Manchester United’s new interim manager Ralf Rangnick will have had just one and a half days of training with his new side before leading them out to face Crystal Palace at Old Trafford tomorrow.
Rangnick was at pains to point out at the pre-match press conference that even the hours that are available cannot be used for full training because of the short turnaround between the 8.15pm Thursday match against Arsenal and a 2pm Sunday kickoff.
So, is it really fair to expect any real improvement tomorrow? Or might it even have to get worse before it gets better?
The cultural shift that the United squad have to make could not be greater.
Reports have consistently claimed that previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was not much of a tactician.
One of the stories that emerged after Solskjaer was sacked that a number of motivational sayings had been scrawled over the tactics boards, suggesting that the Norwegian felt a bit of motivation replaced the need for organisation.
Phrases like ‘Go and do your magic’ and ‘Play for the team’ replaced diagrams showing the players what to do in and out of possession.
🚨⚽️ | NEW: On a tactics board in Solskjær’s office, a list of platitudes were scrawled across the pitch diagrams. They read:
– Simple and efficient
– Do the simple things well and with pride
– Go and do your magic
– Play for the team
— Football For All (@FootballlForAll) November 21, 2021
After three years of Solskjaer, the United team have been accused of lacking a shape, an identity, a plan, a purpose and a plan B.
Enter stage right one of football’s most lauded tacticians.
This is football management chalk and cheese. The question is, how will the squad respond?
One possibility is that they will be so undisciplined and so lacking direction that they will be confused by too much direction. Rangnick might have to start with some very simple basic instructions and build slowly.
Another possibility is that these world class footballers will drink in all the tactics and strategy like thirst-crazed desert travellers reaching an oasis, immediately transforming themselves into more than the sum of their parts. Because, let’s face it, they have been less than the sum of their parts for some time now.
Given all of the above, you might expect that in replacing Solskjaer with Rangnick, United will be replacing a gung-ho attitude with a cautious one. But in truth Solskjaer often fielded very defensive line-ups with rigid positional discipline – up front at least – a ponderous approach and a real pecking order that did not always reflect form and freshness.
Rangnick spoke a lot about gaining control in the press conference, which sounds dull and drab even though it is essential. Yet his staple method is in essence a high tempo, fluid, attacking one. It would not be a surprise, for example, to see the double pivot – with two defensive holding midfielders – abandoned and replaced by one DM and two more transitional players capable of joining in with the attack. This was something we discussed in our predicted XI article earlier today.
Perhaps it is naïve to expect too many fireworks too soon. That focus on control could mean a return to more patient, possession-based football than we have come to expect under Solskjaer. But on the other hand, a new look, ultra-high tempo United should re-light the fire in the bellies of the Old Trafford faithful and lead to a massive upsurge in energy and an immediate and profound transformation for the better.