Politics

Ralf Rangnick decision must do right by Manchester United’s emerging midfield general – Daniel Murphy


As things stand not many players have reaped the benefits of Ralf Rangnick’s arrival at Manchester United yet.

A thrilling opening 45 minutes in his first game against Crystal Palace aside, United’s performances under their new interim manager have largely been turgid, dull affairs littered with sloppy passes and without a clear sense of improvement being made.

Even Jadon Sancho, who many understandably predicted would benefit from the German implementing a pressing system and attacking style similar to what he enjoyed in the Bundesliga, is still struggling to find his feet.

Yet there are a few fledgling success stories.

Diogo Dalot has proven that he is more than capable of competing with — and besting — Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a spot in the side and should have been afforded many more chances under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Raphael Varane is starting to look more comfortable in his new surroundings with Rangnick making the side more solid at the back. David de Gea continues to have his best season for some years.

But perhaps the standout is Scott McTominay.


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Much of what Rangnick has tried to implement in an attacking sense hasn’t gone to plan so far, with United’s forwards usually left isolated upfront with the ball rarely heading in their direction.

But McTominay has improved his own game going forward, with both his goals this season coming in the last three games, as Rangnick has urged him to get forward more and take chances.

Against Burnley — a game in which he scored the opening goal with a fine sweeping finish from the edge of the penalty area — the Scot came close to getting a hat-trick, with two more speculative shots from distance nearly resulting in wonder goals.

McTominay looks to be playing with a renewed confidence that is permeating throughout the rest of his game, too. His passing is getting better and he is becoming a real general in the middle of the park for Rangnick.

In Monday’s FA Cup victory over Aston Villa, in which he scored the only goal, he also had two other shots on target, made three key passes, won five tackles and two aerial duels.

The 25-year-old is having an impact all over the pitch and is putting those who often criticise him to shame. It is of no surprise that Rangnick spoke so highly about him following the match.

“He is an academy boy, his energy is amazing,” Rangnick said. “He now also starts scoring goals and also with some leadership skills.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of years he would be the captain of this team.”



MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JANUARY 10: Scott McTominay of Manchester United celebrates scoring their first goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on January 10, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Now Rangnick must ensure he helps McTominay continue to flourish and to do so he needs to sort out his system.

Monday’s match saw the 4-2-2-2 abandoned for 4-2-3-1, but the same problems remained, with the gap between United’s four forwards and two midfielders becoming a huge chasm that exposes the duo in the middle (McTominay and Fred).

United somehow got away with it against Villa, as despite all their dominance they couldn’t find an equalise. But against Wolves they came unstuck and deservedly lost, with the visitors completely controlling the game due to their superiority in the midfield. It’s no surprise McTominay can, on occasions, look hapless when he is often left hung out to dry.

McTominay has been one of the few players to do right by Rangnick in his short reign so far and now it’s up to the manager to do right by him and find a solution to the problem so he can continue to shine.

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