Ralf Rangnick explains why Man Utd hired him in alarming top-four admission

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick is due to move into a consultancy role at the end of the season when the club appoints a permanent successor to the German

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Man Utd fans set off flares as they protest against the Glazers

Ralf Rangnick has revealed Manchester United’s defensive record was a big factor in his appointment as the club continued to battle for a top four finish.

When predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in November, United had conceded 21 goals in 12 Premier League games – only two teams had conceded more at that stage – and sat down in eighth as a result. Indeed, after Solskjaer’s final game in charge, goalkeeper David de Gea hit out at the “embarrassing” display which could have seen them concede even more than the four scored by the Hornets.

Rangnick has kept the team within touching distance of the top four, though defeat at Liverpool on Tuesday would see them knocked back in their pursuit of Champions League football. And, after Saturday’s 3-2 win over Norwich City saw some of the earlier defensive issues return, the former RB Leipzig boss has expressed his concern.

“The reason why the club contacted me in November was the fact they just conceded too many goals too easily,” Rangnick told the media ahead of the Liverpool game. “We reduced the number of goals conceded but the way we defend is still not the standard that we need in order to be a top four club.”

United kept clean sheets in Rangnick’s first two games in charge, beating Crystal Palace and Norwich. However, in the 16 league games which followed, they have only registered three shut-outs.

The return game against the Canaries was particularly illuminating. Two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo had put the Red Devils in control, but weak defending allowed the strugglers to level things up before Ronaldo’s second-half winner.

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Defensive lapses almost gifted Norwich a point at Old Trafford


Colorsport: Alan Martin)

Rangnick’s comments emphasize the size of the task awaiting Erik ten Hag as the Dutchman prepares to take over. Ten Hag’s move from Ajax was all but confirmed by the club’s technical director Gerry Hamstra, who said the club had done everything in their attempts to keep him on board.

“Erik can ultimately determine his own future, he is old and wise enough for that,” Hamstra said. “We have two scenarios: we really hope he stays, it makes sense that there is interest in him. And if he doesn’t stay, we have to be ready for the second scenario.”

However, Ten Hag will not be moving to Old Trafford as a double winner. Despite Ajax’s impressive league form, where they remain in pole position for the Eredivisie title, the Amsterdam side threw away a lead to lose the KNVB Cup final to PSV Eindhoven.

“We do that to ourselves, we make two very big mistakes. While we had said to each other that you have to stay 100 per cent focused,” Ten Hag said after Cody Gakpo completed PSV’s turnaround. “You have to defend much better, you can never let Gakpo come in, that’s where his qualities lie.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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