Ralf Rangnick could try to convince Man Utd to give him manager's job permanently

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·12-min read
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  • Arsenal
    Arsenal
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Crystal Palace
    Crystal Palace
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  • Manchester United
    Manchester United
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  • Ralf Rangnick
    Ralf Rangnick
    German association football manager
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjær
    Ole Gunnar Solskjær
    Norwegian association football player and manager
  • Cristiano Ronaldo
    Cristiano Ronaldo
    Portuguese association football player
Ralf Rangnick could try to convince Man Utd to give him manager's job permanently - GETTY IMAGES
Ralf Rangnick could try to convince Man Utd to give him manager's job permanently - GETTY IMAGES

Ralf Rangnick says he could look to convince Manchester United to give him the manager’s job on a permanent basis.

The former RB Leipzig coach has been put in temporary control at Old Trafford until the end of the season following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking and will take charge of his first game as interim manager against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

But Rangnick, 63 - who is due to assume a consultancy role with the club from the summer and is expected to be involved in the search for a permanent manager - has refused to rule out putting his name forward if his interim spell goes well.

Speaking to the media on Friday morning at Old Trafford for the first time since his appointment, the German said: “I mean the people with whom I have spoken so far have been very clear that we’re talking about a six, six and a half month role as a manager currently.

“We have never spoken about what will happen in the summer. Right now I’m fully aware they might be looking for a new manager.

“If they will then speak with me about that we will see. Maybe if they ask my opinion and everything goes well and we develop the team I might even make the same recommendation to the board that I did at Leipzig twice when I recommended it might be a good idea to keep working with me for one year.

“But this is all hypothetical. We cannot speak about that. For me now it’s about winning the next games and this is the major focus.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Rangnick revealed that:

  • He had spoken to Solskjaer for almost two hours before last Sunday’s game at Chelsea to pick the former manager’s brains about the players

  • He had tried to convince Michael Carrick to stay on as a coach during an hour long conversation with the former midfielder, who announced after Thursday’s 3-2 win against Arsenal he was leaving the club with immediate effect

  • He had not discussed with United whether his consultancy role would be exclusively with the club or permit him to work for others

  • There is no bonus clause in his contract if he persuades Erling Haaland, with whom he worked at RB Salzburg, to join United from Borussia Dortmund next year

  • He had watched United’s humiliating defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford and that his focus was on bringing more control and balance to the team and playing “proactive” football.

  • He would have to adapt to Cristiano Ronaldo’s talents and “develop the whole team not just Cristiano”

“I watched, out of interest, the games against Liverpool and Manchester City,” Rangnick said. “I'm pretty well aware and acquainted with what is happening here with the club and in the Premier League. I think it's pretty obvious the team have an abundance of talent, young, talented players, but enough experienced players in the squad.

“The major target for me in the next couple of days and weeks is to bring more balance into the team. Yesterday [against Arsenal], we conceded two goals, we needed three goals to win the game and if you look at the total number of goals conceded, it is almost two on average per game, and this is just too much. This is my approach to help the team to get more balance, more control of the game.

“Yesterday's game was exciting for the fans, but even for myself, as the future coach, those are not the kind of games that we need every day because football, for me, is to minimise the coincidence factor and have control and gain control of a game. I will try to help these outstanding, talented players to try and keep away from their own goal.”

Rangnick believes the two halves against Arsenal offered a snapshot of the challenges ahead.

“I mean, all of you saw the [Arsenal] game yourself, so the first half was shaky, to put it that way, with this unlucky goal [by Emile Smith Rowe],” he said. “And after that goal it was a major blow for the team, you could see that.

“They were at that time lacking confidence, which is normal after the last couple of weeks with having lost that many games and conceded that many goals.

“Therefore it was important to get the equaliser before half-time. And then, for me, in the first 20 minutes what I saw was impressive. The way that they played for 20 minutes in their half, when they close down Arsenal in their box and then you could see the potential that is in the team.

“We have to do that more sustainably - to transfer the game away from our own box more into this area where we have our essence and our weapons in the team.

“I think to gain control on games in the future has got to do with playing proactively, no matter if we have the ball ourselves or if the other team is in possession of the ball. We saw it yesterday. If we compare the two halves, first half and second half yesterday was completely different.

“Obviously it's not easy, I cannot do that in one or two training sessions, not even in one or two weeks. It's not about playing pressing or counter-pressing for pressing sake, it's about control. This is the major target.”

Ronaldo scored twice against Arsenal to take his tally to 12 for United since his return to the club. Questions have been asked about how Rangnick - one of the architects of the German “gegenpressing” philosophy - plans to accommodate the five-time World Player of the Year. But said the adaptation process worked both ways.

“You always have to adapt your style or your idea of football to the players you have available, not visa versa,” he said.

“Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half at the age of 36, an amazing top professional. At his age, I've never seen a player who is still that physically fit. He's still a player who can easily make the difference. So yes, it's about how we can develop the whole team, not only Cristiano. We play in the most competitive league in the world so we need all the players on board. What I saw from Cristiano yesterday, he is more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team. His team-mates will have to do the same.”

