Ralf Rangnick’s revolution at Manchester United has got off to a promising if unspectacular start and the January transfer window could be another significant step in their development.
A 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in the German tactician’s opening game in charge was followed up by securing another three points against Norwich City by the same scoreline a week later.
United’s draw with BSC Young Boys in their Champions League dead rubber was sandwiched between those results, but their 11 changes meant the starting lineup didn’t allow for many significant lessons to be taught.
However, what has already become clear during Rangnick’s short reign is his desired style of play and philosophy that he’s attempted to implement in the red half of Manchester.
Against Palace, in particular, the 63-year-old’s preferred 4-2-2-2 shape and Gegenpressing system was evident for all to see.
United won back possession of the ball 12 times in the final third of the pitch – not only a record number for the Red Devils this season but since Opta began recording such data – while the midfield, inside forwards and two strikers were all extremely compact.
“The amount of times that you saw Manchester United in possession but in that very narrow shape was incredible,” said Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville in his post-match analysis. “That is all to stop the counter-attack.”
But the below-par performance against Norwich brought United back down to earth and highlighted just how much work Rangnick has got to do before he makes them competitive again.
And in order to compete for football’s biggest prizes, the ‘Godfather of German coaching’ may have to dip into the transfer market over the winter window.
One player who has been linked with a move to Old Trafford in RB Leipzig’s £60,000-per-week star Amadou Haidara.
According to The Mirror, Rangnick could sanction a deal for the box-to-box dynamo after previously signing him from Red Bull Salzburg for Leipzig back in January 2019.
Haidara’s current contract with the Bundesliga giants is believed to contain a £33m release clause, meaning a move to the red half of Manchester could be relatively straightforward.
After bringing the midfield gem to the Red Bull Arena from sister club Salzburg, Rangnick made no effort to hide his pleasure at the 23-year-old’s arrival, lauding the engine room operator’s quality.
“We’re delighted to have signed Amadou,” he told the club’s official website upon his unveiling (as relayed by Bundesliga.com).
“We’ve been following his progress in Salzburg, as he’s developed into an absolutely exceptional player there. There aren’t many players his age with so much potential. He has all the requirements to follow in Naby Keita’s footsteps.”
Signing the defensive-minded Haidara would bring an element of balance and control to the middle of the pitch that United have been desperately lacking for a number of years.
As per FBref.com, The Mali international has averaged 0.96 tackles won per 90 this term, 6.60 successful pressures, 2.23 blocks and 0.85 interceptions this term.
The cover that Haidara would provide Bruno Fernandes – who has scored 45 goals and provided 34 assists in 102 appearances for United – would make for a scary duo in the middle of the pitch.
Therefore, United must carefully consider a move for the robust youngster this January, providing Rangnick with the tools he needs to drag the 20-time English champions back to their previous perch.