Ralf Rangnick – How Godfather of ‘gegenpressing’ can revive Manchester United


It’s now official – Manchester United have appointed Ralph Rangnick as interim manager. Amusingly, it’s worth noting that when this rumor first spread, there were generally two types of reactions.

Many asked uncertainly (and sadly) who – while others were amazed that United were getting such a decision right. The reaction from the latter camp makes more sense, especially considering what the German has accomplished in his time in the sport.

More than just a coach, Rangnik is someone whose ideas of how the game should be played make him such a fascinating character.

Of course, it helps that his ideas and teachings have influenced many top modern managers. He is not just a man with a lot of good ideas; He takes great pleasure in sharing his thoughts and perspectives with anyone willing to listen.

Of course, it is worth noting that he has not done much coaching in recent times. Rangnik is now more of a football director rather than just a head coach or manager. But United want to keep him beyond this season.

Several news reports suggest that the club wants the German to stay on as an advisor of sorts. How this role will work is unclear. But few people are more suitable for the role than Rangnik.

It’s safe to say that United’s managerial situation has been rocky since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. None of their preferred options have worked for one reason or the other.

But if it sounds different, that’s because it is. Rangnik can and will bring great improvements to Manchester United – both in his tenure as interim coach and in a future advisory role.

After all, he knows a thing or two about building and rebuilding clubs – both on and off the field.

Ralf Rangnick – the genius behind Gegenpressing

Ralph Rangnick is a radical departure from the type of managers United have turned to since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. In the form of David Moyes, they went for a tried and tested Premier League manager but it backfired spectacularly.

Louis van Gaal was a revolutionary technician, but it was clear that his best days were behind him. And Jose Mourinho was the serial winner who guaranteed trophies and toxicity in equal measure.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was arguably the most surprising appointment of all. Brought in briefly for a change of mood after Mourinho’s departure, he surprised everyone by quitting the job permanently. The length of time he stayed after this surprised everyone even more.

However, Rangnik is different. He is seen not only as a tactical genius in Germany, but also as a footballing visionary. His style of play, centered around ‘Giegenpressing’ or counter-pressing, is high octane and pleasing to the eye.

Indeed, it is telling that Rangnick’s ideas of football have been adopted by so many managers; Many of whom have been personally mentored by him.

Jürgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, Julian Nagelsmann and Ralf Hasenhuttl are four of Rangnick’s more famous pupils. The likes of Hansi Flick, Adi Hutter and Marco Rose play a similar brand of football.

Rangnick didn’t actually invent the concept of pressing; He got the idea from Valery Lobanovskyi, manager of Dynamo Kyiv. But in modern football it was used by the German during his time as a coach.

But apart from his coaching, Rangnik is also known for being able to give the right direction to the clubs. And that is something United desperately need at the moment.

Success in Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig

His ability to build a club from the ground up can be seen in his efforts at both Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig. At both clubs, he took a side to the lower divisions and made them Bundesliga regulars.

Hoffenheim is a small village in Germany and the football club only became a serious force in the late 2000s. Investment help came from alumnus and software mogul Dietmar Hopp, but it was Ralph Rangnick who provided the football know-how.

He signed for them in 2006 and immediately got them promoted to the second division. The following season he led the club to the first division Bundesliga, where they still play.

He did a similar job at RB Leipzig, only here he took it a step further. Not only did he coach Leipzig, but he also held the role of Director of Football – both at the club and for the club’s owners, Red Bull.

This role saw him oversee not only Leipzig, but also RB Salzburg and indeed the entire network of clubs owned by Red Bull. Under him, Leipzig and Salzburg became finishing schools for some of the best talents.

The likes of Diot Upamecano, Timo Werner, Sadio Mane, Erling Haaland, Joshua Kimmich and Naby Keita have all passed through Salzburg or Leipzig on their way to their current clubs. He will not be the last player to do so either.

Under Rangnik, the focus shifted to finding and developing young talent. Players were signed to the first team but had to fit into the club’s way of playing.

Given how Scattergan United’s approach has been in recent years, recruiting someone who knows modern football as a player and manager would be a huge plus.

What changes can United expect to see?

Most clubs – especially the larger ones – will have a definite recruitment policy when entering the transfer market. Amazingly, the same cannot be said about United in recent years.

His approach changed depending on who was the man in the dugout at any given time. This may seem like a good sign, provided they are listening to the manager’s demands.

But it shows a lack of vision from those at the helm of the club. To make things worse, even when there is an appearance of compatibility, players are only signed to prevent them from joining a rival club.

Not having a figure with football know-how in a critical position comes from a lack of vision. The appointment of Ralph Rangnik has solved this mystery.

It also helps that the German also takes a keen interest in how the club plays. Thus, once his interim tenure is over, expect someone who favors a high-pressing style of play to take over the dugout.

Mauricio Pochettino, long admired at United, fits the bill in that regard; Ajax manager Erik ten Haag does the same. Both would fit the bill in that sense.

But no matter who comes next, Rangnick can be expected to make a big difference on the football side of things. Too often United looks like a corporate entity, a content-creating machine cashing in on past glory.

Looks like that’s likely to change. As Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said before Rangnick’s appointment, “Unfortunately a good coach is coming to England.” It’s really unfortunate – for the rest of the league.

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