The German is expected to impose a high-energy playing style upon his new squad, which could be good news for some but bad news for others…
Ralf Rangnick is Manchester United’s new interim manager but he will not be officially in charge for Thursday’s Premier League clash with Arsenal as he awaits his work visa.
However, after taking a look around Old Trafford on Wednesday afternoon, the German is expected to return to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ for the visit of the Gunners.
Michael Carrick will still be at the helm, of course, but the big question is whether we will see early signs of Rangnick’s influence on United’s tactics and team selection.
However, given the German is renowned for demanding a high-energy brand of football, that might not be good news for every member of the United squad.
So, let’s look at the potential winners and losers from Rangnick’s appointment…
Loser: Cristiano Ronaldo
Let’s start with the most interesting topic of debate: Cristiano Ronaldo’s role.
Many people felt that the decision to drop the forward for Sunday’s draw with Chelsea was made by Rangnick but sources insist otherwise, while Carrick himself said it was his call.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Ronaldo’s status as a certain starter is safe under Rangnick. After all, his ‘Gegenpressing’ does not, on paper at least, fit with Ronaldo’s current style of play.
At 36, the Portugal international has altered his game to prolong his career at the highest level, and his defensive output is minimal, meaning he is at risk of becoming the biggest casualty of the change in tactics under Rangnick.
Carrick, though, does not believe in the “myth” that Ronaldo is incapable of playing in teams that press aggressively.
“Cristiano has been successful playing a variety of ways, and has kept scoring goals for every club that he has played for, so I am sure he will continue to score goals. I have no doubt about that,” the former midfielder told reporters.
It would be naive to think that he isn’t capable of changing his game. He has not got to this stage in his career without adapting but it will come down to willingness rather than ability.
“He will clearly not be the player who presses the most, nor would he be expected to be, but he is not incapable.”
His 10 goals in 15 games still make him a valuable asset to United but whether he retains a starting spot may come down to whether he buys into Rangnick’s vision or not.
If he doesn’t, he might find himself relegated to the role of ‘super-sub’.
Winner: Jadon Sancho
With two goals in his last two appearances, Jadon Sancho propelled himself to the forefront of the first-team picture just before Rangnick’s arrival was confirmed.
The England international had endured a slow start to his Old Trafford career but he now looks perfectly placed to kick on under the tutelage of a coach set to implement a style of play suited to his attributes.
Indeed, it has been suggested that Sancho struggled to settle following his summer switch from Borussia Dortmund because of the perceived lack of structure under previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United certainly won’t lack a clear and coherent game plan under Rangnick, though, and that should bring the best out of Sancho, who lit up the Bundesliga during his four years at Signal Iduna Park.
Sancho is young, quick, skilful and willing to press high, meaning he has everything required to quickly become a certain starter for the new-look United.
Winner: Donny van de Beek
Donny van de Beek was one of the biggest casualties of Solskjaer’s reign.
Despite regularly impressing in training, the Dutchman consistently found himself on the bench, with Solskjaer unable to find any set role for the former Ajax man in his starting line-up.
Van de Beek was hopeful of more minutes this term, as United experimented with a more attack-minded midfield set-up during pre-season.
However, Solskjaer stuck primarily with a 4-2-3-1 formation, meaning Van de Beek’s opportunities remained limited.
During his coaching career, Rangnick has mainly utilised a 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-2 – both of which should suit Van de Beek, who prefers to play as No.10 or a No.6.
Loser: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Since it became apparent that United were going to hire Rangnick, some of his past appraisals of the current United squad have popped up here and there.
Just last year Rangnick said: “I also think they could do with a left-back. I know they have Luke Shaw but I’m not so sure if he’s still on the same kind of level that you need to be for a club like Manchester United.”
In fairness to both parties, those comments were made before Shaw’s sensational 2020-21 campaign, which saw him win the club’s Players’ Player of the Year and earn a recall into the England set up, before playing a key role in his country reaching the Euro 2020 final.
However, Shaw’s form has undeniably nosedived this season and if he is going to impress his new manager, he will need to get back to his best, and fast.
Still, Rangnick likes attacking full-backs and Shaw’s attacking game has come on in leaps and bounds over the past year.
For that reason, Shaw is arguably in a better position right now than his team-mate on the opposite flank.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka excels when it comes to one-v-one defensive battles but his contribution going forward has been repeatedly called into question.
There’s been a slight improvement in this regard but the right-back’s offensive struggles has led to a lopsided United attack.
Diogo Dalot is a far more accomplished attacker, so the Portuguese could well place Wan-Bissaka under plenty of pressure in the coming weeks and months.
Winner: Michael Carrick
It is understood that the plan is for the current coaching staff to keep their jobs, with Rangnick expected to bring in just one new face.
This could be good news for Carrick, who has relished the responsibility of steadying the ship at United over the past 10 days.
“I’ve certainly had to adapt to take on a new challenge and different kind of skillset,” the former England international explained. “It’s something you’ve got to learn on the job but, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed it.”