Ralf Rangnick has spoken to the media ahead of the upcoming clash against Brentford on Monday night.
The German interim boss is set to take charge of his final home game in the Old Trafford hot seat, but this is unlikely to distract him from earning an important three points against The Bees as United look to secure Europa League football for next season.
There was very little said about Monday’s opponent, however, with the conversation dominated by wider issues surrounding the club.
Here’s a breakdown of what Ralf had to say…
5. Winning is more important than sentimentEmbed from Getty Images
Reds fans are expecting a big clear out this Summer of many players, and with the Brentford game the last home fixture of the season, it would be expected that some players will say their goodbyes to the Old Trafford faithful ahead of moving on in the Summer. Rangnick was asked about this, specifically in relation to whether or not he will play Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic, as well as the availability of Jesse Lingard.
Rangnick described how he “would like to” give these players a good send-off, but was quick to stress that “it is also about getting the best possible result and the best possible performance, and not about making any gifts to players”.
He further alluded to the fact that Mata did feature for a cameo against Chelsea and that Matic “played for almost the whole game”. By reminding supporters of their presence in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea, perhaps the manager does not have Mata or Matic in line to start. With that being said, the squad is thin in the holding midfielder department, so it would be no surprise to see Matic from the get-go against Thomas Frank’s side.
It was a strong but expected stance from Rangnick that he will not allow sentiment to get in the way of an important victory.
4. Recruitment is the focus for Rangnick
It is now official that Rangnick will take on the Austria national team job, whilst also acting as a consultant in the Erik Ten Hag regime starting from 2022/23. When asked about what he will be getting up to in that consultancy role, the 63-year-old said that, for him, “the most important bit is recruitment now”. He added that “the most vital point” is who the club bring in and “it’s not only about identifying those players, it’s also then about meeting them, [and] convincing them to join this club even though we are not in the Champions League”. These words will come as a positive for Reds fans, with Rangnick known for having an eye for spotting low-key players across the continent, particularly the type that the club have failed to recruit in recent years.
He was eager to stress his role in evaluating the academy, too. It appears Rangnick will help oversee the “top talented players” in the academy, as well as look to “identify those kind of players” in different levels of the youth system. Again, this will be music to the ears of lots of supporters who have already seen Teden Mengi, Charlie Savage, Zidane Iqbal, Hannibal Mejbri, Alejandro Garnacho and most notably Anthony Elanga given minutes during his tenure so far, despite them mostly being small cameos.
Rangnick has an eye for talent across both Europe and Carrington, something he will look to utilise in his consultancy role.
3. Ready-made, or ready to be made?Embed from Getty Images
Interestingly, one journalist alluded to the fact that Manchester United were once a club who recruited world talent at the peak of their powers, or in their prime, if you like. The journalist then suggested that the club no longer do this, and instead acquire players who are in their twilight years, specifically referencing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edison Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo in recent times.
The boss was asked whether or not United can return to those times where they could say that the best 25-year-old in the world is attracted to play for the club. He didn’t dwell much on this question, saying “my personal opinion is that the club should try to find future top star players and develop them”.
Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe were two names thrown at him afterwards. Rangnick used Haaland as an example, essentially saying that he has developed into “one of probably the most expensive strikers in the world” over these last couple of years. He suggested that the club ought to “[focus] on trying to identify, find and convince players who could be Manchester United players for the next couple of years”.
In a nutshell, Rangnick was saying that instead of trying to bring in ready-made world-beaters, the club should aim to develop their own Haaland or Mbappe in the coming seasons who will be committed to the cause as Ten Hag looks to rebuild the club.
Despite practically answering this question already, the German was then asked whether United should look for players who are the next in line, or perhaps the ones who have been there and done it to cope with the pressure of being a United player. It was a regurgitation of what he had already said from Rangnick, claiming that “we just need to look into the other top clubs, the other top clubs in England and also in other countries in Europe. What kind of players did they sign in the past? I think then you get the answer yourself”.
2. Refusing to ponder over the pastEmbed from Getty Images
A superb question was poised towards the latter stages of his presser. It was asked if Rangnick understands why fans are concerned that certain people who have been behind poor transfers throughout the last ten years are still here, and why fans are not exactly convinced that there will be change.
Rangnick responded by talking about how certain past signings are either gone, unavailable, or on loan, saying that some players have “no contracts anymore and some other players are not available anymore. Some players might want to get more game time and are on loan already”. This references past signings that have not worked out as planned.Embed from Getty Images
He then went on to add that “it is important that the club identifies scouts and then recruits those kind of players that can help Manchester United to develop into one of the top teams again. Therefore, you need mentality, quality, physicality, pace, skills, you need the full package.”
He transitioned the response well from the past to the future. It was quite a routine reply from Rangnick; it would not be wise to start taking direct pops at the recruitment department that he will be a part of. With that being said, he by no means praises them, and does briefly highlight the mistakes of the past. Smart stuff from a wise man!
He was subsequently reminded that having both finished runners-up in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were both sacked before the halfway point of the following season, and was essentially asked what had gone wrong. It was another classic transition away from the past, instead looking towards the future and what is to come. Here was the response in full.
“Again, I didn’t sack any of those coaches and it’s difficult for me to speak about that. But it is obvious and I think this season showed that there are some problems that need to be solved and need to be attacked and settled, and I think we spoke about that already. But I am positive, with Erik ten Hag, Manchester United will have one of the best coaches that are available, probably also one of the best coaches that we have in Europe and then it is about, with him, recruitment. Together with the way the team is being trained and coached, [those] are the two most vital things, and if those two things come together, I am very positive that the fans here at Old Trafford, and yourself, will see a better kind of team, with a better kind of football.”
1. Who is available for Brentford?Embed from Getty Images
To say that this was a pre-match press conference ahead of the game against Brentford, there was very little talk about the game itself; however, Rangnick did provide an update on potential returns to the team.
In relation to Fred, the manager said that “I hope Fred will make it for the Brentford game”, claiming that Thursday night was too early for him. He was much less optimistic around Sancho, though, with Rangnick saying “as it seems, Jadon might be out for the rest of the season with his tonsillitis, so he will most likely be unavailable against Brentford”.Embed from Getty Images
On Cavani being back in training, it was said “the question is, [given he] has been missing for the last four or five weeks… is he really a player who could then play against Brentford? Probably not to start with but at least from the bench”. Rangnick went onto describe how Harry Maguire and Jesse Lingard were absentees against Chelsea for personal family reasons, but he hopes that some of those players “will be back” on Monday.
Many fans will have mixed feelings around this update. In the absence of Sancho, it is likely that Marcus Rashford will see out the season as a starter despite poor form, unless the manager throws in Mejbri or Garnacho against the odds. Fred will be a welcomed addition back into the team, as Matic has perhaps played more than his legs can handle in recent weeks. The Old Trafford crowd will want to see Cavani grace the turf one more time before his expected departure, so a spot on the bench for him is a positive. Lingard will surely feature in some way or another as he looks set to leave after being at the club for as long as he will remember. As for Maguire, the bench is probably best place for him now, but nobody would berate him for missing out altogether after the recent bomb threats.
The full pre-match press conference can be found here: https://www.manutd.com/en/news/detail/every-word-from-ralf-rangnick-press-conference-before-man-utd-v-brentford-2-may-2022
Manchester United vs Brentford will take place at Old Trafford on Monday 2nd May, 20:00 kick off (BST).