How Ralf Rangnick could help shape Manchester United on and off the pitch

Man United closing in on Rangnick appointment

Manchester United is expected to announce the interim appointment of highly-influential German Ralf Rangnick in the next 24-48 hours according to SkySports.

In what amounts to a shock move by the Old Trafford outfit, the former leading figure at RB Leipzig and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim will uproot himself from his current Heads of Sports & Development position at Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow; a position he only began in the summer.

While current caretaker manager Michael Carrick could feel hard done after guiding the club to a credible 2-0 win against Villarreal in their midweek Champions League clash, it should come as no surprise that a club of United’s stature would target a more seasoned figure for the managerial vacancy in the wake of the failed driving exam that was Ole at the wheel.

The Godfather of Gegenpressing and what he would bring

But what would the ‘Godfather of Gegenpressing’ bring to Manchester United both as an interim manager and a larger role at the club after the season?

How Ralf Rangnick could help shape Manchester United on and off the pitch

BREMEN, GERMANY – MAY 18: Head coach Ralf Rangnick of RB Leipzig looks on prior to the Bundesliga match between SV Werder Bremen and RB Leipzig at Weserstadion on May 18, 2019 in Bremen, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Rangnick was a mentor to a cadre of top-level managers across England and the continent, including Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp, Chelsea tactician Thomas Tuchel, and Bayern Munich’s managerial starlet Julian Nagelsmann. Additionally, his tactical influence on German football at large cannot be understated by any means.

However, Rangnick cuts a figure of a man that is very much an autocrat; his way or the highway. Would that suit Manchester United, a club that still taps into the mind of Sir Alex Ferguson while a hierarchy headed by the Glazer family continues to lead the club away from water as they aimlessly roam the desert?

If Rangnick is truly given the keys to the Chateaux, then this will surely go down as a masterstroke for the club. For more, here is Marie Schulte-Bockum – New York-based German football writer and expert, and host of The Transfer Exchange podcast Marie’s Bundesliga Minutes – to shed more light on what the Backnang-native can bring to the Theatre of Dreams;

Please note: some quotes have been paraphrased

“I think it’s a very brave choice because Ralf Rangnick is a complicated human. He likes to be an autocrat. In every club that he goes to he likes full control.

It is unusual for him to be interim manager; he’s known to be more a technical director, sporting director, general manager-type, and everywhere he has been he has done things long term. He built-up Hoffenheim when the SAP founder [Dietmar Hopp] brought him into the club – it’s really a village club – when they were in the fifth or sixth division of German football and he wanted someone to lead his boyhood club to the first division, and Ralf Rangnick was that person.

How Ralf Rangnick could help shape Manchester United on and off the pitch

HOFFENHEIM, GERMANY – MAY 23: Roberto Firmino (L) of Hoffenheim celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Bundesliga match between 1899 Hoffenheim and Hertha BSC Berlin at Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena on May 23, 2015 in Hoffenheim, Germany. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images)

He coached them, he was in charge of sales, which players ot recruit. He instituted a vision – an attacking football vision – for the youth academy as well, and the professionals. So, Hoffenheim pretty much from its U13’s until the U23’s they play the same formation, the same attacking football, and Hoffenheim brought up many big stars through there. Roberto Firmino was from there, Luiz Gustavo, more recently Dennis Geiger who is a big talent in German football, Kramaric the Croatian striker. Ralf Rangnick really plantred the seed of all that.

And then he got promoted to RB Leipzig; a similar project really. A multi-billionaire – in this case Dietrich Mateschitz, the guy behind Red Bull – who bought a low-ranked German team, renamed it, and recruited Ralf Rangnick to start with RBL in the fourth division and they kept being promoted, promoted, promoted, and now they’ve been in the Bundesliga for almost ten years and now they’re arguably one of the top-ten clubs in European football.

The way that Rangnick always does this – he’s known as the Professor, der Professor in German football because he’s got that academic edginess, frameless glasses, very old school – is that he’s a complete lover of attacking football. Even with Schalke, who over the last ten or twenty years have been known for defensive football, when Rangnick was there they played beautiful, beautiful football and they won the DFB-Pokal in 2011 when Benedikt Höwedes and Manuel Neuer were still there.

And he’s known for giving youth a chance, which I think will work really well at Man United because they have so many young talents and more coming through the academy, and he’s always popular with his players, though he’s very strict.

How Ralf Rangnick could help shape Manchester United on and off the pitch

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 02: Jadon Sancho of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on October 02, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

He has the trust and respect of his players. There is no player that I can think of that has spoke badly of Rangnick.

But this is the most important part; he does not get along with people above him. To put it bluntly, he’s usually smarter than them. You know, his understanding of football is higher, he’s more academic. So when there are these people like former professionals or oligarchs that are telling him what to do, he’s like ‘no, I know better.’

So that’s where this is a brave decision for Man United to bring him in because, in some way it represents a release of control…a giving up of control. Because, with Rangnick, you know Man United said he was going to be interim manager and then probably stay at the club in some capacity – I am guessing he will probably be a technical director, scout, or sporting director after – it means that people currently at the top…the Glazer’s, Ed Woodward, whoever else is up there, maybe even Sir Alex Ferguson with his consulting position…they are all giving up some of their own influence and leaving it in the hands of Ralf Rangnick.

How Ralf Rangnick could help shape Manchester United on and off the pitch

HULL, ENGLAND – AUGUST 27: Ed Woodward arrives at the stadium during the Premier League match between Hull City and Manchester United at KCOM Stadium on August 27, 2016 in Hull, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

And I think that’s really brave because he is not a very easy person to get along with like I said because he is somewhat anti-authority. But I think it is a brilliant, brilliant signing by United and I am a little bit surprised that they did it.

In the last few years he hasn’t really enjoyed coaching as much as the strategy behind leading a club so I think he will be happy to give up the reigns whenever United sign a different coach.”

101 Great Goals would like to extend huge thanks to Marie Schulte-Bockum for taking the time to talk about Ralf Rangnick with us. You can find her on YouTube here.

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