Rangnick has the experience to shape United’s future, but only if the club gives him power over the non-football experts
Ralf Rangnick is one of the pillars of modern coaching and formulates an urgent style that has inspired the new wave of German managers who have more and more influence on top European football. Above all, he demands that one identity – every identity – must be the whole of the law.
If Manchester United are most heavily blamed for lacking identity, they have certainly stumbled in a new direction.
Rangnick is a statement appointment as interim boss, not least because it is a bizarre job advertisement: stay six months and then we appoint someone we really want. He has a great reputation, a dossier of ideologies and a keen eye for their implementation. Jürgen Klopp calls him “one, if not the best German coach,” a practical slogan. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got the job because of himself; Rangnick got the job for what it is.
That’s a welcome change because it suggests that United’s hierarchy is at least trying to break away from its obsession with romance and nostalgia. Football director John Murtough spent some time in Leipzig, where Rangnick’s reputation was cemented, studying her model on and off the field.
The supposed hope is to combine two extremes: United as a historic club that is rooted in the past, RB Leipzig as probably the “most modern” club in Europe. They didn’t have a story, but that was the point; they also had no emotional baggage. That guaranteed them the blank canvas that such a project required.
But United is not a blank canvas. You have emotional baggage. They may have thrown a club legend overboard and have their resume targeting their next permanent coach, but they also have a large roster of talented personalities who have proven difficult to fit into a team. A six-month coaching contract is a short farce for a dogmatic coach to implement his ideals of high-intensity pressing.
Instead, we should judge this not just as an interim coach, but as an incipient two and a half year contract, and Rangnick is only the coach out of necessity before he takes the job he really wants. A future consultant role makes Rangnick a man with the experience to shape the future of the association. Then it’s up to the club to give it power too. Roughly translated: No more non-football experts who decide on football policy.
And that creates a blueprint for United’s medium-term future. Rangnick implements the principles of pressing football, but more importantly, instilling an actual system into the squad rather than a set of components all trying to sing in harmony with earplugs.
He can help hiring his successor, so he could seek out a coach who shares some of his own ideals (Erik ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino both roughly fit that bill). The primary goal is persuaded to accept the job because it doesn’t get caught up in a blurry mess of half-ideas.
United can still get this wrong. But after years of wondering if they were emotionally ready to step out of the Ferguson dynasty and into the future, they tried at least one step so bold that it surprised us all a little.