Well the last week, fuck, the last month has been a roller coaster for Manchester United. From three straight wins under Michael Carrick, a stellar performance under Rangnick, all to end with a covid breakout. The match postponements and quarantining due to covid surely disrupted the squad. The lack of time in Carrington has also slowed Rangnick’s transition into the club. The German has yet to truly have a good consistent week of training with the whole squad. Nevertheless, we have seen glimpses of Rangnick’s philosophy on the pitch, but we’ve also seen some old habits. The covid disruption did take a lot of the enthusiasm out of the Rangnick era, but Manchester United still has yet to suffer a defeat under the German Footballing Guru.
Newcastle 1 United 1
This match was a rough one for many United fans to watch. The first match after the covid break for United, and you could certainly tell. Most of the players didn’t’ look fit and all the progress made under Rangnick in his first few matches seemed to stall. Ralf Rangnick said of the match:
“I didn’t like the performance at all, today we didn’t control the game apart from a few moments. It’s all about energy, physicality and who wins the second balls. In all those areas we weren’t at our best.”
United looked as if they were incapable of dealing with Newcastle’s midfield for much of the match. That included Joe Linton, a striker converted to a number 8. That’s not a good sign. A midfield for Manchester United, no matter the players, can not be outdone by a converted striker. That was scary to witness.
Newcastle went ahead early through an excellent Allan Saint-Maximin goal. They could’ve easily been down 2-0 by the break after an intriguing midfield run form Jonjo Shelvey that ended in a superb strike calling on David De Gea to make an excellent save. Rangnick wasted no time in making changes at the half by bringing on Jadon Sancho and Edinson Cavani.
United did look much better in the second half, but looked easily undone on the counter attack. The equalizer did come though for the visitors in the 71′ through Cavani. At the end of the day a point was perhaps a fair result and is better than no points. But, this wasn’t a good performance from United and Rangnick knows he has his work cut out for him.
United 3 Burnley 1
Manchester United would attempt to right their wrongs of the Newcastle match against Burnley at Old Trafford in the last match of 2021. The Red Devils did get the all important 3 points in convincing fashion, but there were still some troubling signs. Although, this is yet to be expected as the squad looks to adapt to Ralf Rangnick’s style and bounce back from a lengthy covid break.
Scott McTominay put the hosts on top within the first ten minutes with an excellent curling effort from just outside the box. The Scotsman had a point to prove today and surely impressed the new boss. McTominay dominated the midfield and his shooting form midfield reminded me of some old United legends. Jadon Sancho would also impress the boss with his decisive run from the left wing which he capped off with a nice goal that deflected off of Burnley defender Been Mee. Finally, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo had to score before the half to put United up 3-0.
A Decent Performance but more to come
Rangnick looked to change a lot from the Newcastle match by dropping the likes of Fred and Marcus Rashford. Cavani and Ronaldo led the forward line together and looked fantastic as a pair. United played on the front foot and looked solid for the most part. Luke Shaw had a decent return after battling back from injury and having to slowly work his way back into the squad.
There were some negatives of course. The finishing, in particular from Ronaldo, was quite poor all around. United could’ve easily scored 6 or 7 goals. But, Ronaldo has earned the right to be excused of a poor day in front of goal now and again. What would really have me worried and must be on the mind of Ralf Rangnick is the lack of solidity in defense. Harry Maguire has looked suspect for a while now. But, Lindelof was ruled out with covid just before the match and Erica Bailey got a rare start. Overall the boss did seem to be pleased with the progress he saw in the match, Rangnick said:
“The whole team performance was a lot better, I was pleased with the performances of our wingers. Jadon did well and Mason. Cavani and Cristiano, the work effort was amazing.”
I for one trust Rangnick with this squad and I believe he knows exactly what he has to do. Some of the players may not buy into it, but Rangnick won’t play nice like Ole did. Changes have already happened and more are coming.