Manchester United stepped into a new era on Friday morning as the German innovator Ralf Rangnick was unveiled as new interim manager in the club’s boldest move since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure eight years ago.
Less than 12 hours after caretaker Michael Carrick walked away from the club – marking the last of Ferguson’s 2008 Champions League winners to leave Old Trafford having played and then coached at United ever since – the 63-year-old Rangnick gave a measured press conference in which he hailed Cristiano Ronaldo, warned of the “big” gap to the Premier League’s three, and hinted he could stay on permanently.
Rangnick has walked away from a brief stint as sporting director at Lokomotiv Moscow where he was charged with overhauling the club as he had done so successively at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig before. He revealed he turned down an interim position at Chelsea in February because it was only short-term, whereas United offered him a two-year consultancy role after this season to use his considerable experience guiding the hierarchy. “If a club like Manchester United contacts you for such a role, you cannot possibly turn it down.”
His first recommendation at the end of the season could be to hire Ralf Rangnick. “The people with whom I’ve spoken so far, they’ve been very clear we’re talking about a six-and-a-half month role. Maybe if it goes well and they ask me, I might make the same recommendation as I did twice at Leipzig – to continue with me.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the coming weeks will be to witness how Rangnick’s relationship with Ronaldo unfolds. Rangnick has been dubbed the ‘godfather of gegenpressing’ and his philosophy on determinedly winning the ball high up the pitch has been adopted and adapted by Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann, now at Liverpool, Chelsea and Bayern Munich respectively, and it is not a strategy naturally suited to the 36-year-old Ronaldo.
But after watching from the stands as Ronaldo scored twice to sink Arsenal on Thursday night, bringing up his 800th career goal, Rangnick was convinced the striker will be crucial to United’s season. “Seeing Cristiano yesterday at 36, I’ve never seen a player that physically fit at that age. He can easily make the difference.”
more to follow…