After defeat to Atletico Madrid, Manchester United's manager gamble appears to have been a failure   

Ralf Rangnick is a man under pressure as Manchester United manager
Ralf Rangnick is a man under pressure as Manchester United manager

When Manchester United executives discussed the post of interim manager with Ralf Rangnick, they were so pleased by the German's vision for the club and his understanding of the game that they were willing to offer him an advisory role, to draw him away from his contract with Lokomotiv Moscow.

But as knowledgeable about the game as Rangnick is and as clear as his comprehension of what has gone wrong at Old Trafford over the years is, he lacked current coaching experience, which was always going to be a risk with a short-term appointment.

Rangnick's contentious appointment

There was an obvious improvement in results once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over after Jose Mourinho, but the atmosphere had grown toxic at that point. A few grins and pats on the back were all it took to brighten the spirits of a talented group.

The difficulties were different this time. Rangnick's coaching experience over the last decade has been a year in Germany's second division and then, the 2018/19 season with RB Leipzig.

While he can provide good coaching at his best, there is a legitimate argument as to how much in tune he is with the modern game.

There was no prior experience managing the type of talent on display at United, no recent track record in Europe, and no army of backroom staff to assist him.

Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid
Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid

Rangnick has made some progress at Old Trafford since the beginning of December, but not much. There's a case to be made that Carrick has been Manchester United's best manager this season.

When the 63-year-old was given the position four-and-a-half months ago, it appeared like there was still time to salvage the season. But that hasn't been the case. After a shaky exit from the FA Cup, the team has now suffered a completely inevitable Champions League defeat.

United's poor form in the Premier League has cost them ground in the race for the top four, and they now appear to be long shots to return to Europe's top competition.

When it was suggested that Manchester United were 'naive', Rangnick replied:

"I don't know what you mean by naive. Against a team like Atletico, who are the champions of that style of football, it's not easy."

Rangnick was in charge of his first Champions League knockout match since Schalke faced United in the 2010/11 semi-finals. Is it really so shocking that his squad looked tactically second-best for practically the entire encounter against a side as shrewd as Atletico?

Rangnick was critical of his own team's performance in Madrid, but he also made mistakes in selection and strategy at the Wanda Metropolitano. United were fortunate to be held to a draw as a team.

At Old Trafford, they were unable to capitalize on their good fortune. The Red Devils started with the kind of ferocity that you'd anticipate, but once the half-hour mark passed, Atletico came into the game and the hosts swiftly ran out of ideas.

Atletico put on a classic display, ensuring the game became a stop-start affair, aided by a terrible performance from referee Slavko Vincic. But Man United were clueless when it came to breaking down Atletico and their play lacked fluency and imagination.

Manchester United's troubles not limited to Rangnick's faults

Rangnick has now won nine of Manchester United's 20 games, with Saturday's exciting victory over Tottenham the only positive result they've had against what one may consider elite opposition.

Of course, Rangnick isn't to blame for everything. Many of these players will have questions to answer at the conclusion of the season, and some of them will be nearing the end of their time at Old Trafford.

Manchester United's performance against Atletico left a lot to be desired
Manchester United's performance against Atletico left a lot to be desired

But it was also a gamble when they hired a manager with a coaching resume as limited as Rangnick for the past decade. Maybe, it'll be a gamble worth taking if he utilizes his consulting role to help finally bring some direction to Old Trafford.

But for now, the risk appears that it will lead to Europa League football next season, and any long-term reset with Rangnick in the back office will start from the ground up.

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat


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