A Glimpse Into Ralf Rangnick’s Career
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Almost halfway into the Premier League season, renowned club Manchester United FC has been struggling. Club manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær had difficulty adapting to the team’s grueling set of fixtures, winning only one out of seven league games in the span of two months. After the team suffered a 4-1 defeat against Watford FC on November 20, the club’s board of directors held an emergency meeting and parted ways with Solskjær. Immediately, German manager Ralf Rangnick, a name unfamiliar to the English crowd, was put on United’s shortlist. Many have voiced their doubts about a manager who has yet to receive any huge silverware at the club level, but a few weeks into his appointment, Rangnick has already been able to organize the team as a cohesive unit. As a result, he has been well-received by pundits and fans alike.
Rangnick was born on June 29, 1958, in Backnang, West Germany. He began his playing career at VfB Stuttgart and went on to play for clubs concentrated in the lower-tier German leagues. Though his career as a player was short-lived, he was noted for his strategic mindset during soccer matches. He started his coaching career during the 1980s, initially with his hometown team Viktoria Backnang, and worked his way up the amateur-tier leagues. He was sought after by his former club, SSV Ulm, in January 1997 and led Ulm to win the third-tier Regionalliga Süd Championship before being promoted to the top-tier German Bundesliga. There, Rangnick began to establish a name for himself.
Rangnick eventually became first team coach of VfB Stuttgart during the summer of 1999. He helped the club go far in European ambitions, winning the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2000, but he was dismissed a year later after a poor league performance. For the following few years, Rangnick managed the Bundesliga and Bundesliga clubs and achieved successive promotions to the top-tier league, an amazing accomplishment for someone who went from coaching in the lower leagues to leading his squad at the top of the competition.
Rangnick became the director of football for Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg and German club RB Leipzig in 2012. His appointment was crucial for the growth of the clubs, with both playing in the Europa League and Champions League. Rangnick later resigned as director of football of Red Bull Salzburg, opting to manage only RB Leipzig. He helped the team qualify for the Champions League in 2018 with a third place finish in the Bundesliga. “Just to put things into perspective, the club was founded in 2009 and won three promotions in five years. Since 2012, it has secured its place in the top-tier Bundesliga and has continuously participated in Champions League, even making a semifinal in 2020. It is something truly rare and extraordinary,” Rangnick said, explaining his successes at RB Leipzig in recent years.
Throughout his experience as a player-coach, manager, and football director, Rangnick has been regarded as the “godfather” of modern German football. He is widely known for creating a football strategy called “gegenpressing,” which encourages players to immediately win back possession after losing the ball. Many of his teams are recognized for their high pressing output and attacking mindset. He was also one of the first coaches to publicize soccer tactics in broadcasts and interviews, earning him the nickname “the football professor.”
Flash forward to his appointment to Manchester United, and it seems that Rangnick has started to adjust to life in England. After receiving his permit on December 2, Rangnick finally joined the club, initially as an interim manager until the end of the season, after which he will stay in the club’s consultancy role for a further two years. Rangnick’s first match at United was a 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace, which is United’s first clean sheet at home since March. Many pundits praised United’s performance in this game, claiming that Rangnick has been able to rejuvenate the Red Devils. After the game, Rangnick himself was exuberant. “The way we defended, we had control of the whole game, the clean sheet was the most important part,” he said. “These are the things we must improve. We need to keep clean sheets. With just the one training session, I was really impressed. We did much better than expected.”
Considering Rangnick’s sizable experience, it’s no surprise that Manchester United chose to appoint him as manager. Though the club currently has a considerable amount of problems within the team, including player selection and team chemistry issues, Rangnick is the man to fix these issues and lead the Red Devils to glory. Only time will tell how he will fare in Manchester, but his appointment was certainly the right decision for the club.