Will Ralf Ragnick bring glory back to Man United

The 63-year-old is regarded as one of the architects of pressing in German football, influencing Klopp, Tuchel and countless others.

The decision to appoint Ralf Ragnick, initially as interim manager and then in an advisory role, is an indication that Manchester United are attempting to establish a clearly defined playing style.

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The term  Gegenpressing has become a buzzword for modern German coaching, particularly since Jurgen Klopp brought his methods across the Premier League in 2015.

To work, the strategy requires players to apply pressure on their opponents high up the pitch and in an aggressive and coordinated manner to force mistakes or turnovers.

Ralf Ragnick said one word again and again at Old Trafford on Friday as he was presented as Manchester United’s new interim coach: control.

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On the pitch, the team have had very little of it this season, and even when they’ve won it’s often being chaotic, either having to come from behind or find a last-minute winner. Usually from Cristiano Ronaldo.

But since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, there has often appeared to be confusion on the pitch, too. Managers coming and going. Different ideas were implemented and then scrapped. Players brought and then sold. If there’s been a plan, it’s not always been obvious.

Ragnick’s track record for identifying young players in his role as a sporting director and nurturing their talents as a coach should stand United in good stead given the age profile of their squad.

Marcus Rashford, 23, Mason Greenwood, 20 and in particular, Jordan Sancho, 21, should all benefit from his expertise. Donny Van De Beck, 24 is another who may benefit.

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The rack will inherit a talented, if unbalanced squad at United. The club has failed to address its glaring weakness in defensive midfield for several transfer windows.

Manchester hasn’t been prolific this season and has failed miserably in the big matches against the big opponents. Possession, creativity in midfield and defensive lapses have been major problems. 4-2-2-2 is the formation that Ralf Ragnick will look to implement and Fred and McTominay will be a key factor in this playing style.

In this first game against Crystal Palace “We love you Ragnick, we do” sang a jubilant Stretford End near the final whistle as Fred was the unlikely hero of this deserved victory for Manchester United in his first game in charge.

United are four matches unbeaten, three of them victories, and with this only a second clean sheet of the campaign here was a perfect result for Ragnick to start his tenure.

The German’s opening XI was an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it selection that retained those who beat Arsenal 3-2. This was an intriguing move due to the glaring structural problem Ragnick had identified – a lack of control in matches – which he stated was glaringly evident in the chaotic victory on Thursday.

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The 63-year old’s thinking became clearer at kick-off as the 4-2-3-1 of the previous regime was jettisoned for a 4-2-2-2 that had Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo positioned ahead of Bruno Fernandes and Sancho.

United are looking like exactly what they are: a team whose confidence is gathering. EPL and UCL will be their main target but looking at the current situation a place in the top 4 would be a good outcome. In UCL they have a pretty good chance but good things take time. Glory days are likely to come soon but United need to show perseverance both on and off the field.

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