Man Utd’s problems and what we’ve learned so far
Manchester United ended 2021 with a well-deserved victory over an exhausted Burnley.
After taking the lead in the Premier League with a victory at Turf Moor in January, talks of a title challenge had turned into the need to kick off their Champions League qualifying campaign by the end of the season. ‘a year in reverse.
There is still a lot of work to do for Ralf Rangnick, but Thursday’s 3-1 win over an understaffed Burnley continued the undefeated start of his interim stint and sent the team to sixth before the new year.
But where has German influence been evident so far? And what problems still persist?
Getting the message across with authority
Ralf Rangnick was always at risk of facing the problem of his players not listening to a manager whose contract expires at the end of the season. It’s the equivalent of how students treat a substitute teacher, and the German was not helped by Carrington’s lock-in during a period he wanted to mark his authority over the team.
There were signs his message was getting through, though, albeit against an exhausted Burnley side with four players absent with Covid-19. In particular, he was upset with the body language in the recent victory over Norwich City, but here chief whiner Cristiano Ronaldo was cheering on his teammates and demanding more, even with a two-goal lead.
âBody language is one thing and the manager took it out completely. He doesn’t want it anymore so it’s final. All the players have taken it on firmly and it’s important that we do that, âsaid Scott McTominay.
His authority will increase in January if he can loan players like Anthony Martial who want to leave and could hurt morale.
Training and use Bruno Fernandes
Rangnick is married to the 4-2-2-2 lineup he brought to Old Trafford earlier this month and it’s clearly a system he believes in. At his best, this gives him flying wingers, ample protection in the central midfield and numbers up front with two forwards.
Bruno Fernandes is the losing player in this system. He lost the boil in Rangnick’s debut at United and was suspended for the win. The Portugal international will have to play as a center forward in this formation as the two players between the midfield and the attack must be wide men. That’s where all of United’s first-half goals come from.
Eric Bailly was cleared to leave early for the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast but returned for this game as Victor Lindelof dated Covid and Raphael Varane has just returned from a hamstring injury -legs. Being thrown in the game could explain his mistake which led to Aaron Lennon’s goal, with the veteran winger taking advantage of a bad touch.
Varane and Harry Maguire are the partnership that United would like to build their defense around, but Maguire has been rocked by some of the forwards he has recently tagged. Chris Wood troubled him in this game. Getting his two main central defenders to understand will take time on the training ground and in a game. In the meantime, United appear vulnerable to quick attacks.