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Ralf Rangnick: the ‘professor’ takes charge at Man Utd

German named interim manager at Old Trafford until end of the season

With hindsight, it seems an obvious appointment, said Paul Joyce in The Times, and one that should perhaps have been made two years ago. In 2019, Ralf Rangnick, then head of football development at Red Bull, sat in the crowd at Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play Chelsea. In a post-match interview, the German was “quick to earmark” the club’s major shortcomings, singling out a record of mediocre transfers, a failure to develop a “specific style of football”, and a lack of overall “vision”. And it turns out that United were in fact thinking of appointing Rangnick to a newly created role – director of football – but ended up not pursuing it. Now, however, having finally sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the club is belatedly bringing the revered German to Old Trafford. He is to be interim manager until the end of the season, before taking up a “consultancy role”.

The 63-year-old comes to a league he has never coached in before, but which nonetheless is “awash with his achievements”, said Stefan Bienkowski in The Daily Telegraph. For Rangnick is the “godfather of gegenpressing” – the high-tempo style of football, orientated around rapidly recovering possession, that has profoundly influenced the English game. He pioneered the style while coaching “minnows” Ulm in the late 1990s, taking them in just two seasons from Germany’s third tier to the Bundesliga. A similarly impactful spell at Hoffenheim was followed by his nine-year association with Red Bull, owners of Salzburg and Leipzig. 

Known as football’s “professor”, Rangnick excels not just at managing teams, but at bringing on other talented coaches, said Raphael Honigstein on The Athletic. Thomas Tuchel and Ralph Hasenhüttl (bosses of Chelsea and Southampton) are both former protégés. And while Jürgen Klopp has never worked under him, Liverpool’s manager is a self-confessed disciple. Rangnick’s arrival in England, says Klopp, is “not good news for other teams”.

It may also be bad news for Solskjær’s star signing, Cristiano Ronaldo, said Barney Ronay in The Guardian. The entire career of “Dr Gegenpress” feels like a case for not having a player like Ronaldo as the “focal point” of a team. The German loves youth and energy (at Hoffenheim, he refused to sign anyone over 23), is a fierce believer in the collective, and “hates star players”. So it was perhaps significant that the Portuguese was dropped from the starting line-up when United took on Chelsea on Sunday. Michael Carrick, the caretaker manager (Rangnick is expected to assume the reins in the next few days), insisted the decision was his own, but it was “hard not to see the hand of Ralf [in it]; whether directly or by osmosis through a coaching team eager to please the new man”.

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