Five players who proved to Ralf Rangnick that they can be part of his Manchester United masterplan

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  • Manchester United
    Manchester United
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Ralf Rangnick
    Ralf Rangnick
    German association football manager
  • Jadon Sancho
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  • Marcus Rashford
    Marcus Rashford
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  • Ole Gunnar Solskjær
    Ole Gunnar Solskjær
    Norwegian association football player and manager
  • Thomas Tuchel
    German association football manager and former player
United players
United players

Despite the tactical genius of Thomas Tuchel and the incoming pulsating mega-brain of Ralf Rangnick, Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday was a reminder that football is fundamentally a very stupid game.

We do not like to admit it, but there is a high degree of dumb luck, even at the top level. How else to explain Jorginho’s over-thought attempt to control a punt after a Chelsea corner and the subsequent mess he made? This allowed Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford to sprint towards to an exposed Edouard Mendy and ultimately earned an unexpected point for Michael Carrick’s side.

It was a goal which brought back memories of one-time Manchester United saviour Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose team were inexplicably exposed by Istanbul Basaksehir just over a year ago, Demba Ba trotting untroubled through an empty half to score.

That was held up as evidence of Solskjaer’s limitations. No one is saying Tuchel has the same issues, but it was a reminder that ridiculous things can sometimes decide games just as much as mind-bending gameplans.

Coming man Rangnick will not be making a feature of goals like Sancho’s, but there were some encouraging signs from the squad he is about to caretake. Here are five players who proved they have a part to play in United’s latest new dawn.

Ralf Rangnick - Five players who proved to Ralf Rangnick that they can be part of his Manchester United masterplan - DPA
Ralf Rangnick - Five players who proved to Ralf Rangnick that they can be part of his Manchester United masterplan - DPA

Scott McTominay

His central trio with Fred and Nemanja Matic is unlikely to be challenging Charlton, Best and Law as United’s 'Holy Trinity', but McTominay was an effective part of a low-thrills but fun-spoiling midfield for United. Main job was to disturb supply lines to Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jorginho in the middle for Chelsea which he accomplished. At other times he forced defensive runners wide and also cut out plenty in the air.

Some moments of bravery too, not least using his face to stop a late Hakim Ziyech shot, but also on the ball. Was unafraid to take it forward in crowded areas and rarely gave it away. There is a reason he keeps being picked by United’s managers, despite sexier options. Frequently held up as United’s current problems incarnate, but looks to have the willing attitude to learn and improve under a new coach.

Jadon Sancho

A quieter game than his breakthrough performance at Villarreal but a finish of real class to score the opening goal. If you are watching a game and and have enough time to think ‘this should be a goal’ then it is highly likely that the players in question are in the booby trap of “too much time” to think. Sancho, though, was a picture of calm in ignoring Marcus Rashford and pulling off a subtle shimmy to baffle Mendy. A poor touch spoilt his other big chance of the game, but a two goal week suggests he can be a gamechanger. Rangnick will be hoping the injury which took him off is not too severe.

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David de Gea

Was supposed to be in a competition for his shirt this season but the return of Dean Henderson seems to have spurred him on. It has been a few weeks since the last blunder (at Atalanta) which was becoming an unfortunate calling card. Instead De Gea is good for at least one enormous save per game at the moment.

It came early at Stamford Bridge, a firm stop from Callum Hudson-Odoi in the fourth minute. De Gea got his distances and angles just right to avoid the sort of early goal concession which might have led to another humiliation. Still not all that good at saving penalties, though.

Victor Lindelof

Another assumed to be part of the problem for 2021 United, but put in a useful shift after an early error led to Hudson-Odoi’s big chance. At times when he steps out of defence to read a situation he really looks the part, timing interceptions perfectly.

Has a decent range of passing and periodically offers himself as a willing forward runner too. How modern. Showed enough here to suggest he is at least a useful option when Maguire is out of form and Raphaël Varane is injured.  

Cristiano Ronaldo

Carrick bristled when asked pre-game if he had needed a special conversation with Ronaldo about his starting position on the bench. “It’s a decision just to pick a team to be honest, I don’t think it needs any more drama than that” The message was that this was not a big deal, we don’t need to be treating Cristiano Ronaldo like a tantrum-prone toddler. “Who’s a good five-time good Ballon d’Or winner! Yes he is! Yes he IS!”

Initially it seemed Ronaldo did not seem to care too much. No clear sulking on the bench, no refusals to warm up. But he can be such a demonstrative presence, wearing not so much his heart on his sleeve as his id on his perfectly sculpted chest. So it proved by the end, heading straight down the tunnel in a mini-huff.

Still, this was a fairly incident-free evening for what was a fairly major decision. Clearly Ronaldo must be part of Rangnick’s plans, it seems equally likely that Ronaldo must adjust to playing a reduced part at times. This, surely, is his best role now? A standard bearer, a game changer but not an automatic starter for every big game.

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