Ralf Rangnick saw his spell as interim boss get off to a positive start this afternoon as his new-look Manchester United side saw off Crystal Palace 1-0 in a tie dominated by the hosts. The reds performance echoed Rangnick’s constant emphasis on a need for control in games, as an assured performance throughout was capped by a well taken Fred strike to seal the game.
Story of the game
Rangnick’s influence was apparent in the team from the start as United started the game on the front foot, pressing Palace high in their half and wasting no time transitioning towards the opposition goal after winning possession.
United forced turnovers on the visitors throughout the first half, keeping the pressure on with Jadon Sancho orchestrating attacks through his measured approach, threading passes and through balls for Alex Telles and Fred to deliver. The front 2 of Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo were constantly playing on the shoulder, stretching the Palace defence with runs in behind which Victor Lindelöf and Bruno Fernandes attempted to find.
The second half saw a drop off in intensity as United struggled to match the standard they set in the first 45 minutes. Palace grew into the game slightly as they familiarised themselves with 4222 shape now so familiar with Rangnick sides.
The common theme throughout the game that bled into the second half was that United, despite constantly getting into promising positions, failed to create clear cut chances. Rangnick made his changes around the hour mark with Mason Greenwood replacing Sancho in the 62nd minute and Anthony Elanga coming in for Rashford in the 76th.
The introduction of Greenwood brought a different dimension to the United attack as the front line seemed more balanced with the Englishman taking up a role on the right flank. This paid off in the 77th minute as a combination between Diogo Dalot and Greenwood saw him tee up Fred on the right-hand side of the box for the Brazilian to hit a well-placed shot across goal into the top corner.
With the goal, United looked to see out the result, dropping into their shape and defending the box well and looking to counter on Palace as the visitors struggled to break the new look reds side down. As the whistle blew after five added minutes, United had managed to go the game without conceding a single big chance, a testament to the impact Rangnick has been able to have in his short time in charge so far.
United’s run-in heading into the new year is favourable, and with an almost fully fit squad, the signs are positive for Rangnick as he has a group of players willing to buy into his ideas and eager to impress. With no top six fixtures to worry about in the near future, Rangnick and his staff can focus on improving game by game and shaping the side into his image.