What Ralf Rangnick does with Bruno Fernandes could define his career at Manchester United

Manchester United confirmed on Monday morning that German coach, Ralf Rangnick, would take charge of the team for an initial six-month period before moving to a two-year consultancy role at the club.

Widely considered as the ‘godfather of German football,’ Rangnick comes to United with a vast amount of experience, and it’s undoubtedly going to be interesting as to what he does with the squad.

Despite the favourable 1-1 draw against league leaders, Chelsea, there were still a lot of visible issues for United on the pitch, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Rangnick tackles these problems.

Defensively, United were much better, and in terms of pressing, it looked as if there was more determination to win the ball back. However, if we’re looking at it from an individual angle, it’s pretty clear that some players are struggling to reach the heights they hit last season.

Could this be down to confidence? Or just a drop in form? Who knows, but there’s a few who need to step up their game.

I could list many players who aren’t performing as well as they should, but Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes is obvious.

We all know the impact Fernandes had when he was signed in January 2020, but last year was where he showed his value.

In 2020/21, he scored 28 goals and registered 17 assists in 58 games for the club – all from midfield! I don’t think I’ve seen a midfielder hit those sorts of numbers since Frank Lampard was playing. It’s truly remarkable what he achieved.

However, he’s only scored four goals so far this season but has provided nine assists, which isn’t terrible by any means. But it’s a significant decrease on the goal front. His last came in September, in United’s 4-1 win against Newcastle.

What Ralf Rangnick does with Bruno Fernandes could define his career at Manchester United
© (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images ) Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United looks on as he wears a rainbow captains armband as clubs show their support to the Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on November 28, 2021 in London, England.

It’s why there are quite a few critics of Fernandes. We all know what he’s capable of doing, so what’s changed?

I think it’s all to do with his role, which has changed this season for many reasons.

First, we have to look at Fernandes’ heat map for the 2020/21 season, and as you can see below, he occupied many areas in and around the final third. What this shows, in my opinion, is that he had more of a free-roam role because he picked up positions on the left, right and centre of the field.

What Ralf Rangnick does with Bruno Fernandes could define his career at Manchester United
© SofaScore This is an image of Bruno Fernandes’ heat map from the 2020/21 Premier League season.

Now, if you look at his heat map from this season, there are a few holes in-between the areas of the final third, which suggests to me that he isn’t being as effective in picking up spaces in certain areas. That’s not saying he hasn’t picked up positions across the whole pitch, but it hasn’t been as effective.

This could be for several reasons, such as accommodating Cristiano Ronaldo, but we can’t blame him for everything. The issues at United go far and beyond the 36-year-old.

What Ralf Rangnick does with Bruno Fernandes could define his career at Manchester United
© SofaScore This is an image of Bruno Fernandes’ heat map from the 2021/22 Premier League season.

Ronaldo’s signing has prevented Fernandes from drifting into the box more, but it shouldn’t impact his numbers as much as it has done, and against Chelsea, he was awful.

There were multiple occasions where he gave the ball away and was so sloppy in possession, looking a shadow of the player who shines typically in a red jersey.

To me, Rangnick has to get Fernandes back to his best by resting him for a couple of games, followed by showing video analysis of where he was picking up spaces last season in his position. His new role in the team hasn’t been as influential, and he needs to go back to basics to find his form again.

By allowing him to maintain a free role, Rangnick might get Fernandes firing, which would be a massive bonus to this team.

If Rangnick gets him performing again, it will only shine more light on his six-month tenure as manager.

Follow our United On My Mind writer Omar Garrick on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.

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