Mind the gap in Manchester! United boss Ralf Rangnick delivers a painful home truth in admitting the Red Devils need to be more like their ‘noisy neighbours’ and fierce local rivals City
- Manchester United travel to Manchester City for their derby match on Sunday
- In the reverse fixture in November, City won 2-0 without barely breaking a sweat
- United boss Ralf Rangnick knows his side need to improve a lot to get a result
One day, when things are better, they will look back at the darkest of all the dark moments and the chances are a 2-0 home defeat by Manchester City last November will not figure.
But those who were there on that desperate Saturday know what they saw from Manchester United. Meekness, fear, resignation. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team were beaten in a derby game almost before the first whistle had been blown.
So for Ralf Rangnick and his players the bar has not been set particularly high ahead of the return fixture at the Etihad on Sunday. No matter what they can or cannot do against Pep Guardiola’s team of Premier League champions, surely they can manage to be a bit better than that?
In November, Manchester United (left) were well beaten, 2-0, by rivals Manchester City (right)
‘Well, in the end it’s about control,’ said Rangnick on Friday. ‘It’s about controlling the game, about not letting them play and not letting them have the ball without any pressure, because this is exactly what they are looking for.
‘For us it’s about always finding moments where we can put them under pressure, where we hopefully can take the ball away from them and take advantage of those transitional moments. Some teams recently have done that and it is up to us to show we can also.’
As an idea, it is hard to fault. It is also far, far away from what United managed in that game earlier in the season. Solskjaer’s team had lost 5-0 to Liverpool at home just a fortnight earlier but the City performance that followed was almost as bad, just in different ways.
United managed only 32.6 per cent possession and one shot on City’s goal. Since then and since Solskjaer’s departure a fortnight later, United have improved a little. Deep holes remain in Rangnick’s squad and with them deep vulnerability.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left) and his side were no match for City’s Pep Guardiola (right)
But the German’s team do create more chances and have the capacity and courage to at least play on the front foot. If they are going to emerge as the best of a modest clutch of teams aiming for fourth place, Sunday would be a good time to begin.
‘We know we are playing against one of the best teams in the world,’ said Rangnick. ‘We know what type of team and style of football we are facing. That’s why it will be about tactical discipline.
‘There will be a lot of defensive work necessary, a lot of sprinting, running without the ball, with the ball, waiting for transitional moments and then taking our chances.
‘The way we have been playing, the way we have created those chances, was good and also when the other team is in possession we are compact. This is exactly what we need in this game.’
Solskjaer’s successor Ralf Rangnick knows serious improvement is needed to get a positive result when the teams contest the next Manchester derby on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium
United managers have to be careful when discussing City. Too much deference is not well received by their supporters. But Rangnick does have a way of cutting through all that. He is usually a tell-it-as-it-is kind of guy and on Friday he was clear.
‘What is obvious, not only with Manchester City but also with Liverpool, is that they have continuity and consistency with the position of their manager for the past five or six years,’ he said.
‘They have a very clear identity, a clear idea of how they want to play. This idea is the headline for everything that happens in the club. This is the secret behind their success — their guideline for everything they do and something that needs to be developed at United and improved in the next couple of years.’
Rangnick is not on the shortlist to be United’s next permanent manager but is expected to have a role in shaping the club as a consultant. On Friday he danced all round the issue.
Rangnick spoke of his desire to help the out-of-form Marcus Rashford to get back in the goals
‘It’s important to develop the team and players and all the other issues will be dealt with at the right moment,’ he said. ‘I’m always there and I will always tell people my opinion. It’s not happened as yet.’
Regarding playing personnel, Rangnick had what appeared to be some deliberately placed words for Marcus Rashford.
Rangnick is known to be concerned by Rashford’s tendency to disappear for periods of games and said: ‘With Marcus we have another player to develop. He’s got abundant talent, pace, physicality — everything you need for a modern striker.
‘I will put all my energy into that, to help him to take the same pathway that other players did in the last three months.’ Interestingly, Rangnick had actually been asked a question about Cristiano Ronaldo.