Manchester United: Ralf to the rescue
The worst kept secret in football is now out of the bag, with Manchester United having confirmed Ralf Rangnick as their new coach until the summer.
After sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last Sunday, the Red Devils installed former midfielder Michael Carrick as a caretaker but insisted in a statement that they were looking "to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season".
Laurent Blanc, who played for the club between 2001 and 2003, was mentioned, as was two-time La Liga winning, former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.
However, after receiving a work permit, Rangnick will now leave his position as head of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow to take charge of the United first team for the next six months, before heading upstairs to take up a consultancy role for at least the next two years.
Premier League move a long time coming
The 63-year-old will be a familiar name to most English football fans, mainly down to the fact that he has reportedly previously turned down most of the Premier League's big boys.
Chelsea are thought to have approached him at least once to take over mid-season, while there have also been previous flirtations with the FA. He has been linked with both a coaching role, missing out to Sam Allardyce in 2016, as well as holding talks over an advisory position.
Now he'll be the man with the responsibility of saving United's season, with them currently eighth in the standings.
So who is this German coach with such a fine reputation? What is his background?
Well, like many of his compatriots who are leading lights in the coaching game, Rangnick's playing career was not a celebrated one. However, his tactical and strategic nous was identified early on and he also combined his playing exploits with academia, including spending a year studying at the University of West Sussex.
Rangnick was patient in developing his methods and building his reputation, with his first notable success seeing him lead Stuttgart to the Intertoto Cup in 2000, before guiding Hannover to the 2.Bundesliga title in 2001/02.
However, it was at Hoffenheim where he really came to the fore. Given a blank canvas to work from, he built them up from a Regionalliga Süd outfit to Bundesliga contenders.
Using video analysis and what was then a unique pressing style, Die Kraichgauer rose through the ranks, but that period clearly took its toll as he stepped down at next club Schalke just months after claiming the DFB-Pokal.
Next up for Rangnick was a spell working across the Red Bull collection of clubs. After being employed as Director of Football at Salzburg, he took the reins at sister outfit Leipzig in 2015.
Ralph Hasenhuttl took over the following summer, but our hero kept his eye on the ball, overseeing recruitment and after Hasenhuttl's departure in 2018, was back in the dugout.
The 63-year-old led Die Roten Bullen to third in the Bundesliga and lost out in the DFB-Pokal final to Bayern Munich, coaching a team that included recent Liverpool arrival Ibrahima Konate and Chelsea's Timo Werner.
What will he bring to Old Trafford?
As alluded to above, Rangnick is arguably the pioneer of the Gegenpress and there is a hint of irony about the fact that his trademark tactical approach's best proponent, Jurgen Klopp, has enjoyed great success at United's biggest historical rivals, Liverpool.
In fact, four of their players, Joel Matip (Schalke), Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim), Naby Keita and Sadio Mane (RB Salzburg), first emerged under his guidance.
He was also the man who gave Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel his first youth coaching job, taking him on at Ulm when his playing career was cut short by knee problems.
After the chopping and changing since Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to retire in 2013, bringing in someone like Rangnick suggests the club's owners are back thinking about the long-term football-side of the business.
Rangnick wouldn't have taken the job without certain guarantees and he is likely to be given the chance to shape the club both on and off the pitch, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s omission from Sunday's 1-1 draw at Chelsea suggesting he is already plotting for the future.
Yes, the allure of working at Manchester United retains a romantic edge, but he is also a pragmatist who knows it takes time to build success.
Last Tuesday's 2-0 win over Villarreal means United are into the last last-16 of the Champions League, with a game to spare. Rangnick's undeniable goal between now and when he is expected to head upstairs, is to ensure his new employers are in Europe's top club competition next season, by either winning this term's tournament, or finishing in the top four of the Premier League.
As of writing, they sit eighth in the table and need to turn their form around having won just one of their last eight Premier League games, claiming just five of the last 24 available points.
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