Ralf Rangnick can copy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trait to transform Man Utd's season

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The appointment of Ralf Rangnick was meant to restore order to a Manchester United side that had thrown themselves into disarray under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But two months on from his arrival and the waters surrounding the German’s ship remain choppy and unforgiving.

The latest run-in saw the German tactician become embroiled in a war of words with Anthony Martial after claiming he had refused to be part of the squad for the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.

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The Frenchman quickly refuted those suggestions, insisting he had “never” disrespected the club in his seven years as a United player by choosing not to be part of a squad.

From Rangnick’s point of view, there could be no denial on his part in terms of what he said; he uttered it in front of the written and broadcast media. As for Martial, only he knows who was lying in this matter, but his social media rebuke was clear.

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Rangnick later revealed he had sorted out the matter with Martial after holding further talks at the weekend.

“All the things that need to be said, I said after the press conference,” he said.

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“I had a personal conversation with him on Sunday about what happened and how I saw the whole situation, and the matter is now resolved.”

But it marked another troubling episode in the 63-year-old’s reign at Old Trafford so far, which has been far from plain sailing after being brought in from Lokomotiv Moscow.

Martial’s desire to leave the club in the transfer window has been well documented by his agent and his sulky demeanour, and the longer he remains at the club, the longer this saga could be set to drag on.

Then there is the unsolved matter of Paul Pogba’s future. The Frenchman has been sidelined with an ankle injury since November and is yet to feature under Rangnick, and it remains possible he could leave without featuring under him.

The 28-year-old’s contract expires in June and speculation has been rife in linking him with Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Leaks from the dressing room hinting at a general dissatisfaction with Rangnick’s training methods, such as holding evening sessions as opposed to the morning, have caused unnecessary disruption to the unity within the squad.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Where will Manchester United finish this season under Ralf Rangnick? Comment below.

Ralf Rangnick can copy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trait to transform Man Utd's season
© Getty Images Ralf Rangnick has cleared the air with Man Utd winger Anthony Martial

There is an argument that all Rangnick needs is some time on the training ground with his players to implement his gegenpressing style. But there are also doubts as to whether the current personnel on United’s books can deliver what he is asking for.

Some of the animosity has come as a result of Rangnick’s own actions too. In choosing his starting XI for the game against Aston Villa, he dropped captain Harry Maguire and started 19-year-old Anthony Elanga ahead of £73million summer signing Jadon Sancho.

Such moves can be justified if the results are on his side, but United conceded two late goals to throw away as many precious points.

He has also sought to limit the influence of certain egos in the dressing room, with Bruno Fernandes dropped for some recent matches, while the clamour for Donny van de Beek to be involved more often has resulted in failure.

It is true that there has been some mild overreaction to the results under Rangnick. The fact remains the Red Devils have only lost once in his eight games in charge — the 1-0 home defeat to Wolves on January 3.

But slender victories against Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Burnley and in the FA Cup against Aston Villa are unlikely to provide much evidence in favour of retaining Rangnick as manager beyond his initial six-month stint. The players have looked stale and uninspired in their play, and were perhaps fortunate to pick up wins in some of those games.

When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the caretaker reins in December 2018 from Jose Mourinho, the Norwegian had the benefit of his status as a club legend to help command the respect of the players. He was never a tactical master, but the Norwegian prioritised motivation and positive reinforcement to get his squad back to winning ways.

The toxic air that remained after Mourinho’s departure was soon cleared when the players rediscovered their joy for playing football. The shackles were off and the results began to turn United’s way, with Solskjaer overseeing a run of 10 wins and two draws in his first 12 games in charge.

Rangnick has perhaps been guilty of trying to change too much, too quickly by demanding the players get acquainted to his methods and the 4-2-2-2 formation, the success of which has been questionable.

His disciplinarian style has not gone down well with the current crop of United stars such as Ronaldo or Fernandes, who know that Rangnick may be out of the dugout at the end of the season anyway.

The next four-and-a-half months will be crucial in giving him a chance to turn things around and get the players — and fans — on his side. If his current methods are not working out, then he could do a lot worse than draw inspiration from Solskjaer’s success as an interim boss.

It may not be in his nature to coddle and nurture this United side, filled to the brim with superstars and experienced players. But their confidence will have been shattered after their disappointing draw against Aston Villa and morale is thought to be as low as it was at the end of Solskjaer’s reign.

Rangnick has tried berating his players, attempted to shake up the order with a new formation and brought in his favoured staff personnel to drill in his new methods. None of those tactics have worked.

Ralf Rangnick can copy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trait to transform Man Utd's season
© PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images Players such as Marcus Rashford have struggled for form and may need a confidence boost

With a top-four place only five points away from their grasp, it may be time for Rangnick to ditch the complicated setups and go back to basics, allowing these talented United players the freedom to play as they want.

It worked for Solskjaer and United three years ago as a temporary measure as they managed to rescue their season — and Rangnick must gamble on the idea that it could help turn things around for him too after a rocky start to life in Manchester.

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