Given the battering Ralf Rangnick has taken since he arrived at Old Trafford you can’t blame him for trying to issue a reminder that when it comes to football he does, actually, know what he’s doing after all.
Rangnick’s spell as Manchester United’s interim manager has been a disappointment. Saturday’s unconvincing win against Norwich was only his 10th in 23 games in charge.
The 63-year-old oversaw a disastrous derby display at the Etihad last month and ahead of tonight’s trip to Anfield, he will be aware of the danger that lies in store at the other end of the East Lancs Road.
READ MORE: Rangnick might use Solskjaer tactic for United vs Liverpool
Rangnick knows better than anyone how Jurgen Klopp’s teams like to play, but stopping them is another matter. Liverpool’s brilliant manager is a disciple of Rangnick and is committed to his pressing principles from him, so perhaps it’s not a surprise that the United manager has had more of an impact on Liverpool’s squad than he has his own from him.
In his role as sporting director of the Red Bull group Rangnick helped launch the careers of Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Ibrahima Konate and Takumi Minamino. He also coached Joel Matip at Schalke and signed Roberto Firmino for Hoffenheim.
Klopp inherited Firmino but has signed the other five and it’s clear he demands similar attributes in players as Rangnick does.
“It’s no coincidence that they’re as good as they are. Jurgen has built that team over the last six-and-a-half years. Six or seven of those players used to be my/our players when we signed them for our clubs when nobody knew them,” Rangnick said before tonight’s fixture.
“And again, it’s no coincidence that this is probably the club with the highest number of players from our former clubs because their approach, their style of football, the way they want to play is pretty similar.”
Unfortunately, Rangnick has had no say on recruitment at Old Trafford and has abandoned attempts to turn this group of players into “pressing monsters” within weeks of arriving at the club.
While United were battling to get past Norwich on Saturday, at the same time at Wembley it was Mane and Keita who were pressing Manchester City into oblivion. Rangnick made the above comments at the weekend, but he made another telling statement about Klopp’s success at Liverpool yesterday.
“They brought in the right players and got rid of the right players. That is why they are where they are,” he said. Sometimes the game can be made to sound so simple and Rangnick certainly has a knack for bringing that simplicity to the fore.
Liverpool have made it look simple as well. In appointing Klopp in 2016 they knew they were on to a winner and all that it needed was time.
They never panicked as the 54-year-old put his own stamp on the squad. The right players left and the right players came in, many with a shared history with Rangnick.
That’s enabled Liverpool to build a perfect squad for Klopp and the recruitment record they have is as good as any team in the Premier League. The five attacking players they have available to Klopp are probably the best group in Europe, but not one of them cost more than £45million.
The comparisons with recruitment at United do not need spelling out, but this summer they will appoint a new manager who shares Rangnick’s principles of pressing and will inherit a squad unsuited to those demands.
This has to be reset for United. Erik ten Hag will not work miracles, just as Klopp didn’t work miracles.
It will take time and it will require sensible decisions, but Rangnick’s influence on a squad chasing history over the next month is a sign of what can happen when you have a clear philosophy. United haven’t had that for a decade.
Sign up to our United newsletter so you never miss an update from Old Trafford this season.