Does Rangnick need to alter his personnel or philosophy at United?

Ralf Rangnick’s appointment at Manchester United as interim manager was supposed to spark the club into life to make a charge into the top four of the Premier League.

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Ralf Rangnick’s appointment at Manchester United as interim manager was supposed to spark the club into life to make a charge into the top four of the Premier League. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Red Devils struggled immensely with their consistency on the pitch and defensive lapses prompted heavy home defeats at the hands of Liverpool and Manchester City.

The gulf in class between United and the elite of the top flight forced the hand of the club’s hierarchy to remove Solskjaer from his post and replace him with the German. Rangnick was renowned for his pressing style during his time as manager of RB Leipzig. It was expected that he would bring the same philosophy and improve the form and performances of United.

Although they were far from spectacular, the Red Devils delivered in his first game in charge with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. United followed their victory with another uninspiring triumph over struggling Norwich on the road, requiring a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to see off the Canaries. After a 16-day layoff due to postponements there was hope that Rangnick’s philosophy would be evident against Newcastle.

The performance was once more underwhelming as United managed to scrape a draw, despite being outplayed by the Magpies. United are still backed in the Premier League betting odds at 5/4 to finish in the top four, but a significant improvement will be required from Rangnick and his players to beat out Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham United, who are all in the hunt.

Rangnick has a number of issues to contend with, but his primary problem will be what to do in the final third. Ronaldo has been productive in front of goal for the Red Devils since his return to the club. The Portuguese has scored 13 goals in all competitions, including seven in 14 Premier League appearances. However, his frustration at United’s form has boiled over at times on the pitch, while the young players around the legendary forward appear to be cowering rather than thriving in his presence.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood have been far from their best in the opening half of the campaign, although Greenwood’s issues appeared to stem after the arrival of Ronaldo. The 20-year-old scored in the opening three games of the season, but has notched just two goals in 15 appearances since he was ousted from the central striker’s role by Ronaldo. Rashford has failed to find the back of the net since the end of October, while Sancho has been ineffectual in the early days of his career at Old Trafford.

United have not been able to find the rhythm required within the final third to create opportunities on a regular basis, which combined with their defensive frailties has resulted in leaving them off the pace in the race for the top four. Rangnick has a difficult decision to make regarding his philosophy and his bid to propel the Red Devils into the Champions League places.

Ronaldo is a key part of the United team, but his style of play is no longer suited to a pressing system. At this stage of his career, the 36-year-old is a poacher in front of the net, requiring direct service from his team-mates in the final third. Liverpool have highlighted how threatening a front three combination that works together to force mistakes and is clinical in front of goal can be. To achieve the results that United require, Rangnick may have to alter his current approach to make a difficult decision regarding Ronaldo’s place in the starting line-up.

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