Manchester United will be in safe hands for the rest of the season after agreeing on a short-term agreement with Ralf Rangnick to take over as interim manager to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United still have Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgers in sight for the summer but were always open to appointing an interim to give themselves more time and flexibility to go after one of their preferred permanent options later.
Rangnick will steer the ship for the rest of the season and is also believed to have agreed on a two-year consulting role in addition to what will give him a voice at Old Trafford until 2024.
This is a coach whose reputation has been built on player development and tactical mastery.
Rangnick was not a remarkable player. He comes from the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany and joined the youth ranks of the Stuttgart regional powerhouse but never took over the reserve team level. After a short period in England which he combined with a year of study at the University of Sussex, he returned to Germany but remained much in BW.
Rangnick’s coaching career also had a humble beginning. He was in his early thirties when he was appointed head of the hometown club Viktoria Backnang as a player coach, before playing in various other clubs around BW – including Stuttgart at different levels on three different occasions.
But he had been training in some capacity since his late teens and has been known in Germany as the “football professor” since 1998, considered by many to be a tactical genius.
Rangnick won Germany’s fourth division with Ulm in 1998, when he had been training and coaching for 15 years – he still had not left BW. He still did not even have it 12 months later when he landed his first top flight job in Stuttgart, and took over the first team after previous periods responsible for the reserves and U-19 for several years.
Stuttgart jumped into the top half of the Bundesliga on their guard and entered the UEFA Cup as a result of winning a place via the Intertoto Cup. He was fired in 2001 but quickly got a new job in Hanover in the second class and re-established them as a Bundesliga team.
Rangnick’s next opportunity was at Schalke, where he replaced Jupp Heynckes a few weeks into the 2004/05 campaign, finishing second to Bayern Munich in both the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal.
His legacy of club building undoubtedly began in Hoffenheim when he joined the ambitious province in 2006. Rangnick was just over a year away from a second place in the Bundesliga and had managed in the Champions League until the end of 2005, but lost in the third tier for the project, spends five years in charge and oversees successive promotions.
Hoffenheim achieved his ambition of Bundesliga football under his leadership and has not left the top class since. Rangnick eventually left in 2011 after consolidating the club’s position for several seasons and it is the longest period he has had as head coach in a career that spans almost 40 years.
Rangnick has played major roles in the development of Hoffenheim & RB Leipzig as top clubs / ODD ANDERSEN / GettyImages
“What we did in Hoffenheim had a lot of influence on German football,” Rangnick told ESPN last year. “I remember that during our first year in the Bundesliga 2008 we played against Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp and we dominated them 4-1.
“It could easily have been six or seven, because we pressed them continuously throughout the match. The following week, Jurgen said that this is exactly the style of football he wants to play with Dortmund in the future.”
After Hoffenheim came a return to Schalke in 2011, and took over deep into the second half of 2010/11. The club had already reached the DFB Cup final, which he won, but Rangnick also created a Champions League quarter-final victory over the owners Inter to book a semi-final match with Manchester United – the only time he has ever met his new employers.
For the past 10 years, Rangnick is best known for his work with Red Bull. In 2012, he was appointed football manager of Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig, and oversaw the ambitious football development and recruitment at both clubs at the same time.
Salzburg was already dominant in Austria but Sadio Mane and Kevin Kampl were among the first wave of young talent to come on Rangnick’s guard. Leipzig, meanwhile, were in the fourth tier in Germany, aiming for a place in the Bundesliga – it was a similar project but on a larger scale than he had previously achieved in Hoffenheim.
After pulling the strings for three years upstairs, Rangnick himself took the head coach reins in 2015 and steered the club into the top class. Joshua Kimmich had been one of the talents identified there, sold to Bayern Munich before the winning promotion season.
Rangnick immediately returned to his role as head of football, continued to oversee development, talent scouting and recruitment, before returning as head coach for another 2018 season and qualifying for the Champions League. After that, Red Bull promoted him to head of sports and development and oversaw all of the company’s global football operations.
Development and recruitment marked Rangnick’s decade at Red Bull. In addition to the previously mentioned names, Erling Haaland, Timo Werner, Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate, Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka are just some of those who have been polished by the Red Bull system.
As a coach, Rangnick has a way of building and knitting teams together, which is exactly what is now required at Old Trafford. When presented with great ambitions and pressure from wealthy owners in Hoffenheim and with Red Bull, he delivered.
In terms of style, he is credited with inventing counter-pressure, which has been popularized internationally by Jurgen Klopp over the past 10 years at Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, and for being a staple of many Bundesliga coaches. As such, Rangnick is considered to have a great influence on Klopp, as well as other leading German coaches such as Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann.
His system, in his own words, is “fast, proactive, attacking, counter-attacking, counter-pressing, exciting and entertaining”, which would be extremely popular with his new fans as it fits the classic “United way” to play. game predicated by Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson.
The implementation of a certain style is something that United has called for after this season. Too often during Solskjaer, the team looked tactically unprepared and incoherent and since the ability of individual players at Old Trafford is not in question, it is tactics and instructions from a visionary coach like Rangnick that will make the difference now.
United were pulled apart by Liverpool last month because the players did not seem to have any idea how to shut down their opponents as a unit, with too many readings from different sides leaving gaps for them to be cut at will. Under Rangnick’s instruction, it promises in the future scenario to be much more cohesive and efficient.
But where else Rangnick seems to be a smart fit for United is his general approach, especially because of the expected agreement that will make him stay for another two years to give advice.
He divides football into “three Cs”, which is “cash, concept and competence”.
“It’s really useful in football and in business to have some money at your disposal, but that money will not help you if you do not have the other two Cs in your portfolio,” he told ESPN.
“To be sustainably successful, you must have a plan for how to develop the club and the best possible and competent people to implement the concept and plan. These three Cs were the basis of ours [Red Bull’s] sporting success paves the way for the development of players with quality and increased market value by a factor of 10 or sometimes even higher. ”
United are full of cash, but Rangnick is now ready to add concept and expertise to the party.
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