Manchester United are set to appoint Ralf Rangnick as interim manager.
The German coach will be handed a six-month contract at Old Trafford. At the end of the season, the Red Devils will name a permanent boss, while he will be moved upstairs to work in a consultancy role for the club for a further two years.
Rangnick is widely regarded as a football visionary. Here’s a detailed look at the 63-year-old’s coaching career and philosophy that led to him being hugely respected amongst his peers despite a lack of a football powerhouse on his CV. Although that’s going to change very soon with United.
Not that it matters, but Rangnick’s playing career was underwhelming and limited to lower league clubs, including a brief period in England.
His coaching career started at the age of 25 at his hometown club Viktoria Backnang. After spells in the lower divisions with clubs like Stuttgart II and Lippoldsweiler, his big break came 15 years later with Stuttgart in the Bundesliga.
Stuttgart got into the UEFA Cup under his reign, but a disappointing second season saw him lose the job and drop down to the second tier to manage Hannover 96. He ushered them to promotion before managing Schalke and Hoffenheim.
During his second stint, Schalke reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2011 where they lost to Sir Alex Ferguson’s United.
Rangnick’s time at Hoffenheim was equally impressive, as he took the outfit from German football’s third tier to the top division.
Reflecting on his time at the club, he told ESPN: “What we did in Hoffenheim had a lot of influence on German football. I remember in our first year in the Bundesliga in 2008 we played Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp, who came from Mainz to Dortmund, and we dominated them 4-1. It could easily have been six or seven, because we continuously pressed them for the entire game. The following week Jurgen said that this is exactly the style of football he wants to play with Dortmund in the future. During the next two years he developed his team in such an impressive manner that they managed to win two consecutive championship titles and two cups.”
In 2012, Rangnick swapped the coaching role for off the field work, becoming director of football for both Red Bull Leipzig and Salzburg. Starting the Leipzig project from the fourth tier in Germany, he established them as one of Europe’s most exciting clubs, both in terms of recruitment and playing style.
He left the the Red Bull enterprise last year and joined Lokomotiv Moscow.
The ‘football professor’ was a nickname given to Rangnick in 1998 to mock his tactical approach. However, once his ideas started to revolutionise German football, inspiring coaches like Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, and Julian Nagelsmann, the same moniker came in use to address him respectfully.
Gegenpressing, which means counter-pressing in German, is often associated with Klopp’s Liverpool, but Rangnick is the ‘godfather’ of this philosophy.
A friendly match against legendary coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy’s Dynamo Kiev in 1983 was his “football epiphany”, wherein Rangnick, for the first time, faced a team who systematically pressed.
The philosophy is ingrained in the football blueprint – a high-pressing, counter-pressing, proactive and attacking system which he has used in a career spanning nearly 40 years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought back a cultural identity at the Theatre of Dreams during his reign, and if Rangnick is given the desired control, his vision will establish a football identity and structure that United have been lacking ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.