Ralf Rangnick appears to be on the verge of being confirmed as the next Manchester United boss.
United are poised to appoint the experienced German coach on a contract until the end of the current campaign with the option of a further two-year consultancy role at the club.
A host of managers have been linked to the coaching vacancy at United following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but Rangnick is now on the verge of filling the role for the remainder of the season.
The 63-year-old’s coaching career has spanned over three decades although he has spent just two seasons in the last decade in the dugout as he adapted more of a sporting director role.
In 2012, Rangnick joined Red Bull as the director of football at Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig; overseeing their business growth and sporting strategy.
Here are five things that he will bring to the Old Trafford role.
Defined playing identity
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Rangnick has been described as ‘the godfather of gegenpressing’ and the innovator of a proactive style of play that has influenced coaches such as Jurgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann.
Rangnick previously explained this to ESPN as a “very simple” concept.
He said: “[ Gegenpressing is] a very proactive style of football, similar to the way in which Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool have been playing under Klopp.
“We like to press high, with a very intense counter-pressure. When we have the ball, we do not like any square or back passes.
“The goalkeeper also should not be the one with the most contact on the ball. In almost every league and every country, the goalkeeper is technically the most limited football player on the pitch and therefore we have to make sure that he has the lowest contact with the feet.
“It is a fast, proactive, attacking, counter-attacking, counter-pressing, exciting and entertaining [style of] football.”
There is little doubt that he will try to implement his methods in his short stint at Old Trafford – a marked change in direction from the previous managers in the hotseat.
While Rangnick has a very clear style of play, he is much more versatile and adaptable with actual formations – basing these on the strengths of his players.
He instilled a 4-3-3 system at Hoffenheim which was later adapted to a 4-4-2 diamond, while at RB Leipzig he came up with the innovative – and initially hugely successful – 4-2-2-2 setup.
Describing the latter formation to Coaches Voice, he explained: “We decided on a formation that, in Germany and Austria, no other team has played – 4-2-2-2.
“A back four, two number sixes – one was more like an eight – two number 10s, and two strikers.
“We were fantastic, and very difficult for the other team to attack.”
Instead of defined tactics, Rangnick is more focused on the pressing and prioritisation of quick attacks.
Rangnick will be in the Old Trafford dugout until the end of the campaign but has agreed a two-year ‘consultancy role’ with United after that date.
During his off-field role with Red Bull, his data-driven football strategy saw signings such as Sadio Mané, Naby Keïta, Dayot Upamecano, Joshua Kimmich and Erling Haaland added from relative obscurity.
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United’s biggest failing in recent years has arguably been their lack of football direction off the pitch, as Rangnick highlighted in a 2019 interview.
Rangnick told The Times : “Since Sir Alex [Ferguson] left they were underperforming. They haven’t won the title since he left.
“At any club, if you cannot get the right players, then you should at least not sign the wrong ones.
“You are in trouble if you do that in one or two or three consecutive transfer windows.
“Club building is about building the right squad by transferring the right players away and having more than 50 per cent success rate of bringing in the right players.
“Then you must have the best possible coaches to develop these players.”
His future role looks set to be as important, if not more so, than his brief stint in the dugout.
Rangnick’s playing style is based almost entirely on the principles of pressing and energy – attributes that are lacking at United in comparison to their rivals.
As per analysis from fbref.com, there are two players who stand out as being impressive pressers in United’s team: Fred and Bruno Fernandes.
Fred has made 224 ‘pressures’ for United in the Premier League this season, with Fernandes second on 205.
There is a significant drop off to third-placed Paul Pogba, who ranks on 135 pressures.
Fred and Fernandes are notably the two players who would most fit into Rangnick’s ideas.
Cristiano Ronaldo challenge
Conversely, Ronaldo has made just 39 ‘pressures’ this season in the Premier League – fewer than United’s central defenders Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane.
The Portuguese superstar simply does not press, which is unsurprising given his age – 36 – and style of play, which is often decisive but does leave his side somewhat short in attacking intensity.
Of course, it is possible that Rangnick devises a system that can account for one player’s lack of pressing if the unit around him does so – after all, Ronaldo’s goal output is an incredibly persuasive reason to overlook other shortcomings in his performance.
Yet this is a clear challenge for Rangnick to overcome.