Rangnick said he had had long conversations with Solskjaer, Carrick, owner Joel Glazer, football director John Murtough and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

“We haven’t spoken about that [the consultancy role] in detail in all the conversations we had with John and also with Ed but especially with John,” he said. “I also had a long phone call with Joel Glazer for more than half an hour. I also spoke with Ole last Sunday before the Chelsea game for almost two hours. He was very generous to spend one and a half hours on the phone with me telling me his insight and details about the team.”

Asked where he hoped United would be come the summer of 2024, when his consultancy position is due to end, Rangnick said: “In the ideal world we will be in the top four regularly, not only in the top four but playing for titles. This is also something that’s in the DNA of the club, it’s about winning titles, winning the league, winning cups, being as successful as you can in the Champions League.

“This is also an issue for the new year that we’re still in the Champions League and depending on the draw hopefully we can go further in that competition and in two and a half years the DNA of the team and the club is clear and you have to be as successful as you can be.”

Analysis: Control will be key to Rangnick's planned transformation

By James Ducker

The gospel according to Ralf Rangnick is an illuminating one but there was one word to which Manchester United’s new interim manager kept returning on Friday morning as he spelt out his hopes for the remainder of the season: control.

There were six mentions of the word in the opening 10 minutes of his first address to the media and seven references to the word in one answer alone to a question posed by the club’s official television station’s about his footballing philosophy.

Rangnick had already pored over the crushing defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford and picked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s brains for a couple of hours last weekend by the time he took his seat in the directors’ box at Old Trafford on Thursday night.

But, while he recognised there was a chaotic sort of thrill for supporters in an entertaining 3-2 victory over Arsenal, it was, ultimately, another disorderly performance that served only to remind the 63-year-old German of the “massive challenge” he has taken on.

“The game was exciting for the fans but, for myself, those are not the kind of games that we need every day because football is to minimise the coincidence factor and gain control of a game,” he said.

Rangnick has little interest in wild-west football, where the pendulum swings constantly and control is an elusive concept — Russian roulette with a ball. For him, this United leave far too much to chance. He was too kind to state explicitly that a sandcastle has better foundations than the ones Solskjaer left behind, and he was clear that he sees huge potential in an “outstanding, talented” crop of players, but turning United from a reactive side to a proactive one will be no small task. Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Sunday is assignment No. 1.

“In football, it’s all about control,” he said. “If you want to win games, you have to have control, no matter if you have the ball or the other team has. This is one of the major targets in the next couple of weeks.

“I saw the game against Liverpool, against Manchester City, at Chelsea and even against teams like Watford the team didn’t have control. In order to get control they need to be a little more proactive with or without the ball.

“I think it’s important to develop the team in those two areas, not that we will have much time on the training ground because we play every three days. So, in fact, it’s about video footage, train the brains and encourage the players to do the right things”.

That phrase “train the brains” will inevitably evoke memories of Louis van Gaal’s doctrine, which was fine in principle but translated into sleep-inducing football on the pitch at United.

Rangnick, one of the high priests of the German “gegenpressing” philosophy popularised by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, prefers a more high-octane brand of football and it was telling that he kept referring to the need for United to play in the opposition’s half and “try and keep away from their own goal”.

Rangnick knows United’s strengths lie firmly at the top end of the pitch, and inevitably any discussion about the attack will lead to a conversation about Cristiano Ronaldo.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring their third goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 2, 2021. - GETTY IMAGES
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring their third goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 2, 2021. - GETTY IMAGES

Ronaldo scored twice against Arsenal to take his tally for United since his summer return to 12 goals. Questions have already been asked about where the five-time World Player of the Year will fit in the plans of a manager who wants to press but Rangnick was clear that the adaptation process works both ways.

“You always have to adapt your style or your idea of football to the players you have available, not vice-versa,” he said. “Having seen Cristiano [against Arsenal] in the second half at the age of 36, he is an amazing, top professional. At his age, I’ve never seen a player who is still that physically fit.

“He’s still a player who can easily make the difference. So, yes, it’s about how we can develop the whole team, not only Cristiano. We play in the most competitive league in the world so we need all the players on board. What I saw from Cristiano [against Arsenal], he is more than willing to do that - to put his input in the team. His team-mates will have to do the same.”

As polite as he is particular and with a strong command of English, Rangnick looks like a man who cannot wait to start work in a country with which he has had a fascination since first pitching up at the University of Sussex in 1979 and turning out for non-League Southwick. It was interesting that he picked up the phone to Solskjaer and also tried to convince Michael Carrick to stay and revealing, too, that he is not yet sure whether the consultancy role envisaged for him at the end of the season will mean working exclusively for United or not.

Beyond that, Rangnick dismissed - in playful, colourful terms - any notion of there being a bonus clause in his contract should he succeed in enticing Erling Haaland, the Norway striker with whom he worked at RB Salzburg, from Borussia Dortmund next year. He also suggested that it would be difficult to add players of the required quality next month and implied that may be dependent on trimming a bloated squad which, diplomatically, he described as “definitely not too small”.

If United play with anything like the clarity with which Rangnick talks, improvement should be a given.

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