With Ralf Rangnick’s appointment as Manchester United’s new interim manager confirmed, a new era has begun at the Theatre of Dreams, and it’s one that could alter several ingrained perceptions.
Former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves a huge amount of credit for the good work he oversaw during his two-and-a-half-year reign, but there’s no doubt that a change was needed.
The Norwegian’s tenure had become sour in the final months of his reign as things began to unfold at unprecedented speed.
His preference for allowing individuals the freedom to express themselves and showcase their talent without the constraints of a set system could only take United so far and ultimately became exposed.
And Solskjaer’s style and lack of specific instructions also left certain players vulnerable and susceptible to criticism from frustrated onlookers.
While creative talents such as Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood thrived, less technically gifted stars such as Fred often looked like square pegs in round holes.
At times, it was hard to pinpoint what sort of player the Brazil international actually was.
Not physically imposing enough to be a true box-to-box player, not defensively astute enough to be a sole No.6 and lacking the imagination and ability to be an attack-minded playmaker.
However, the 28-year-old appears to have a certain set of skills that should make him the ideal fit for Rangnick’s famous Gegenpressing system, making his once mocked £52m price tag look like a dream deal for United.
Rangnick’s high-intensity, counter-pressing system revolves around winning the ball back high up the pitch, taking a shot within ten seconds of regaining possession and always attacking vertically.
It requires a set of players capable of carrying out the extensive physical workload placed upon them, but with the footballing IQ to match.
“Our idea is clear, it’s very, very similar to my coaching friend Jurgen Klopp,” Rangnick told the Coaches’ Voice YouTube channel (as relayed by inews). “Our Red Bull football is heavy metal, rock and roll, it’s not a slow waltz. We hate square passes, back passes, just having the ball ourselves doesn’t make sense.”
And when assessing Fred’s underlying numbers, it’s clear that the South American – who was once described as “outstanding” by MUTV pundit Ben Thornley – could turn into Rangnick’s main man during their time together in the red half of Manchester.
As per FBref.com, no player with over 270 minutes of top-flight action has bettered his total of 26.2 successful pressures per 90 this season, while he also ranks second for tackles won (2.23) and fourth for progressive passes (4.36).
With a new set of principles introduced for players to be judged on, Rangnick’s arrival could see Fred’s position in this United side transformed over the coming months, transforming his status as the much-maligned scapegoat into an undroppable pillar for the ‘Godfather of German coaching’ to build around.