The honeymoon period for Ralf Rangnick at Manchester United has come to an end, as his problems at Newcastle have shown.
Ralf Rangnick clearly understands the enormity of the task he has taken on as Manchester United’s temporary manager. Rangnick rubbed his brow in disgust when he wasn’t shaking his head on the touchline during a dreadful 1-1 draw against Newcastle on Monday.
The one bright spot for the guy who took over for the fired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer earlier this month was that his team’s second-half performance was better than its first — but Man United couldn’t have done much worse.
Rangnick commented, “I didn’t appreciate the performance at all.” “Apart from a few brief instances, we had no influence over the game today. It’s all about physicality, enthusiasm, and who gets the second balls. We weren’t doing well in any of those categories. The good news is that we earned a point, but our performance has to improve.
“You must be prepared and capable of winning frontal duels, which was not always the case. We had too many turnovers while we were in control, and even with the goal, things aren’t simple.”
Rangnick’s unbeaten start as interim manager was extended to four games thanks to Edinson Cavani’s 70th-minute equaliser, which cancelled out Allan Saint-seventh-minute Maximin’s opener, but Man United have failed to impress in any of their games so far under the former Schalke, Hoffenheim, and RB Leipzig coach.
They have struggled to 1-0 victories against Crystal Palace and Norwich City, as well as 1-1 draws in the Champions League against Young Boys and now against Newcastle at St James’ Park.
When a new manager takes over, players who had struggled under their predecessor discover an additional level of devotion and quality in order to please their new boss. However, Rangnick’s bounce has been mediocre at best, and now that the novelty has worn off after a month in command, we’re going to find out exactly how competent he is as a coach and manager.
Man United’s players are already well-known. They demonstrated their flaws during a four-game losing streak that lost Solskjaer his job. Rangnick now has to figure out a method to persuade those same players to lift their game on a continuous basis in order to put Man United back in contention for the top four and Champions League qualifying, which won’t be easy given their dreadful, fragmented first-half performance against Newcastle.
Of course, there is some relief for Rangnick. After a COVID-19 outbreak at Old Trafford forced the postponement of matches against Brentford and Brighton, this was Man United’s first game in 16 days, thus there was certain to be some rust against Eddie Howe’s side.
But now that United has been back in full training for a week, there can be no excuses for the way in which they were outclassed by a Newcastle side that had been taught a lesson in their last outing, when they lost 4-0 at home to Manchester City eight days ago.
Newcastle, who had only won once all season, outclassed United in every aspect of the game.
Up forward, Cristiano Ronaldo was isolated as Newcastle’s wingers Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes were shut down. Meanwhile, against Fred and Scott McTominay, Jonjo Shelvey and Joelinton, who Howe turned from a misfiring striker to a box-to-box midfielder, commanded the centre third of the game. In defence, Man United’s Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane looked like inexperienced centre-backs, missing their men and the ball on multiple times throughout an error-filled display.
United lacked both energy and coordination in their pressing and, more importantly, control of the game. Rangnick sat in a state of bewilderment and astonishment the whole time, seeing his ostensibly costly squad act like a bunch of strangers.
United didn’t appear like a team until Cavani, a half-time substitution for Mason Greenwood, joined the game. When he plays, the former Paris Saint-Germain attacker is known for his work ethic and toughness, which has rubbed off on his teammates.
After missing an earlier opportunity, his equaliser offered United a chance to win the game, but they were unable to capitalise and were forced to depend on goalkeeper David de Gea to salvage a point with a brilliant save to deny Miguel Almiron in stoppage time.
“Our greatest issue was making errors,” Rangnick remarked. “We weren’t really in control of the game or making the proper choices even after we got the equaliser.
“The next game [against Burnley] is in three days. We can do better, but we must take action. We shouldn’t search for justifications; we need to improve and become more physically active.”
United undoubtedly did enough to get a point against Newcastle, but if Rangnick can’t encourage a change in attitude, they’ll struggle to achieve anything against the Premier League’s best clubs.
Rangnick must guarantee that his back line defends well, and he must find a means to make his midfielders seem as though they can control the game and influence the pace of play. Fred and McTominay are just not good enough, and no one at United should pretend differently.
The manager must also figure out why Rashford’s growth has been halted for the last 18 months and why Jadon Sancho has been unable to duplicate his Bundesliga form in the Premier League with United.
Rangnick is no idiot, so he’ll understand that roles like the one at Manchester United don’t come up for grabs when things are going well. But he has a huge name, and Man United expects him to live up to it by rejuvenating under-performing players and replacing those who don’t cut it.
However, the honeymoon phase has come to an end. United has been in decline for over nine years, and the issues are extensive.