Ralf Rangnick can bring Manchester United into the future by eroding the messiah complex of the past

It was a meeting that took a month of negotiation, and more. Ralf Rangnick’s name was first mentioned as a potential replacement for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following Manchester United’s 5-0 loss to Liverpool, but his working relationship with Executive Vice-President Ed Woodward goes back well further away.

The Old Trafford official has consulted Rangnick in the past and at various times considered using his expertise to reshuffle the club. Solskjaer’s initial success was one of the few different developments that prevented this.

It’s a date – and an ideologue for the club – that Woodward has wanted for some time. Given that he’s set to step down, you could even argue that making decisions too late is the story of Woodward’s tenure. This applies to everything from the time they appointed Jose Mourinho, three years too late, to the time they finally gave up on Solskjaer.

The big difference with this one is that it can go much further, taking United into the future, but also eroding their unnecessary obsession with the past.

This is the wider benefit of the appointment of the “back pressure godfather” and one of the main influences on the way 2021 football is played. You don’t bring Rangnick in without allowing a significant cultural change.

He is one of those personalities whose very way of working automatically establishes principles, because it changes mentalities. This comes from asking research questions, in a way that may seem demanding.

United really need all of this.

Their own culture had become a kind of caricature. United would dispute it, but the club’s actions revealed a fixation on managers as messiahs. This may be inevitable when their two greatest legends are patriarchs who have rebuilt the club over a collective span of more than half a century, winning all of their European Cups and 90% of their league titles. . It will only become more pronounced, too, after Sir Alex Ferguson echoed everything Sir Matt Busby has done, but took it to new levels.

It created a mentality, even subconsciously, that this was just United’s ‘way’. They are perpetually waiting for the next messiah.

Such thinking ensured a culture that began to enslave the club rather than serve it. There is probably no other club in Europe so loyal to the idea of ​​the “manager”. To sum it all up, Woodward was supposed to be the “obsession” of echoing Martin Edwards in 1989/90 and giving Solskjaer time to get it right, long after it became painfully obvious that to persist with him. was wrong.

The whole time of the Norwegian, and in particular the last few months, has represented the nadir of it. It seemed like a perpetual attempt to recreate the past by Rote rather than creating something new by clever design.

Much of it felt like an act of tribute, with a club’s displays running on nostalgia more than anything else. This could be heard in so many of Solskjaer’s references to the past, right down to one of his last lines in the work. As Claudio Ranieri wished him good luck in front of the media after that fateful final loss to Watford, Solskjaer nostalgically repeated the opening words of Eric Cantona’s famous line. “When the seagulls follow the trawler …”

It’s all the more ironic and doomed that much of the discussion over Ferguson’s later years has been aimed at avoiding exactly that. United instead fell into all the traps, then into new ones.

They didn’t just repeat the mistakes they made after Busby, or that Liverpool made in the 1990s. They made entirely new mistakes, many of which are unique to the age of social media.

When nostalgia is so easy to sell, and the shallow echoes of the past elicit such an emotional response, it can be something you buy too much into, especially when you’re not actually winning.

United have been engulfed by their own notions of exception, rather guided by exceptional standards.

The problem is that even this level of mythification cannot escape the reality of the results.

This was proven by the way the Watford game ended with even United’s famous and loyal away fans abusing Solskjaer.

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They were still, after all, just a football club that won and lost matches. No amount of mythology could escape this.

They are now, at least, a football club that has named one of modern football’s greatest visionaries.

Rangnick will change the culture because he will start to change his mind. He is such a force.

Admittedly, this is also one of the reasons he was “only” at Lokomotiv Moscow and why such a vaunted figure spent so little time working at top clubs. Ragnick is notoriously demanding, and this naturally also applies to negotiations. He wants levels of authority that clubs are generally unwilling to grant.

The main reason it took so long, and Solskjaer wasn’t replaced sooner, was that Rangnick wanted to be guaranteed a job this summer after that acting role. United ultimately got around that in the discussions over the last few days by creating a consulting role.

It’s clever and only adds to the feeling that it is the most informed decision the club has made since Ferguson retired.

Many who know Rangnick think it will go much further, just because of the effect it will have.

He will put United players up to date with the modern game, literally.

Much has been said about Rangnick’s ideology, but the best illustration of how it works comes from the practice pitch. Its coaches set exercises so that groups without the ball must win it in five seconds and groups with it must score in 10. A countdown is used to increase the pressure, so that the exercises “attack the nerves”.

The rationale comes from the work of psychologist Ivan Pavlov and a lot of scientific research into what works best in football.

“It’s based on classic conditioning, like Pavlov’s dog,” explains one of Rangnick’s protected trainers in Leipzig, Alex Zorniger. “That you think faster than the opponent, so you can handle situations faster than the opponent. The idea is that it almost becomes like slow motion for you. What to do when you lose the ball becomes second nature. “

It’s a world away from anything United did under Solskjaer but also Moyes, Mourinho and – to a lesser extent – Van Gaal.

It is also the world of modern football.

There have been comments that the United stars simply will not accept this. “Good luck getting them to squeeze,” was one line. Those who are more familiar with how the team works warn against such arguments. It’s not Paris Saint-Germain. The bigger personality, Cristiano Ronaldo, is generally extremely professional on the training ground.

Beyond him, sources say that this is mainly a team now hungry for coaching; for something modern. They were starved for it. They are up for something different.

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Rangnick will also offer other ways to review positions.

This is what once again impressed figures like football director John Murtough during the talks. Rangnick has painted a picture of what his ideal moves look like, how specific United players can fit into certain attacks.

Some may already consider changing the structure of the team. This is why this interim role can have wider repercussions on the structure of the club.

Rangnick will essentially incorporate a new philosophical base. Much like the folks at Bayern Munich say Van Gaal did before Pep Guardiola, it will make the players more ready for the future.

As for that, Ajax’s Erik ten Hag is much closer to Rangnick’s approach than Mauricio Pochettino. The independent United were also told how the Dutch coach works in a structure, rather than demanding to be “the manager”. It would start to sidetrack the club in that direction.

It’s undeniably a steep new direction for United.

It’s the most interesting move they’ve made in years.

“It shows that they need to be taken seriously again,” said a football figure linked to a rival.

This is why, even if Rangnick does not stay in the role beyond May, his influence will go far beyond.

A club too used to playing like in 1999 will be much better placed for 2022.

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