ARTICLES Match Previews

A look at Ralf Rangnick’s first two months in charge of Manchester United

On Monday 29th November, Manchester United officially announced Ralf Rangnick as the club’s new interim manager until the end of the season.

The German, whose teams are renowned for playing high tempo, gegenpressing football, boasts an impressive management CV. Some of his former sides include the likes of Schalke 04, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, to name just three.

Frustratingly, due to work permit issues, Rangnick was not able to take charge of United’s 3-2 win against Arsenal at Old Trafford on Thursday evening, although he was in the stands to watch the game.

However, Rangnick will be in the dugout for Crystal Palace’s visit to Old Trafford on Sunday. The game against the Eagles kickstarts a run of 10 games, plus an FA Cup tie, up until the end of January when United host West Ham United.

Sunday 5th December – Crystal Palace (H)

Rangnick’s first game in charge comes against Patrick Viera’s Palace, who, after 14 games, sit 12th in the league.

This is arguably one of Rangnick’s toughest games because the German will have had just one training session to work with the team and begin to implement his famous style of play.

With that being said, United should still come away from this game with three points, considering the good run of form under Michael Carrick, and the poor form shown of late from Palace.

Dangerman – Conor Gallagher

England midfielder Gallagher has been in fine form for Palace this season.

The Chelsea loanee has seven goal contributions in the league this season, and his good performances earned him a first international cap in the most recent international break.

Wednesday 8th December – BSC Young Boys (H)

In the final group-stage match of the Champions League, Rangnick has an opportunity to experiment with his side, with United already through as group winners.

This could provide an opportunity for the likes of Amad or Anthony Elanga, who have impressed for the under-23s this season.

Young Boys still have something to play for, with Europa League qualification up for grabs if they win, and Atalanta lose to Villarreal. United will no doubt be out for revenge at Old Trafford, after suffering defeat in Bern on matchday one.

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Dangerman – Meschack Elia

24-year-old attacker Elia has made a good start to the season for Young Boys, scoring 12 times in 25 games in all competitions. Although he didn’t score against United in Bern, he is certainly a threat going forward for the Swiss side.

Saturday 11th December – Norwich City (A)

Rangnick’s first away game as United manager sees his side travel to Carrow Road, against a struggling Norwich. The Canaries currently sit in 19th place in the table, with 10 points to their name. Despite a decent start under new manager Dean Smith, United’s quality should be too much for Norwich, especially if Rangnick has begun to instil his gegenpressing philosophy into his players.

The home side will definitely be without one player because on-loan fullback Brandon Williams cannot play against his parent club.

Dangerman – Billy Gilmour

Another on-loan Chelsea midfielder, Gilmour hasn’t played as much as he probably would’ve hoped this season, especially under the previous manager Daniel Farke.

However, the Scotland international has seen more opportunities under Smith and has been pulling strings in midfield recently for Norwich.

Tuesday 14th December – Brentford (A)

United face Brentford for the first time in the Premier League, in a historical game for both sides.

The hosts have made a good start to life in England’s topflight, picking up 16 points from their first 14 outings. Manager Thomas Frank tends to set his side up in a 3-5-2 formation, so it could potentially be difficult for United to break them down.

However, Rangnick’s team should have too much quality for the Premier League’s newest club and should return to Manchester with all three points.

Dangerman – Ivan Toney

Undoubtedly, Brentford’s Toney is their biggest threat. The striker is his side’s top scorer in the Premier League at the time of writing, with four goals.

He also has two assists to his name. Toney is the current record holder of the most Championship goals scored in a season, with 31.

Saturday 18th December – Brighton (H)

Brighton are a side Rangnick has some history with. He has explained in numerous interviews that he used to live in Hove as a 21-year-old, studying in England and watching football across the country.

Graham Potter’s side visit Old Trafford after a good start to the season, although they haven’t won a league game since Leicester City visited the AMEX Stadium in September.

Defensively, the Seagulls are generally a good side, a 1-4 home defeat against Manchester City the obvious anomaly. United, however, should still pick up three points at Old Trafford, despite the challenges a well-drilled Brighton side could pose.

Dangerman – Leandro Trossard

Belgium forward Trossard was a threat for United last season at the AMEX, hitting the woodwork twice and seeing one shot saved by David de Gea. A threat going forward, Trossard’s versatility has seen him play several different positions this season. He is currently on three league goals and one assist so far this season.

