The Ralf Rangnick era at Manchester United is well and truly underway. After a relatively successful stint as caretaker manager, a spell that culminated in a win over Villarreal in the Champions League, a well earned point against the then league leaders at Stamford Bridge, and a thrilling win against Mikel Arteta‘s Arsenal at Old Trafford, Michael Carrick has handed over the reins of the Red Devils to “The Godfather of Gegenpressing.”
Rangnick immediately put his mark on the side. United came flying out of the blocks against Crystal Palace and accomplished something that hadn’t been seen at Old Trafford for some time, a clean sheet while being in total control of the game from start to finish.
This was a 1-0 result that could’ve easily been more flattering for Rangnick’s Reds. However, the 3 points were paramount and it was 3 points secured. Onto the final game of the Champions League group stages.
While Manchester United have recorded their only loss of this year’s group stages against the upcoming opposition, they can go into the fixture totally at ease knowing that finishing as the leaders of Group F is already guaranteed.
This means that in a heavy fixture period, with all due respect to BSC Young Boys, Rangnick can rotate virtually the entire XI freely and treat this game as an opportunity to see how the players who did not play as often under Ole Gunnar Solskjær perform.
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Manchester United have turned around their form since the departure of Solskjær – Michael Carrick delivering 1 win in the Champions League as well as 1 draw and 1 win in the Premier League. Ralf Rangnick has built upon this turnaround with the win over Crystal Palace. As such, Manchester United, in their last 5 games in all competitions have: LWDWW.
The manner in which the win against Palace was achieved is also notable. It was a thoroughly professional affair, with the players showing signs of a reworked press as well far better shape and structure both on and off the ball. This is something Ralf Rangnick will be eager to build on, the United interim manager only having had 1 training session prior to the Palace game.
Jadon Sancho and Fred have come on leaps and bounds but also the fullback department seems to be re-energized with the uptick in form of both Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot, the pair stepping up greatly in the absence erstwhile guaranteed starters: Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
On the other hand, Young Boys have had the following results in their previous 5 games leading up to the clash against United: DDLWL. Their most recent defeat came at the hands of the 6th placed team in the Swiss Super League, Servette.
The form comparison gives United a hopeful outlook on the fixture, even if Rangnick does decide to treat this as merely an opportunity to see what the fringe players are capable of, considering that topping the group is a foregone conclusion.
Manchester United have not lost anyone to injury in the Crystal Palace game however there are a few updates on some key personnel that must be mentioned:
Mason Greenwood returned to the action for the first time since recovering from COVID-19 and provided the assist for Fred’s weak footed strike against Palace. Paul Pogba continues his rehabilitation in the warm weather of Dubai.
Luke Shaw was once again missing from the United squad against Palace ever since suffering 2 concussions in quick succession in previous fixtures, it remains to be seen whether or not he will feature against Young Boys. He was pictured back in training on Tuesday.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was on the bench against Crystal Palace and assuming Diogo Dalot’s stellar performance has earned him a start in United’s next Premier League fixture against Norwich City, can be expected to start in the final Champions League group stage game.
Raphäel Varane and Edinson Cavani have both rejoined training at some level, however Rangnick confirmed that they will not be involved in tomrrow’s match, however may be back in matchday squads from next week.
Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial picked up issues during training prior to the Palace game, rendering them unavailable for the fixture. Rangnick stated that Martial will need a few days to recover from a knee injury sustained in training.
For Young Boys, they could be missing up to 7 players – Goalkeeper David von Ballmoos, defendrs Cedric Zesiger and Ulisses Garcia, winger Christian Fassnacht, and forwards Jean-Pierre Nsame and Felix Mambimbi.
They also could be withinout midfielder Fabian Rieder, who missed their weekend fixture due to illness.
Ones to watch
Rangnick is very likely to field a virtually entirely rotated XI with only one of the centerbacks that featured against Palace starting against Young Boys.
He has already confirmed in his press conference that Donny Van de Beek and Dean Henderson are set to start, and the Dutchman could show an improved performance considering Rangnick’s system is much more organised than anything Solskjær put out during his tenure at the club.
Mason Greenwood is another to look out for, as he could start as part of the front 2 with a partner, similar to the striker set up that debued against Crystal Palace.
It’s possible we see Anthony Elanga play alongside Greenwood, with the young Swede playing his first Premier League minutes against Palace with Rangnick putting a considerable amount of faith in him, with United needing a goal as he came on.
Amad, the young acquisition from Atalanta, picked up an injury prior to the season getting underway, an injury which quashed his chances of a loan spell in the Netherlands at Feyenoord. It will be interesting to see if he’s given a start, either in the front 2 or in the 2 behind, alongside van de Beek.
Predicted Line-up (4-2-2-2)
Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw;
Amad, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek;
Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga.
The march to the knockout stages (and beyond?)
A place in the knockout stages of the Champions League is already secured – something that couldn’t be said with any confidence after the loss in the opening fixture against the very same opposition. That’s already an upgrade on our UCL performance from last season which started off nicely and then tailed off into Europa League oblivion.
However, more has to be done. This squad is brimming with talent, not to mention the presence of “Champions League Varane” and Mr. Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo, himself. With a favourable draw, the ambition should be to get United to the semi-finals.
Manchester United has been starved of trophies for far too long, and the faint idea will be present in the back of every Manchester United supporter – If Thomas Tuchel can come in mid-season and deliver a Champions League, surely the man responsible for Tuchel becoming a coach can do the same?
Demanding the UCL by following that train of thought is nigh unfair on Rangnick and his men, but hoping it happens costs me nothing, and would be the epitome of the season doing an absolute 180.
Bring in BSC Young Boys. Bring on the Champions League knockout stages.