MANCHESTER, England – Ralf Rangnick’s revolution at Manchester United is still in its infancy, but fans who have moved away from Old Trafford, after seeing the German leadership’s reign begin with a victory 1-0 over Crystal Palace will have made him convinced of what his team are supposed to look like.
It was by no means a man-supervised “gegenpressing” masterclass that defined this style of play, but with just 48 hours to work with his players after its introduction on Friday morning, there was at least the hallmarks of football. by Rangnick.
For Rangnick, 63, the most important statistic in his first game as a manager in over two and a half years was that United had scored and Crystal Palace had not, but it revealed his side had won the ball in attack. third from the field 12 times, an increase of five from any other game this season.
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After stressing in his first press conference on Friday that United had conceded too many goals this season (24 in 14 Premier League games before Sunday), Rangnick can also be delighted that a first clean sheet at home since April has been recorded. .
And so, while there is work to be done, the new manager will take all he can after being parachuted into work during the most hectic time of the season; it was the second of six in a 13-day span for United.
The decisive moment took a long time to arrive, but Fred’s 77th-minute goal – just the Brazilian midfielder’s sixth in 137 games for the club – secured a win that takes United to sixth place. .
“I’m very happy with the performance of the team, the way they played, especially the first half hour – it was exceptional, I think,” Rangnick said. âThe only thing missing in this period was a zero or two. We had control of the game, I’m very happy with the result and the clean sheet.
âI said in my first press conference, there are things we need to improve, to get clean sheets, to take control of the game. What they showed was more than what I got. ‘waited, to be honest. “
United’s roster was unchanged from that selected by Michael Carrick against Arsenal on Thursday, but the style, at least in the first 30 minutes, was noticeably different. Writing in his program notes, Rangnick said he wanted to be “more proactive with and without the ball” and that approach was clear from the start.
With just three minutes on the clock, a goal kick for the away team was held up to Tyrick Mitchell. Cristiano Ronaldo charged into the corner and a panicked pass from Palace in midfield allowed Scott McTominay to challenge himself and get the ball back.
It caused a huge roar from the fans at home, as if they had been deprived of such intensity. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United seemed reluctant – or unable – to play on the front foot, but that’s not an accusation that can be leveled against Rangnick.
With Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Fred and McTominay laid out in three rows of two when Palace tried to play in defense, United pressed the pitch high and invaded the yellow shirts whenever they had any. ‘opportunity.
For a period in the first half it seemed inevitable that they would score, and Patrick Vieira in the shelter of the opposition would have been delighted to see Rangnick’s players run out of steam as half-time approached. With only two training sessions under their new manager, perhaps that was to be expected.
âPatience was important, but we always tried to be front and center, which is what I liked today,â Rangnick said. âWe always tried to keep them away from the goal. We wanted to play with two forwards and two 10s, to have more control in the middle of the midfield.
âI have to admit I was positively surprised. The weather on Saturday was disgusting and it was almost impossible to train in a focused way. I didn’t expect them to play at this level after so little time. time.”
Having asked his players to be proactive, Rangnick was too. Solskjaer could be slow to make changes, especially in close games, but with the score still at 0-0 the new man wasted no time in bringing in Mason Greenwood for Sancho shortly after the hour mark. Game.
And the substitute made sure the move paid off when Greenwood delayed in the box before handing the ball over to Fred to launch a 20-yard shot at goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and into the top corner. Rangnick clenched both fists in celebration on the sideline before hitting the air and then remembering to tell his players to stand up for the final 13 minutes.
“I had to ask my assistant coach if it was Fred’s right foot,” Rangnick joked (Fernandes too laughed at Twitter). “I thought he could only shoot with his left. I’m happy for him.”
It was only one game and United remain outside the top four places – considered a minimum every season for the club – but there were positive signs of an upward trajectory. A new era is underway.
âIt’s always easier to build on things after you’re successful,â Rangnick said. “We need to produce more clean sheets and improve ourselves to create opportunities for our offense. Overall I’m very happy with how we played today.”