The post-Solskjaer era is well and truly underway at Old Trafford, but what is the report card on Manchester United’s new interim boss Ralf Rangnick after his team’s 1-0 home win against Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon?
Two weeks removed from the demoralizing capitulation at Watford which cost the Norwegian club legend his job, the signs are that the ship has very much been steadied at Old Trafford.
The four games which followed the Vicarage Road disaster have delivered three wins and an impressive away draw at European champions Chelsea.
Sunday’s match with Palace, though, was perhaps the one with the biggest spotlight affixed to it.
Rangnick, the German tactical savant drafted into England after a six-month stint as head of development at Lokomotiv Moscow, took charge of first-team affairs for the first time after finally taking the reins from temporary coach Michael Carrick, and despite only having had a few days to instil his tactical ideas into the squad, some of the early signs were indeed promising.
United already looked a more energetic side under Carrick and this continued under Rangnick, a coach known for favoring a high press and demanding increased effort form his charges. And yes, this also included the soon-to-be 37-year-old legs of Cristiano Ronaldo who put in a shift up front hustling and harrying the Crystal Palace rearguard.
It was the much-maligned Fred who proved the difference between the two sides. The Brazilian looped a shot past the clutches of Spanish ‘keeper Vicente Guaita in what proved to be the only goal of the game – though a glaring miss from Palace striker Jordan Ayew minutes beforehand could have placed an entirely different complexion on the scoreline.
An afternoon of firsts for Ralf Rangnick!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 5, 2021
1 – Ralf Rangnick is the first of the six Germans to manage in the @premierleague to win his first game in the competition, after Felix Magath, Jürgen Klopp, Jan Siewert, Daniel Farke and Thomas Tuchel all previously failed to do so before him. Impact. pic.twitter.com/d6M0VGErmI
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 5, 2021
2 – Fred has scored twice in 12 @premierleague matches this season, as many as he scored in 76 appearances in his first three seasons in the competition with @ManUtd beforehand. Breakthrough. pic.twitter.com/viF0LYOzr8
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 5, 2021
Rangnick’s debut three points ensures that he joins Solskjaer, Jose Mourinho and David Moyes in winning their first games in charge in the post-Ferguson era, with only Louis van Gaal failing to do the same.
But with the feel-good factor slowly but surely returning to the red side of Manchester, what is social media saying about the new directions of Ralf’s Reds?
“I never expected that after only 1 training session and some one to one conversations with the players that the team will turn out to play like this. Is Ralf a magician?” one fan asked.
“I don’t know what our new manager said to these guys, but damn,” added another.
Most sustained pressure that Man Utd have had during a game this season. They’ve leaked a big number of counter-attacks in almost every game, but Rangnick implementing a four man high press with his 4-2-2-2 shape & holding a high defensive line to intercept attacks,reduced that.
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) December 5, 2021
Fans also paid tribute to the immediate tactical influence that Rangnick has managed to get across to his players.
“Rangnick has already made Manchester United look much more balanced, the press was evident from the first minute,” wrote one.
“United just lacked the final pass in some instances. But the early signs are there. Night and day difference between the structure.”
“Most sustained pressure that Man Utd have had during a game this season. They’ve leaked a big number of counter-attacks in almost every game, but Rangnick implementing a four man high press with his 4-2-2-2 shape & holding a high defensive line to intercept attacks, reduced that,” said another.
A third, though, hailed Ragnick for perhaps his most compelling initial influence on the side: getting Cristiano Ronaldo to press.
“But I was told Ronaldo is finished under Rangnick because he apparently can’t press,” a fan joked.
Elsewhere, journalist Laurie Whitwell of The Athletic said that the game had shown that United at least had a platform to build on under their new German master moving forward.
Next up for United and Rangnick is a Champions League meeting with Swiss team Young Boys on Wednesday, with the Old Trafford team having already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition thanks to their win against Villarreal under Carrick.