Ralf Rangnick: Manchester United’s new boss & his tactics

Image Credit: Daily Post

Ralf Rangnick has reached an agreement to become the interim manager of Manchester United. The 63-year-old is currently working upstairs at Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia but has extensive managerial experience. The report by The Athletic states the deal will see Rangnick become United’s interim manager for six months. However, the deal will see Rangnick stay on for a further two years in a consultancy role. Rangnick will offer a vast amount of experience in comparison to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. A key pioneer of the gegenpress movement, Rangnick has had managerial stints with Hannover, Schalke, Hoffenheim, and RB Leipzig.

United made the decision to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday, November 21, following the 4-1 defeat to Watford. The decision to install an interim boss stems from Paris Saint-Germain playing hardball over head coach Mauricio Pochettino. Therefore Ralf Rangnick will only take the team through until the end of the season. Manchester United will still search for a permanent manager in the meantime, with Pochettino likely still a top target.

The sacking of Solskjaer came as no surprise to many. Despite signing a long-term deal in July 2021, comfortable defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City, and the capitulation against Watford his role became untenable.

Who is Ralf Rangnick?

Ralf Rangnick is the current managing director of sport and communications at the Russian side, Lokomotiv Moscow, and has had previous managerial roles at clubs such as Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig. Rangnick said at the start of the 19/20 season that United had been ‘underperforming’ when he was asked about the situation regarding Solskjaer.

His last managerial role was at RB Leipzig and he left at the end of the 18/19 season with Leipzig finishing third in the Bundesliga and since then, he has moved into more off-field roles with Salzburg and now Lokomotiv Moscow. The 63-year-old is one of the main men behind Leipzig’s success on and off the pitch in recent times. In his time at both Hoffenheim and Leipzig, he mostly used a 4-3-3 formation with a large emphasis on pressing and transitional situations.

Rangnick is one of the tactical masterminds of the modern era and he was one of the first coaches to adopt what we now know as the ‘Gegenpress’ or counter-pressing which we now see in full flow with Klopp’s Liverpool side.

Rangnick’s career isn’t without silverware, with him winning the German cup with Schalke back in 2011. He has also won the Austrian Bundesliga twice in 2013 and 2014 with RB Salzburg and also guided RB Leipzig to second in their first top-flight Bundesliga season and finished on a total of 67 points in the 2016/17 season.

Ralf Rangnick Tactics

At Hoffenheim, Rangnick mainly used a 4-3-3. Looking at his whole coaching career though, Rangnick most often deployed a 4-4-2 system, which can turn into a 4-2-2-2 as illustrated in the graphic below. Another variant of a back four system he utilised is the 4-4-2 diamond which has a lot of similarities with the also centrally focused 4-2-2-2.

Later at RB Leipzig, Rangnick also utilised a 3-5-2 formation from time to time besides the preferred 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 system. Although their principles remained the same, Rangnick’s side would have one additional player in central midfield while still playing with two attackers. This enables two of them to press higher up the pitch while still one of them covers the space in front of the back line.

Concerning the pressing, Rangnick himself said that he wants to press the ball-carrier with a numerical advantage of at least one more player. In order to prepare this, they use certain traps where they lure the opposition into. A common theme that can be seen when depicting his press at Hoffenheim is to offer an open midfielder to then press with several players, ideally from the blind-side.

Rangnick’s attacking tactics revolve around quick vertical passes. Even during positional attacks, Rangnick’s teams try to threaten the opposition goal as early as possible. And the double pivot in front of the back line will ensure the needed cover during the attacking phase as ball losses are both, preprogrammed and taken into account by the former RB Leipzig coach.

Instead of deploying a positional play, Rangnick’s sides would rather aim at creating overloads, especially in the half-spaces. Through the creation of triangular structures and diamond shapes, they could then play with very few touches allowing combinations at a high pace.

His style of play requires a lot of running, intensity, and physicality in general. Due to that, he prefers to play with relatively young squads. This enables his teams to recover more quickly and to keep up the high intensity in both, training and matches, throughout a whole season.

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