Election Ralf Rangnick’s new Manchester United selection policy must continue vs Brentford

Election Ralf Rangnick’s new Manchester United selection policy must continue vs Brentford

Election

Some might see Manchester United’s reversion to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer-style tactics in their two tight matches against Aston Villa and call it regression.

Some might demand that Jadon Sancho, Paul Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo and others are all shoehorned into the team, come what may.

Others might simply be struggling to understand what Ralf Rangnick is bringing to United if his players cannot exhibit the ‘control’ and ‘pressing’ that were the two main buzzwords in the German’s opening gambits.

But then United are not an easy fix at the moment. Rangnick’s fabled gegenpressing and his favoured 4-2-2-2 system were effective for about 55 minutes in his first game against Crystal Palace.

Since then, performances have been largely meek and the players’ confidence looks shot.

Games against Norwich, Newcastle and Wolves were difficult to watch. The two contests against Villa this past week (with United using a 4-2-3-1 Solskjaer-type formation) have been marginally better, particularly the first half at Villa Park on Saturday night, and United should have recorded two wins from two; that would have looked like progress.

Rangnick’s hand was forced to an extent, but a run-down of the players who missed the league draw at Villa reads virtually like a Premier League all-star XI: Sancho, Harry Maguire, Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard were all on the bench. Anthony Martial was nowhere to be seen. Ronaldo, Pogba and Marcus Rashford were all injured. Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay were suspended. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was left out.

It would have been bizarre at the start of the season to claim, with plenty of justification, that Anthony Elanga should start in United’s first-choice attack and that Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot were by far the best full-backs to select – let alone that England quartet Maguire, Rashford, Sancho and Shaw should all be left out – but it holds up now. You feel even Ronaldo’s starting spot shouldn’t be guaranteed.



election

Ralf Rangnick is yet to convince at Manchester United

No, recent performances have demanded that Rangnick picks the players who are guaranteed to give everything for the team right now. Forget about reputations, forget even about ability, this is about building United back in terms of confidence and performance levels.

Fred has his fair share of critics in midfield, but he’s a trier and his relentless pressing in the past two Villa games has been at odds with what many teammates have been willing to produce in recent weeks. Bruno Fernandes is another who guarantees that work-rate and determination, a proper leader on the pitch.

Telles and Dalot are giving everything to keep their spots in the side, having been harshly deprived of minutes under Solskjaer. McTominay is in the same boat as Fred, limited in midfield ability (that’s a separate story) but a willing worker.

The full-back duo, the midfield pair and the selection of Fernandes in his favoured No.10 role must become non-negotiables for Rangnick now. In attack he can choose from Elanga, Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood; Sancho and Rashford aren’t showing the kind of form that makes them selectable as things stand. Van de Beek should be close to the first 11.

United fans are quickly discovering a manager who is unafraid to make ruthless selections when they are needed.

Solskjaer occasionally shirked such decisions, trying to appease players, avoiding any damage to their egos.

But the confidence in the United squad is so low right now, as shown by that relinquished 2-0 lead at Villa, that Rangnick should only trust those that he deems are ‘up for the fight’.

There’s plenty of fight left in this United side, and the approach of some players could rub off on others. The selection policy against Brentford and West Ham this week will be vital.

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