Can Ralf Rangnick secure a successful season for Manchester United?

11:08am Dec 21 2021

New Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick made a positive start at Old Trafford with a comfortable 1-0 win against Crystal Palace on Saturday. The win followed a period of stability for the Red Devils, where Michael Carrick led United to a three-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

It was a promising start for the German coach in the Premier League. However, United are sixth in the Premier League and require a point to qualify to the knockout stages of the Champions League.  There is certainly work to do at Old Trafford to turn a poor start into a successful season as the football today continues.

Top four finish and European progression the goal

Ultimately, a successful season for Rangnick will be a top-four finish, reaching the latter stages of the Champions League and a positive FA Cup run. After a run of nearly five years without a major trophy to their name, this could also be a target for Rangnick at Old Trafford.

However, a slow start to the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjær of just eight wins in 18 matches in all competitions has given the Manchester club a challenge. With the likes of Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool creating a five-point gap between the following pack, breaking into the higher stages of the Premier League table could be even more challenging.

In Europe, Man United have also shown frailties that need to be addressed. A 2-1 loss to Young Boys was followed by a four-match unbeaten run, putting United on the verge of qualification. But late Cristiano Ronaldo goals against Villarreal and Atalanta spared the blushes of United in the Champions League and it remains to be seen if they can successfully compete with the bigger clubs in Europe this season.

How can Rangnick turn United around?

Since Solskjær departed the club, there has been an improvement from United and this continued in Rangnick’s first game at the helm against Crystal Palace. The team pressed higher up the pitch and kept 61% possession, mostly in the opposition half of the pitch, showing a new focus on playing on the front foot.

There were also individual improvements from players whose form had dropped in the latter stages of the Solskjær era. Bruno Fernandes struggled recently, lacking his cutting edge and creativity in recent weeks that often-kept United ticking. However, against Palace, Fernandes showed more willingness to get on the ball and control the game in a more advanced position. Although it wasn’t the Portuguese’s best performance, it gave a glimpse of how Rangnick will utilise Fernandes.

It appears that Rangnick will also give opportunities to players who have been on the sidelines at the beginning of the season. Jadon Sancho has re-emerged in recent weeks and netted two goals and Rangnick also started the English forward against Palace. Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot have also come back into the starting lineup as Rangnick looks to implement a more attacking focus from his wide players.

If the United players can maintain a high-pressing style and continue to play on the front foot, in the opposition half then there could be noticeable improvements from United in the coming weeks. The question is whether his side can maintain this level of intensity on all fronts and force their way into top-four contention and into the latter stages of the Champions League.