Manchester United’s last two results won’t have please Ralf Rangnick, with one-goal leads surrendered in games against Middlesbrough and Burnley.
That being said, the first-half performances from Rangnick’s charges in said outings have been reason to smile. The second-half displays have not.
Who knows what’s been going on in the United dressing room at half-time, but the players have completely lost their way after the interval in the clashes with Boro and the Clarets, forgetting all of the nice patterns of play that had helped them take a grip on the games before the break.
If we’re going to try and draw positives, however, when Rangnick’s style works it really does work, and the link-up play between Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho at Turf Moor on Tuesday night was a perfect example of that.
The trio terrorized Burnley’s right-hand side, using triangles and good movement to constantly leave the opposition on the back foot. It was very Cruyffian in its execution and could perhaps have been a hint towards the future at Old Trafford.
Since Rangnick has moved to a 4-3-3 formation, United’s style of play has been focused on principles that would lay the foundations for a manager like Erik ten Hag to replace the interim boss in the summer.
And with important players like Shaw and Sancho clearly reveling in the new style of play, this can only bode well for United moving forward. Whether it means the club definitely need to source a Pogba replacement if he leaves or not is a discussion for another day.
United fans have been desperate to see the club get the best out of Sancho and the new system looks to be doing just that. The former Borussia Dortmund man was excellent against Burnley, registering three shots on goal and proving to be a threat throughout.
Shaw’s relentless underlapping and overlapping runs provided the youngster with enough room to strut his stuff and the pair seemed to be enjoying their time together on the left.
The ‘heavy-metal gegenpressing’ has been toned down and refined with the United players looking to position themselves in a way that traps the opposition and forces them into mistakes. This means they can conserve energy and will hopefully be able to control games for longer than 45 minutes.
The triangles weaved on United’s left on Tuesday night could be a huge asset moving forward. Movement and clever positioning have both been sorely lacking from the side of late and these are aspects of the game that need to be nailed down if Ten Hag is chosen as the man to take charge in the summer.
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With Rangnick already starting to work on these ideas, it will hopefully reduce the time needed to adapt should Ten Hag be appointed.
As we have seen with Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp at Manchester City and Liverpool respectively, both have enjoyed a lot of success but it took a while for them to implement their distinct style of play.
United’s next permanent manager is still unknown but Rangnick’s style suggests Ten Hag could be a good fit.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.