Home » Predicted XI vs Crystal Palace: Ralf Rangnick to tear up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rulebook

Predicted XI vs Crystal Palace: Ralf Rangnick to tear up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rulebook

by Red Billy
Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo

New manager, large, talented squad: predicting Manchester United’s starting XI against Crystal Palace tomorrow is not easy.

Ralf Rangnick generally prefers a 4-2-2-2 formation but in truth he has the depth of intelligence to work with any formation and he has already stated that he will adapt the system according to the players he has, and not the other way around.

This means that he is likely to pick an XI that he feels is strong and balanced, and then find the formation that best accommodates those 11 players.

United will definitely be without long-term absentees Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba. Luke Shaw (concussion), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (foot), Nemanja Matic (hamstring) and Edinson Cavani (tendon) are all doubtful.

Even if Shaw and Wan-Bissaka are available, the excellent performances of Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot against Arsenal on Thursday could see them keep their places.

Rangnick’s high pressing, swift counter-attacking system favours attacking full-backs in any case and Telles and Dalot are excellent in that regard.

The big question at centre back is whether the off-form Harry Maguire will keep his place. Again, Rangnick tends to favour very mobile defenders and Maguire has the turning circle of a double decker bus. However, he is the captain.

Especially while Varane is absent, it would be a very bold decision for Rangnick to start his tenure by dropping the club captain, so Maguire will probably start alongside Victor Lindelof. Eric Bailly will be hoping to challenge for a place, however.

Previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer always insisted on playing Lindelof in the right centre back position and Maguire on the left. In fact, Lindelof was played on the right almost regardless of who played alongside him, as if Solskjaer thought he was incapable of playing LCB.

Yet the Swede has played left centre back as often as right centre back for his national side and for his previous club, Benfica and is arguably slightly better in that role. Whatever Solskjaer’s reasons for avoiding that situation, we may find Rangnick switching the pair’s sides and seeing if that can add more balance and stability to the defence.

David de Gea is likely to continue in goal. His shot stopping form has been world class this season although there has still been the odd lapse in concentration. Again, with a clean slate, Dean Henderson may hope he will be given a recall, but it is much more likely that De Gea will keep his place between the sticks.

Further up the pitch, we hope Rangnick will finally put an end to some of Solskjaer’s strange peccadillos in terms of rotation and positional rigidity.

One of the big problems with the Norwegian’s 4-2-3-1 system was the disconnect between the two-man midfield of Scott McTominay and Fred and the forward players. One reason for that was arguably that Bruno Fernandes was played too high up the pitch, with Solskjaer for some reason reluctant to play him in his favourite number 8 position.

Likewise, Solskjaer did not seem to trust Donny van de Beek to play in central midfield, often seeing him as a substitute number 10 or even on occasions putting him out on the wing. The Dutchman said recently that he sees his ideal position as somewhere between a 6 and an 8, but this fell on deaf ears.

Could those two play in a three man midfield with just one holding player behind them? Why not? They may be creatives but they are far from out-and-out attacking midfielders or Cantona-esque luxury divas. They are both hard workers, intelligent, very capable of tackling and defending and employing Rangnick’s trademark pressing game.

The fact that the opposition is Crystal Palace and not a top six side is another reason for the German to pick a more attacking midfield than we are used to seeing under Solskjaer.

Whilst Fred has been in excellent form under temporary boss Michael Carrick, that is arguably partly because he has been played a little further forward. So with Nemanja Matic struggling for fitness, Scott McTominay would be the logical choice to sit behind Van de Beek and Fernandes.

This leaves space for a front three. On current and most recent form, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood have arguably been the most productive wingers and this is another area where Rangnick could correct a Solskjaer-ism. Marcus Rashford has tended to be selected almost out of seniority and regardless of form. Furthermore, Greenwood, despite being two-footed, is always deployed on the right wing and Sancho, a more natural right winger, has tended to be deployed on the left. Reversing the two would be a logical thing to try.

The 63-year-old has already spoken of his admiration of Cristiano Ronaldo and reportedly sees him as a key player, so we expect him to start up front.

With all that in mind, here is our predicted XI for tomorrow’s game:

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