Ralf ‘The Prophet’ Rangnick’s five Man Utd problems and what Ten Hag has done to solve them

Will Ford
Ralf Rangnick Erik ten Hag Man united
Ralf Rangnick listed the problems Erik ten Hag would face at Manchester United.

Last season we wondered what the fuss was about; Ralf Rangnick claimed Manchester United needed “open-heart surgery” but Erik ten Hag prescribed some blood thinners and all seemed well in the world. A trophy in the bag and a return to the Champions League, the Red Devils were on the up and up.

But Rangnick warned that “minor adjustments” wouldn’t be enough, and as Ten Hag labours through a second season at Old Trafford the improvements appear to be more “cosmetic” than sysmic.

‘The Professor’ turned “prophet” identified what he deemed to be the problems at United, claiming “in two or three transfer windows, the situation could be different”.

Ten Hag is approaching his fourth transfer window in charge, so we’ve looked at what – if anything – has been done by the current boss to remedy five problems outlined by his predecessor.

 

Transfer strategy according to style of play

“Manchester City and Liverpool… have been built together and recruited over a period of five or six years. All of them under the premise of how the coaches want to play. I told the board this is what has to happen (at United).”

There’s little doubt Ten Hag has been given the transfer reins at United. He may not have had the budget he wants, but he’s signed players he knows – Antony, Lisandro Martinez, Andre Onana – and others that were clearly at the top of his wish-list like Mason Mount.

Onana and Rasmus Hojlund are two examples of Ten Hag putting his foot down with other options on the table. He wanted them over other potential additions, and got them.

Whether they have been – or will prove to be – successful is another matter, but all fit with his ethos of pressing and building from the back. The club has at least put faith in the manager and his vision.

 

Physical, aggressive players

“It’s important that you have players who have that in their DNA, who are in a way naturally born aggressive and this is something that is difficult to change.”

Rangnick wasn’t too concerned with the technical ability of the squad, but the lack of physicality, and the widespread opinion of pundits after the opening two games of Ten Hag’s tenure was that the problem had if anything been made worse by the signing of Lisandro Martinez.

But condemnation of the Argentinian due to his diminutive stature quickly turned to praise as they realised the centre-back more than made up for his lack of height by being an absolute animal.

He was a transfer win and will presumably return to form despite a difficult start to this season due in part to injury.

Casemiro is more of a concern. The Brazilian is surely the profile of player Rangnick was talking about, but him ageing five years over the summer break after his dominant first season suggests United don’t just need to buy physical, aggressive players, but younger, physical, aggressive players.

Like Sofyan Amrabat perhaps, or Mount, who although slight is extremely aggressive without the ball. Hojlund also fits nicely in a category of fine physical specimens.

Casemiro looks frustrated during a Premier League game.
Casemiro looks frustrated during a Premier League game.

 

Players who don’t want to be there

“I mean, we have players with contracts expiring in the summer. We have maybe also one or two players who still want to leave, although they are under contract. It’s about the players dealing with that in a professional way.”

Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani, Juan Mata and Eric Bailly all left that summer in what was a more-than-necessary clearing of the decks, and Cristiano Ronaldo left in a storm a few months later as Ten Hag illustrated dominance over his pack.

Their problem now is with players they can’t get rid of. Harry Maguire continues to lose a fight for a place he’s never going to win, Anthony Martial is being linked with an exit for the 427th transfer window in a row, and Donny van de Beek turned down talks with Lorient and failed to agree terms with Galatasaray over the summer as he rates himself rather higher than any club that may wish to sign him.

 

Injuries

“This is also an issue that worries me a little bit, the number of injuries that we currently have. This is also an issue that needs to be taken care of for the future. To analyse why is that the case, why does that happen?”

Rangnick apparently didn’t get the too-many-games memo and suggested there might be something amiss in the medical department at United, rather than the schedule.

Gary O’Driscoll was recently poached from Arsenal to become the new head of sports medicine, but on the surface he appears to have had little effect, with only Chelsea (14) and Crystal Palace (11) currently with more players out injured than United (10).

READ MORE: Van Dijk’s tone-deaf schedule complaints at odds with Liverpool working-class roots

 

‘Smart’ people supporting the manager

“I know Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea also have smart people who take care of recruitment, scouting, the medical department… I think this is also an issue for our club, where they have to pay attention to.”

Oh dear. We would question the smarts of John Murtough and his cronies in the Mason Greenwood debacle in particular. Leaking the news that they would bring him back to gauge the reaction of both their staff and the wider public was both ill-advised and reprehensible, and meant they quite rightly garnered no positive reaction for eventually coming to the right decision.

Murtough et al. are ‘shivering’ at the prospect of the arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe, whose primary objective should be a top-down clear-out of directors, chiefs and bosses not cut out to be in positions of power at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

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