 8 years.



 


Of course, Rangnick didn’t do it single-handedly, but how did he play a part?


Well, one way is recruitment.


During his time at RB Leipzig, Rangnick oversaw the signings of young but talented players, for example, Joshua Kimmich and Ibrahima Konate. He was also involved in the signing of Roberto Firmino at Hoffenheim. These were players bought for a combined total of just over £4million, and then sold on for around £74million.


Another way was through his tactical philosophies.


Popularly touted as the ‘Godfather of the Gegenpress’, and described as a ‘tactically elite coach’ by Champions League winning manager, Thomas Tuchel, Rangnick introduced a whole new style of play to German football. This involved a significant counterpress - a style where his side instantly hunts the opponent after losing the ball, rather than dropping back into a compact shape. This is often implemented in training using a custom made clock, in which the Man United boss once explained how the defending team has to win the ball back within 8 seconds of losing it.


This style was popularised by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who implement a similar approach of defending on the front foot.


On the ball, Rangnick’s ideas are based on quick, vertical passing that doesn’t allow the opponent to get back into shape. This is summarised by a quote from Rangnick saying how, ‘we hate square passes.’



 


So, how will these translate to his consultancy role at united?


Despite his past, Rangnick’s abilities to implement his ideas have been doubted based on awful form this season. Regardless of his refreshingly honest press conferences, it's undeniable that results have left a lot to desire. With a win percentage of 38.46%, and 2 wins in 11 games at the time of writing, the German has seen the club fall further and further away from the coveted Champions League spot, since taking over from Michael Carrick's 3-game unbeaten run in December.


This could be attributed to poor coaching from him and his underwhelming set of staff, or maybe the players’ lack of desire to follow his instructions, depending on who you side with. The likelihood is that it’s somewhere in between.


However, this isn't important, as it won't be him in the managers dugout from next season. Instead, it will be current Ajax manager Erik Ten Hag, who Rangnick approved to the club's board.



Aside from getting to Champions League Semi Finals with underdog teams, Rangnick and Ten Hag also share modern footballing philosophies. Though there are of course tactical differences, the players that the two men like will often overlap, which will be very important in the future. Rangnick's expertise in implementing a long-term vision for the club can be a match made in heaven with Ten Hag’s coaching experience, having learnt from Pep Guardiola in his 2 years managing Bayern Munich’s reserve team.


If Rangnick does move into an important role higher up in the club’s structure, he will likely be overseeing how the club move forward, and this could include a say in transfers. This would likely involve outgoings as well as incomings, and Rangnick will be sure to discuss what he thinks about the current set of players with Ten Hag, which may not reflect very well on the popularly unpopular United XI. This could lead to a massive clear out in the summer transfer window, as the Red Devils start their much-needed rebuild with the in-favour new coach.


Ralf Rangnick has publicly expressed his desire to be involved in many future decisions with the club, and the signing of the Dutch manager went down very well with fans.





Can he juggle 2 jobs?


A few days ago, Rangnick accepted the Austria National Team managerial job, claiming he will be able to continue with Manchester United as well. In 2022, Austria will play just 8 fixtures, and although Rangnick’s role will revolve around scouting Austrian players, he will have plenty of time to help Manchester United given his ambiguous ‘consultancy’ role, indicating his workload at Old Trafford won’t be too demanding. The 63 year old may well be here to stay.


Whether or not Rangnick deserves to have an important role at the club is debated, but one thing everyone knows is that Manchester United needs some footballing expertise at a higher level- to which Ralf Rangnick is definitely a candidate.


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