Ralf Rangnick will take interim charge of Man Utd until the end of the season and will have to make decisions on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani’s role in his set up
As when any new manager takes over, there will be winners and losers within the squad, players who had previously been favourites suddenly jettisoned, while outcasts under the previous boss are brought in from the cold and given a new lease of life.
So what does Rangnick’s imminent arrival mean for United’s current squad? In his most recent spell as a manager, at RB Leipzig, Rangnick oversaw the youngest squad in the Bundesliga in the 2018-19 season, one with an average age of 23.5.
So the 63-year-old clearly favours the energy and malleable nature of youth, with younger players more able and willing to listen to new coaching ideas than their older counterparts.
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So while the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay are likely to thrive under Rangnick if they embrace his philosophy, can the same be said for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Nemanja Matic?
While Cavani is willing to press opponents and is known for his voracious work-rate and willingness to chase down seemingly lost causes, the same cannot be said of Ronaldo and Matic.
Ronaldo may have scored 10 times since his return to United and rescued them with a host of late goals, but he is likely to have to adapt to Rangnick’s high-intensity, high-pressing approach if he is not to see more of the bench, as he did for Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea.
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With Ronaldo among the substitutes at Stamford Bridge, there was more urgency from United’s forwards, that pressure from Sancho and Rashford ultimately forcing the mistake from Jorginho, from which Sancho seized upon and subsequently scored.
There will always be frenzied debate when Ronaldo does not start, given his phenomenal goalscoring record, but it will be fascinating to see how Rangnick views the 36-year-old’s role, whether as a regular starter or as an impact substitute from the bench.
Defensively, Rangnick tends to play with a flat back-four, with his full-backs encouraged to press high and attack, an approach embodied by two of his confirmed disciples, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel.
While Luke Shaw has struggled for form this season, the left-back is more comfortable pushing forward to join the attack than his opposite number Aaron Wan-Bissaka, whose final ball is lamentable and who nearly always cuts back and plays the ball back inside when in an advanced position, something that will have to change if he is to survive under Rangnick.
Harry Maguire has endured a wretched start to the season and his status as captain will not be enough to safeguard his place, with Rangnick possessing other options in Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly, the latter two having impressed at Chelsea in the absence of their suspended skipper.
In midfield, Donny van de Beek, consistently overlooked and undermined by Solskjaer, is likely to get a fresh start under Rangnick. The German abhors sideways and backwards passes in the middle of the pitch and demands his midfielders advance the ball quickly, zipping the ball forward with the minimum of delay.
That approach should suit van de Beek, whose technical and tactical attributes he showed to great effect at Ajax have been allowed to stagnate at United, with his criminal lack of game time. In goal, David De Gea’s continued heroics between the posts this season mean he is one player whose position is secure.
But the same cannot be said for the rest of United’s squad, who will have to prove themselves to Rangnick and, in many cases, reinvent themselves as players, if they are to thrive under the new man in charge.