Monday 27th December – Newcastle United (A)

United travel St James’ Park two days after Christmas. Despite ownership changing hands in October, Newcastle are yet to record a Premier League win this season, at the time of writing.

New manager Eddie Howe has a mountain to climb, with his side currently six points adrift of safety, with a -14 goal difference.

Newcastle have struggled to find any consistency at all this season, and Rangnick’s United will hope to capitalise on this and pick up another three points on the road.

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Dangerman – Allan Saint-Maximin

Saint-Maximin is one of the most eye-catching players in the Premier League, and his pace can catch teams out, especially on the counterattack. He grabbed an assist in Cristiano Ronaldo’s homecoming game at Old Trafford in September, when United were caught out on a fast counterattack.

Thursday 30th December – Burnley (H)

Playing against Burnley is always a unique experience in the Premier League.

They bring a physical presence, and their route-one style system is not seen as often as it used to be. This could cause some problems for United, although the likes of Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane will no doubt win their fair share of headers on the day.

Even so, United haven’t necessarily found it easy against the Clarets in recent seasons, so this could be one of the tougher games Rangnick has in his first few as manager.

Of course, home advantage always helps, and playing in front of a full Old Trafford will certainly affect the game.

Dangerman – Maxwel Cornet

A versatile player, Cornet’s move cost Burnley around £13 million. The Ivorian has scored five goals in eight league games since his move from Lyon in the summer transfer window, including two against Southampton, and has caused some Premier League sides problems with his pace.

Monday 3rd January – Wolves (H)

United’s first game of 2022 sees them host Wolves. When United visited Molineux in August, a Mason Greenwood goal secured all three points for the Red Devils.

Rangnick will be hoping to lead United to the double over Wolves this season, who can sometimes leave themselves exposed out wide, with the attacking nature of their wingbacks occasionally creating space for opposition wingers.

The likes of Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford could definitely exploit this.  

Dangerman – Hwang Hee-Chan

Striker Hwang Hee-Chan was presented to the Wolves fans at Molineux when United visited in August and has made a decent start to life at his new club.

He has four Premier League goals so far, scoring two goals against Newcastle, where he demonstrated his impressive off the ball movement.

Weekend of Saturday 8th January – FA Cup 3rd Round

United’s FA Cup 3rd round opponents have not yet been confirmed at the time of writing, with the draw for being made on Monday 6th December.

Saturday 15th January – Aston Villa (A)

After suffering a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa at Old Trafford in September, United will be desperate to avenge themselves at Villa Park.

After what seemed like a smart summer transfer window, Villa haven’t necessarily lived up to expectations so far, as they currently languish in 13th place in the table. They too have experienced managerial change this season, replacing former manager Dean Smith with ex Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard.

If United need any extra incentive to get all three points in this game, beating a side managed by Gerrard will be just that.

Three points at Villa Park will be some of the best Rangnick can pick up in his first few games in charge.

Dangerman – John McGinn

Scotland midfielder McGinn is a versatile player, who has contributed three goals and one assist so far this season. The 27-year-old is also impressive defensively and is not afraid to put in a tackle, making 34 successful challenges in the Premier League so far this season.

Saturday 22nd January – West Ham United (H)

Rangnick’s final game of an intense two-month period is at home to West Ham.

David Moyes’ side are having an impressive campaign so far, sitting fourth in the league, and progressing to the knockout rounds of the Europa League.

This will be another tough test for Rangnick, against a West Ham side who enjoy hitting teams on the counterattack.

United have already played West Ham twice this season, winning a dramatic game at the London Stadium in the league, before suffering a 3rd round exit in the Carabao Cup just days later.

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Dangerman – Declan Rice

Whilst West Ham have several players who can impact a game, Englishman Rice is having an excellent season.

He has five goals and three assists from the deep-lying midfield role he often plays, as well as being one of the best tacklers in the Premier League so far this season.

Rice will no doubt be a threat to United from midfield if they give him even half a chance.

No Easy Games

On paper, the fixtures for Rangnick’s first two months in charge of United seem relatively kind.

However, as this season has proven, there is no such thing as an easy game in football. Hopefully, the German can quickly teach United’s players his famous gegenpressing philosophy and go on a good run through the Christmas period.

With only a third of the season played, there is every chance we can still see United challenging for at least one trophy this season, whatever that may be.

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