Manchester United: 3 things we learnt from Ralf Rangnick’s first game

Leipzig's head coach Ralf Rangnick (Photo credit should read RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images)
Leipzig's head coach Ralf Rangnick (Photo credit should read RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
Nathaniel Clyne of Crystal Palace and Marcus Rashford of Manchester United (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images) /

Manchester United’s quick passing, utilizing half-spaces, 2 Defensive midfielders

The United attack looked to play a lot of one-touch passing and quicker passing when the ball is fired into that attacking quartet of players.

The defense and deeper 2 midfielders looked to move the ball into the attackers quickly, a stark difference from previously seen the side-to-side passing in the build-up.

This speed of moving the ball into attack and then quick combination play between the attackers doesn’t allow the defense and midfield of the opposing unit to react and reorganize as a repelling block.

Another clear pattern of play during Rangnick’s first game was the utilization of half-spaces and specifically, an overload in the left half-space.

A key element of United’s play was working the ball into the left half-space where Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes predominantly operated and had Telles overlapping, hence creating an overload on that left side against Palace’s defense and defensive midfielder.

Image-from-i-OS
Image-from-i-OS /

(Via: sofascore.com)

This allowed them to dominate this area of the pitch and hence work balls into threatening positions regularly from being able to dominate this half-space. In the 2 defensive midfielders, Fred had one of his best showings in a Manchester United shirt even without considering an excellently taken goal.

He was played in a role more suited to his strengths, using his energy and industry to come out and press with the security of McTominay holding positional discipline of the second defensive midfielder when he did and vice versa when McTominay pressed forward.

A “seek-and-destroy” midfield role played to Fred’s strengths, allowing him to deliver a fine display crucial to the success of this system.

It’s early in but there were positive signs in Rangnick’s first game in charge. One big chance spurned by Jordan Ayew aside, Manchester United looked confident and on the front foot for the majority of this game against a good Crystal Palace side.

Key elements of his play will be a fluid 4-2-2-2 shape, high fullbacks, and progressive quick passing.

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It might be a few weeks till we see them perform a press and counter-press up to the standard that Rangnick will want but he and Manchester United fans will be encouraged by what they saw in his first game as manager of the club.