Ralf Rangnick’s Man United debut win hints at new Old Trafford manager’s philosophy

A new era of Manchester United could be dawning after the club announced a change in management with Ralf Rangnick joining as ‘technical director’. How will this affect the team’s playing style, and who are some candidates to replace Jose Mourinho?

Manchester United’s performance in their 1-0 win against FC Koln on Ralf Rangnick’s debut as manager, hints at the potential new Old Trafford boss’ philosophy.

12:29 PM EST ET

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    Dawson, Rob Correspondent

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Ralf Rangnick’s Manchester United revolution is still in its early stages, but the supporters who poured out of Old Trafford after seeing the German begin his managerial reign with a 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace will have left persuaded of what his squad should look like.

With just 48 hours to work with his players following his entrance on Friday morning, it was far from a “gegenpressing” masterclass supervised by the man credited with developing that style of play, but there were at least the characteristics of Rangnick’s game.

The most significant statistic for Rangnick, 63, from his first game as a manager in more than two-and-a-half years was that United scored and Crystal Palace did not, but it was noteworthy that his side won the ball in the offensive third of the field 12 times, up from five in any other game this season.

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Rangnick can be delighted with his first home clean sheet since April, after stating at his first press conference on Friday that United had surrendered too many goals this season (24 in 14 Premier League games prior to Sunday).

While there is still work to be done, the new manager will take whatever positives he can after being thrust into the position during the busiest time of the season; this was United’s second of six games in a 13-day span.

The crucial moment took a while to come, but Fred’s 77th-minute goal — just the Brazilian midfielder’s sixth in 137 appearances for the club — ensured United’s sixth-place finish.

“I’m really pleased with the way the team competed and played, particularly the opening half hour — I thought it was great,” Rangnick remarked. “In that time era, the only thing lacking was one or two nil. We had complete control of the game, and I am quite pleased with the outcome and clean sheet.

“In my first news conference, I said that there are certain areas we need to work on in order to achieve clean sheets and get control of the game. To be honest, what they exhibited was more than I anticipated.”

Ralf Rangnick and Man United were victorious thanks to Fred’s first goal since the season began. Getty Images/Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside

The United starting lineup remained identical from Michael Carrick’s selection against Arsenal on Thursday, but the manner was notably different, at least for the opening 30 minutes. Rangnick said in his program notes that he wanted to be “more aggressive with and without the ball,” and that attitude was evident right away.

A goal kick for the opposition side was pushed short to Tyrick Mitchell with barely three minutes on the clock. Scott McTominay thundered into a tackle and won the ball back after Cristiano Ronaldo surged towards the corner and a frantic Palace pass into midfield.

The home crowd erupted with a yell, as if they had been famished of such ferocity. United were unwilling — or incapable — to play on the front foot under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but that is not an allegation Rangnick can make.

When Palace attempted to play out of defence, United pushed high up the field and crowded around yellow shirts whenever they had the opportunity, with Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Fred, and Scott McTominay organised in three banks of two.

It seemed for a moment in the first half that they might score, and Patrick Vieira in the opposing bench would have been happy to see Rangnick’s players run out of steam as halftime neared. It was maybe to be anticipated after just two training sessions with their new management.

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Rangnick remarked, “Patience was key, but we always tried to be on the front foot — that’s what I admire now.” “We were constantly attempting to keep them away from the goal.” To get greater control in the center of midfield, we planned to play with two forwards and two tens.

“I must confess that I was pleasantly pleased. It was awful weather on Saturday, making it almost hard to workout in a concentrated way. I didn’t think they’d be able to play at that level in such a short period of time.”

Rangnick was proactive as well, having urged his players to do so. Solskjaer is known for being sluggish to make substitutions, especially in tight games, but with the score still 0-0, the new manager lost no time in replacing Sancho with Mason Greenwood just after the hour mark.

Greenwood waited in the area before laying the ball off for Fred to flick a 20-yard effort over goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and into the top corner, ensuring the play paid off. Rangnick clinched both hands on the touchline in excitement before pounding the air and reminding his team to keep their heads up for the last 13 minutes.

Rangnick said, “I had to ask my assistant coach whether it was Fred’s right foot” (Fernandes also poked fun on Twitter). “I was under the impression that he could only shoot with his left hand. I’m delighted for him.”

It was just one game, and United is still outside the top four, which is considered a minimum for the team each season, but there were glimpses of progress. The dawn of a new age has arrived.

“It’s usually simpler to build on things once you’ve achieved success,” remarked Rangnick. “We must continue to keep clean sheets and improve our ability to create opportunities for our offense. Overall, I was happy with our performance today.”

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