Ralf Rangnick looks set to take charge at Manchester United until the end of the season – and the German’s famously intensive coaching will have an instant impact, particularly on the club’s young players, says Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith.
Rangnick is in discussions with United about a deal that would not only see him step into the dugout following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dismissal, but also see him remain at the club for two years beyond the end of the season in a consultancy role.
He is currently manager of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow but has forged a reputation as one of the most respected names in German football with his work, both as a coach and as a director of football, with clubs such as RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Schalke.
Smith believes Rangnick’s style and experience will lead to significant improvements in a United side which has lost five of their last seven Premier League games, and go to Chelsea live on Sky Sports on Sunday for a 4.30pm kick-off.
“It’s fascinating news and good news for Man Utd,” Smith told the Essential Football Podcast. “He’s a manager, leader and coach of great abilities.
“I’m a little surprised – he’s not immediately mentioned when various clubs are looking for a manager – but if you ask the German coaches, such as Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, and Julian Nagelsmann, they all look up to him.
“They see him as a father figure or mentor, in the way Latin managers such as Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, see Marcelo Bielsa. That kind of figure, somebody who wrote the rule book for others to follow.
“It’s a really good appointment and during his first few months in charge of that first team you’ll see improvements, particularly in individuals.
“He likes working with young players who are energetic, willing to learn, hungry – and you look at the lads like Scott McTominay and Jadon Sancho, who hasn’t hit the ground running at Man Utd yet, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, these players, he’ll really enjoy working with so much talent there and in the next few weeks and months you’ll see those boys kick on.”
Making his mark
Rangnick’s teams typically play an intense pressing game and are known for their meticulous organisation.
That would be a shift from United’s style under Solskajer, with the team recently criticised for their poor pressing and patterns of play.
“I think he’ll stamp his imprint, his style of football on that Man Utd team pretty quickly,” said Smith.
“He’s said many times before that one of the main jobs of a coach is to know how he wants his team to play and to sell that vision to his players. If those methods start to work and players feel they’re improving individually that wins the day and they’ll go with that manager. That’s how he’s achieved success down the years.
“He’s had this mixture of overseeing clubs, director of football, been a manager at plenty as well, but like most coaches, they love being on the training ground day to day and having that close contact with players and I’m sure he’ll be no different.
I’m sure he’ll go in like a whirlwind. He’s obsessive. With Solskjaer you did feel it was kind of making it up as they went along. We’ll see what Rangnick wants pretty quickly.
“I’m sure he’ll go in like a whirlwind. He’s obsessive, a bit of a control freak, although he says he’s learnt to delegate a bit more as he’s got older. But these people think about football from the moment they wake up to the time they go to sleep, even dream about it. That’s how the top coaches are. He’s certainly a football obsessive.
“It will be much different [to under Solskjaer]. The demands on individuals in terms of what their roles are at any given time in a match, depending on where the ball is and so on, with Solskjaer you did feel it was kind of making it up as they went along.
“They have so much individual talent that Solskajer left them to it or hoped that talent would win the day. He obviously worked hard on the training ground but what he was working on wasn’t working and he wasn’t able to compete with the modern elite coaches.
“We’ll see what Rangnick wants pretty quickly. And if that brings results and players feel it is making them a better player they’ll be on that train with him.”
Paving the way for Poch?
The plan remains for Man Utd to appoint a long-term manager next summer, with current PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino favourite for that role.
Smith says Rangnick’s planned move into a consultancy role at the end of this season may suggest United are clear on who they will appoint – and that the partnership between Rangnick and United’s next permanent manager will be key.
“The fact they’ve agreed this two-year consultancy contract after the end of this season makes you think they have got somebody lined up, somebody they’ve spoken to, somebody they’re confident can join the club in the summer and also somebody is happy to work with Rangnick,” said Smith.
“Behind the scenes you have to feel maybe it has all been sorted out.
“Pochettino is getting mentioned – I don’t know if he knows too much about Rangnick, but Rangnick will have a firm hand on the tiller above first-team duties and a lot of contact with the manager, so the relationship between those two, if it is Pochettino, will be vital.
“It’s going to be fascinating to keep an eye on Old Trafford to see how things develop.”
Premier League Preview – Expect a ‘whirlwind’ impact from Rangnick at Man Utd | His objectives | Plus: Brighton, Brentford analysis
Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith, and football journalist Simeon Gholam to look ahead to the Premier League weekend.
PART 1 | Alan Smith discusses Ralf Rangnick’s appointment as Man Utd interim boss, what he will bring to the club, and how he could help their young players kick on. Is he paving the way for Mauricio Pochettino? Alan assesses Rangnick’s consultancy role, which is planned to start next summer, too.
PART 2 | Simeon Gholam breaks down Brighton’s mixed start to the campaign and what they need to do to get back to winning ways against Leeds.
PART 3 | Simeon – our EFL Editor – also looks at newly-promoted Brentford, who have also had a good start followed by a frustrating period, ahead of their Super Sunday clash with Everton.