Are Manchester United prepared for the arrival of Ralf Rangnick with their approach against Chelsea?

Manchester United did not play Ralf Rangnick football with Chelsea. Their incoming head coach didn’t choose the team, especially since he didn’t have a work permit but he couldn’t really participate officially in the running of the club.

Similarly, those who have seen Rangnick’s great sides in the Bundesliga will find it hard to witness United’s performance to draw 1-1 and think they embody English Hoffenheim. But, compared to what the Reds have created in the past, it at least feels like a step in that general direction. You can at least imagine this as a team prepared to let Rangnick know where his new charges are and what they can do when asked to play the German preferred style without ball.

Understandably, United have taken great pains to emphasize that this is Carrick’s team, and that was the plan he thought was the best fit for a positive result at Chelsea, which the visitors have indeed managed, albeit to a greater degree of luck than execution.

But, if this isn’t Rangnick’s team, then you can definitely feel the process of forming his invisible hand. The aging virtuoso Cristiano Ronaldo was brought on from the bench to make way for a front line screaming youth and energy. In his place began two younger models, one of whom at Jadon Sancho was particularly adept at high pressing after his years in the Bundesliga.

Without the ball, United were as aggressive as they had been for a while. Their 21 tackles are the most in a Premier League game this season and they finished with more than half of those wins for the first time. According to Opta data, that number dropped to just 3.6 against Chelsea, with Carrick’s side determined to hold the ball stronger.

Even the formation, something between 4-3-1-2 and a diamond midfield with Bruno Fernandes at the head and Nemanja Matic holding the fort, bears the hallmarks of RB Leipzig’s Rangnick. From the outset, it was clear this would be different from the way United play in the big games under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Under the old regime, on such occasions they often operated in a relatively low-lying area, gathering in the hope of possibly breaking out on the counter. While there were moments of that at Stamford Bridge – especially a spell in the second half, where Chelsea’s corners appeared to be more effective attacking weapons for United than their hosts – have much more initiative in getting the ball back in the first place.

Manchester United pressured Chalobah to pass wide, where they targeted a Chelsea trap

Wyscout / Sky Sports

In the first part of play, United managed to corner Chelsea on the right flank, with Marcus Rashford closing in on Trevoh Chalobah fast enough that he didn’t have time to turn inside and even hit the ball back, let alone try. try to pass to Thiago Silva behind. he. Instead, his only real option was a quick pass outside where the two red shirt players were already bound. From there Reece James had to bounce back and Chelsea had to go away, forcing an aerial duel between Victor Lindelof and Timo Werner that the former had always preferred to win.

Keeping Chelsea wide is central to United’s plans. They want to keep the ball away from Jorginho, who can get the home team up to speed and attack the defence. “We came here with a plan,” Carrick said. “I know how Chelsea will play and we want to stop the passes from Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.”

At the heart of this is the pressure coming from Bruno Fernandes. According to fbref No one tries to apply more pressure without the ball than the Portuguese, who is responsible for almost a third of applications in Chelsea’s third of the field. If yesterday he was holding the ball at his feet ineffectively it reflected a player who plunged to the ground trying to get it back.

Bruno Fernandes sprints after the ball as Hakim Ziyech passes to Antonio Rudiger

Wyscout / Sky Sports

However, he is not a headless chicken. In the image above, he is sprinting almost all the way to the top trying to beat Antonio Rudiger to get past a pass from Hakim Ziyech. When all he could do was force Thiago Silva to pass the ball, however, he stepped back to block Jorginho’s pass. Throughout this stretch, he will constantly adjust his position to squeeze the ball away from the Italian.

When Thiago Silva and Rudiger were forced to cross the ball back and forth, Fernandes constantly searched for Jorginho’s position

Wyscout / Sky Sports

What may be clear, however, is that much of United’s best pressure came during those early skirmishes. How effectively they have shackled Chelsea’s midfield is debatable. Jorginho has 81 touches of the ball, about two fewer than the average he gets in 90 minutes in the Premier League this season. The purpose of the high press is to play the game on 1/3 of the opponent’s court. Chelsea had three times as many touches in the final third. In the first half, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Marcos Alonso had more touches in the third United than the visitors managed in the Blues’ danger zone.

This is the reality of trying something new against a team that are masters of their craft. Chelsea’s three defenders can create holes in pressing systems much more adept than United’s. When pressured, Rudiger simply ran across the midfield. Alonso devoted himself as an impressive aerial target to ease the pressure.

But throughout the game, at least there were flashes of a high-squeeze system. Was Jorginho mishandling the ball for Sancho’s goal because of the number 25 and Rashford rushing at him with such speed? Sure is not. Instead, Thomas Tuchel assumed he was blinded by the headlights. But it feels reasonable that in other cases the Italian could be given time to correct his error as United are not so committed to pressuring the pitch.

Lingard’s pressure forces Mendy to cross a tight line so Fred can intercept

Wyscout / Sky Sports

Similarly, in the 88th minute, the energy of substitute Jesse Lingard forced Edouard Mendy to pass towards Rudiger which Fred, excellent throughout the game, spotted and robbed. Perhaps he had the headlines ringing in his brain as he went for the lavish chip instead ending United’s attack with a whimper. However, for all that their press looked a little meek and fairly easy for a top team to play through, it almost won for them in the dying moments.

Rangnick will certainly remind them of that in the coming days. Are Manchester United prepared for the arrival of Ralf Rangnick with their approach against Chelsea?


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