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3 issues for Ralf Rangnick to address at Manchester United

Ralf Rangnick was not included among most articles detailing the likely contenders to take charge of Manchester United on a temporary basis, but the Old Trafford club sprung a surprise by turning to the German on a short-term deal that was announced on Monday.

Rangnick will be United’s manager until the end of the season, when he will move into a consultancy role for a two-year period, so the next few months offer him a chance to assess the state of the club and decide what needs to be done.

There are pressing issues on the pitch, though, with United mid-table in the Premier League going into Thursday’s meeting with Arsenal on the back of one win in eight games. Here, we take a look at three key areas Ralf Rangnick must turn his attention to as a matter of urgency for Manchester United.

 

3 issues for Ralf Rangnick to address at Manchester United

 

Fix the leaky defence

Michael Carrick stemmed the bleeding with United looking far more resilient in their 1-1 draw at Chelsea, but the back line will still be a major area of concern for Rangnick upon his arrival.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka looks far from a £50 million footballer and he clearly lacks the attacking gifts of his fellow right-backs at top clubs, with England internationals Reece James, Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold all offering their teams much more on the ball. On the other wing, Luke Shaw has regressed at an alarming rate having had the best campaign of his career last term.

Fitness issues have restricted Raphael Varane to six Premier League starts while club captain Harry Maguire – who was suspended for the Chelsea game – has been poor all season. Eric Bailly performed well for Manchester at Stamford Bridge and he may have given Ralf Rangnick food for thought.

Solid protection from midfield for the defence has long been a problem for United. It is not just dire displays at the back that have heaped pressure on goalkeeper David de Gea, who despite the Red Devils’ lowly league position has been among their better players this term.

 

Recruit to improve midfield

Carrick opted for a sturdy midfield trio of Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay for the Chelsea game and it worked to a point, with United looking in much better shape defensively. However, it came at a cost as United created very little during the match, with Jadon Sancho capitalising on Jorginho’s slip to net their goal at Old Trafford – his second strike in two games.

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While Ralf Rangnick may prioritise getting a tune out of Donny van de Beek, Manchester United will surely have to enter the transfer market in January for an elite midfielder. The future of Paul Pogba remains in doubt – the France star is currently sidelined and he is out of contract at the end of the season – to add to Rangnick’s impending headache in the centre of the park. AC Milan’s Franck Kessie could be a potential option with the midfielder deep into the last year of his contract at San Siro.

 

Decide what to do with Ronaldo

Perhaps the most intriguing issue in Rangnick’s in-tray concerns Cristiano Ronaldo. On the face of it, Ronaldo’s six Champions League goals and his four further strikes in the Premier League suggest his return to Old Trafford has been a success despite the team’s awful form overall.

But Rangnick is widely credited with popularising the gegenpressing style of football now widely used across the European game. It is difficult to see how a 36-year-old Ronaldo fits that tactical plan due to the sheer amount of targeted running that is required from the attacking players.

Carrick left Ronaldo out at Stamford Bridge. While he has been rested from the starting XI at times this term, it was clear that this time he had been dropped. It was a bold call and, although the Portugal superstar was summoned off the bench, one that was justified by United’s draw.

Ralf Rangnick is not short of options for his Manchester United front line, with Sancho finding form and the youthful vitality of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood potentially perfect for his ideas. Edinson Cavani, still a willing workhorse despite only being two years younger than Ronaldo, may also prove a better fit for the system than Ronaldo. There is Bruno Fernandes to slot in as well.

Just months after his triumphant return to Manchester, Ronaldo could be sidelined. Managing that situation might be the largest challenge facing Rangnick at Old Trafford this season.

 


 

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