For all of Manchester United’s recent mistakes and past failings, appointing Ralf Rangnick as their new interim manager is not one of them.
The experienced German coach, who is 63, has agreed to become the club’s new interim manager on a deal until the end of the season, replacing the recently sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In short, Rangnick is the man tasked with bringing the feel-good factor back to Old Trafford after a dreadfully difficult period.
Although the primary reason behind United’s choice of Rangnick is to improve results in the short-term and get the club moving in the right direction on the pitch again, his arrival — certainly in the long-term — is likely to have huge benefits for the club’s overall infrastructure.
Rangnick, who is poised to take charge for the first time when Arsenal visit Old Trafford next Thursday evening, is one of the most experienced and deepest thinkers in the game, and will bring a wealth of know-how to the table in terms of how United should be operating.
Beyond his six-month stint as interim manager, Rangnick — who has taken charge of 700-plus games in his coaching career — is understood to have been offered an upstairs role at Old Trafford, in the form of a consultancy position.
The exact ins and outs of his job description and what the role will entail are yet to be revealed, but it is likely going to involve him having a say in the key decisions United make as a club moving forward. At least you would like to think so, anyway.
If one of those responsibilities includes Rangnick having a major voice in recruitment discussions United will have made another excellent decision.
Because not only has Rangnick developed a firm understanding for how a football club should run, but he also played a direct role in unearthing some of the most familiar names now playing their trade in European football: the likes of Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea striker Timo Werner and Bayern Munich ace Dayot Upamecano.
That is because the German, who has managed the likes of Hoffenheim and Schalke, among others, in the past, spent several years connected with the Red Bull franchise, overseeing the rises of both RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg. He was installed as director of football for both clubs in 2012 and soon started to play a key role in the overall operation of the pair. That hands-on experienced and strategic footballing knowledge will serve United very well indeed.
As well as being director of football for both clubs, Rangnick was also promoted to head of sport and development — his current title at Lokomotiv Moscow — of Austrian company Red Bull gmbH, overseeing its global football initiatives, including the operational side of things at MLS side New York Red Bulls.
Having gained so much experience in positions away from the dugout, that can only serve United and their next permanent manager — potentially Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino — very well indeed.
Say, for instance, Pochettino (who is understood to be United’s top target) lands the role next summer, he will, understandably, want a say in recruitment, United’s overall philosophy and the direction they want to head in.
After all, what manager wouldn’t, especially when dealing with the pressures that come with managing a football club the size of United? However, although Pochettino, or whoever else, may succeed Solskjaer on a permanent basis, having Rangnick around could help them in no shortage of ways, the main one being the development of the squad.
The exact ins and outs of Rangnick’s duties in his consultancy role will become clearer with time, but United’s decision to bring him to Old Trafford could be the best one that they have made in years, in more ways than one.
Michael Carrick is in temporary charge at Man Utd after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking but Ralf Rangnick is being lined up as interim boss until end of season; Watch Chelsea vs Man Utd live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm.
Michael Carrick is currently coaching the team following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking last Sunday but Rangnick is set to be appointed as interim manager. The plan would then be for him to move into a consultancy role at the end of the season, when United intend to bring in a long-term boss.
However, despite Rangnick’s highly respected reputation in the game as an intensive coach who has overseen the rise of clubs such as Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig through the German leagues, Sky Sports pundit Merson believes the challenge at United is different to anything he’s faced before and won’t be easy.
“Why do they need an interim manager? Because they don’t know what they’re doing at the moment, in my opinion,” Merson told Soccer Saturday.
“Ole would have been at the club still today if it wasn’t for two goals in the last minute at Watford. I don’t think there was any plan. They didn’t think in their wildest dreams it was going to end up like that at Watford. At 2-1, I think he’s still in charge come Sunday. I think they were going to keep it going as long as they could.
“Now, to bring in a manager… I’m hearing people going how great he is – but he’s never managed in England, he’s never managed one of the top teams in the world. Why is that? Why has no one else come in for him when managers have been up?
“I hear great things about him, people saying he’s going to press and he’s hard working and he’s turned lesser teams into real contenders. But that’s a lot different, getting a Schalke or a Hoffenheim to a certain stage.
“When you’re asked to go to one of the biggest clubs in the world and they already have superstars and you’ve got to make them play… it’s all right at Schalke and Hoffenheim because they’re going to listen and they want to get there. These [United] players are there and you have got to get them to go again.
“I think this is going to be difficult, this is going to be a lot harder than what people think.
“What I’m hearing is it’s like a gimme, he’ll come in and that will be it. That Man Utd are lucky. I’m not sure about that.”
Merson added that the recent performances of the United players during defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool and Watford would make coaching them a tough job for any manager.
“Man City was embarrassing,” he said. “Liverpool was bad but it wasn’t as bad as Man City, and then Watford was an absolute joke.
“At the end of the day, we can all say ‘Solskjaer, Solskjaer’ but it’s the players who cross the line, they have to turn up and play the game.
“You could have Pep Guardiola on the bench sitting next to Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel but, if the players aren’t running around, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing on the bench.”
Mauricio Pochettino is favourite to be handed the reins at United next summer but Merson is also uncertain about how that appointment could play out.
Former Tottenham boss Pochettino is currently in charge of Paris St-Germain and contracted with the French club until 2023, but Merson says the performances of PSG this season – good or bad – could complicate matters.
“If Pochettino doesn’t win the Champions League with PSG, Man Utd fans are going to be asking that question: why do we want Pochettino? He’s got a squad of players at PSG who are some of the best in the world and you haven’t won the Champions League?
“And if you do [win the Champions League] and PSG do it for the first time ever, if you’re PSG you want to keep him there to dominate Champions League football for the next three, four years.”
Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith, and football journalist Simeon Gholam to look ahead to the Premier League weekend.
Alan Smith discusses Ralf Rangnick’s appointment as Man Utd interim boss, what he will bring to the club, and how he could help their young players kick on. Is he paving the way for Mauricio Pochettino? Alan assesses Rangnick’s consultancy role, which is planned to start next summer, too.