Ralf Rangnick says he had to abandon his pressing style of play three games into his interim reign at Old Trafford after realising Manchester United’s players were not capable of carrying it out.
United face Crystal Palace on Sunday for Rangnick’s final game in charge before Erik ten Hag replaces him. It will mark the end of an underwhelming season, which could result in a seventh-place finish that would mean United playing in the Europa Conference League next season.
“We just realised that it was difficult,” Rangnick said of pressing. “We had no pre-season, we couldn’t really physically develop and raise the level of the team. I am the one who is most disappointed about that and frustrated about that.”
Rangnick believes United were unable to adapt and many players were not fit enough to play in a high pressing style – one such being Cristiano Ronaldo, who is likely to miss Sunday’s game with a hip injury. “Cristiano scored a few goals but, again, Cristiano – and I’m not blaming him at all, he did great in those games – but he’s not a pressing monster. He’s not a player – even when he was a young player – he was not a young player who was crying, shouting: ‘Hooray, the other team has got the ball, where can we win balls?’
“The same with quite a few other players so we had to make some compromises at one stage, maybe we made a few too many – that’s also possible – but, as I said, we never found the right balance between what we need with the ball and without.”
Rangnick lays plenty of blame on himself for being unable to turn things around after replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjær in December, winning 11 of his 28 matches in charge. “I’m more than self-critical,” Rangnick said. “I should have done better. I expected that me and my coaching staff could have developed this team in a more sustainable kind of way. We couldn’t and it’s not only the players who should be blamed, it should be ourselves. We all could and should’ve done better.
“But in order to play that kind of football you need all the players in their best possible positions who can play like that. You can’t blame the group here because they have not been signed on the basis of: ‘How do we want to play, do we want that kind of football?’ If you look into City or Liverpool, and the changes in the last six years, all the players signed were on the premise of ‘How does Jürgen [Klopp] or Pep [Guardiola] want to play?’ That is what has to happen in the future here.”