Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick has told English football how to change
Ralf Rangnick is the latest voice to question the lack of focus on player welfare in England and the Man Utd manager has a point.
It should be a source of embarrassment to English football that it is requiring managers renown from overseas to come to our game and talk sense about player welfare.
While English football is happy to plough on with the nonsensical idea of playing two cup competitions, holding two games in three days over Christmas and ignoring the obvious demand for five substitutions in the current climate, the rest of Europe long ago began to put the stars of the show first.
The latest Covid-19 outbreak has brought these issues back to the table and Manchester United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick was the latest to raise them yesterday (Thursday).
Rangnick should pick up the phone to Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp if he wants to be told what banging your head against a brick wall feels like. Or listen to talkSPORT and the little Englander mentality of Jamie O’Hara.
The Manchester City and Liverpool managers have been fighting this cause for most of their time in the Premier League, but nobody really listens. Rangnick is a popular man in football circles with experience on the touchline and in the back offices. The English game really should listen to him when he speaks.
But the 63-year-old would have seen a glimpse of what he’s up against earlier this week, when the Premier League insisted the show would go on despite a record 90 Covid cases amongst players and staff at the 20 clubs, up from 42 the previous week.
Despite squads being decimated through injury and illness, clubs will be expected to play twice in three days over Christmas, as usual. Players who have spent 10 days in isolation and been unable to train will be put through the same punishing schedule they always are. Only this time rotation might be impossible and, even if it is, teams can only use three substitutes because the smaller Premier League clubs who voted against it are more concerned at the chance of an upset than the welfare of the players. There really is no need for next week’s midweek round to be played.
Rangnick has been United’s manager for a month, and only two league games, but we’ve already seen he can be eloquent and insightful in his press conferences, even in his second language, and his long answer about the demands on players is worth revisiting in full.
“As far as I remember, the five substitutes were implemented, it was decided every team could substitute five players when Covid started one-and-a-half years ago and I think it was the right decision to do that, to have more options to change players, to save energy for players, especially if they had only just recovered from Covid,” Rangnick said.
“And the same is true right now, we have a similar situation to the one we had one-and-a-half years ago and therefore I wouldn’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be as it was one-and-a-half years ago.
“As far as I know in Europe, England is the only country where they only allow three subs. In the other four big leagues in Europe, you can substitute five players. And, on the other hand, you’re still allowed eight field players on the teamsheet, and if you have eight field players on the teamsheet you should be able to replace five, but you can only replace three of them. You will always have five players on the bench who cannot be substituted and cannot play.
“You know that better than I do what a big tradition it is in England to play on Boxing Day, to play on the 27th, on the 30th or January 2nd. I think this is a big tradition and we should stick to and respect this tradition. I’m looking forward to that, it will be the first time in my coaching career I will be part of that.
“But there might be two or three other issues that might be discussed have been discussed in the past. England is the only country again in the top five leagues in Europe that plays two cup competitions. In France, they abolished the second one two or three years ago. Currently, we are the only country that plays two cup competitions, this is something we could speak about and discuss.
“I know the reason for that. The League Cup is still kept for the third and fourth division teams, especially to improve the financial situations of those clubs. But I still think, if we speak about a tight calendar, playing too many games, this is something we could speak and discuss.
“The other issue changed in the last two weeks is in the FA Cup after a draw you have to have a replay, this had been changed now. This is a good idea. In other countries, in cup competitions, you play extra-time and penalties, and you never have replays. So those might be issues and topics you could speak about.
“I think it would be a great help to have five substitutes, it would also increase and improve the emotional situation in the squad, it’s a big difference if you can give five players game-time, it’s also about game-time, and I would be much more in favour of having five subs. In other countries, they do that. I think we should seriously think about that once again. I haven’t spoken with the players about that but I don’t need to as most would be in favour of that.”