Ralf Rangnick surprised at United control after just one training session

New boss impressed with showing after short turnaround from Arsenal win on Thursday

 

Ralf Rangnick was delighted with Manchester United’s “front-foot” performance as his opening match as interim manager ended with a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.

The victory, which came via Fred’s 77th-minute strike and featured only a third league clean sheet this season, lifted United to sixth place with 24 points, three behind West Ham in the final Champions League berth, in a fourth unbeaten match across all competitions.

“I’m very happy with the way the team performed – especially the first half-hour, that was exceptional,” Rangnick said. “The only thing missing was 1-0 or 2-0. We had control of the game. I am very happy with the result and the clean sheet.”

Rangnick, who had only one full training session to work, admitted his surprise.

“I said in my first press conference, there are things we need to improve on, to get clean sheets, to get control of the game. What they [my players] showed was more than I expected. I was positively surprised by the physical state and intensity, the first half-hour was amazing, I felt it was extremely high-tempo, high intensity, always on the front foot.”

Rangnick retained the same team that beat Arsenal on Thursday.

“It was logical not to change too many positions after the win. The question was how to get pressure, control, so I decided on 4-2-2-2, Cristiano [Ronaldo] , Marcus [Rashford] in attack, Jadon [Sancho] and Bruno [Fernandes] in the two 10 positions.

“And we had enough space with Bruno and Jadon for our full backs to play forward on the wing and they almost played like wing backs. Alex [Telles] and Diogo [Dalot] did extremely well offensively. That’s why I played 4-2-2-2. The most demanding positions in that formation are the two 10s.”

Rangnick also praised Ronaldo, for the 36-year-old’s willingness to carry out the German’s high-pressing style.

“What Ronaldo did today ‘against the ball’: chapeau.”

Rangnick’s focus quickly turns to Wednesday’s Champions League match against Young Boys and the Premier League trip to Norwich. The coming days provide the chance to build momentum and underline his philosophy to the players, who have taken on board instructions in a way that has impressed the interim manager. “I must admit I was surprised,”

Rangnick said of the group’s immediate response. “I was a bit surprised because not only did we play Thursday, a late kick-off, we had two days less to recover compared to Crystal Palace and we had not even a full training session yesterday because it was 45 minutes, it was pouring (with rain).

“It was not just Manchester weather, it was just disgusting – it was heavy, raining, windy, so it was almost impossible to train in a concentrated and focused manner.

“But they still did it, those 45 minutes were important on the pitch. We explained to them how we want to play, which manner we want to play and the rest was video footage, a lot of personal conversations with players, individually and in groups, explaining to them how we want to play.

“As I said, I didn’t expect them to play on that kind of level after such a short time.”

There was some more positive news for Rangnick post-match as injured midfielder Paul Pogba shared an update on his recovery from a hamstring problem, insisting on Twitter he is “on the road to coming back stronger”.

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira felt his side were not brave enough in possession and could have caused more problems for United. “It is frustrating of course because we make it really difficult for them to create chances,” the former France midfielder said. “I think we defended well as a team and we had that moment to score the first goal (when Jordan Ayew put wide in the 75th minute) and we didn’t take it. “

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