The pair are said to have had a two-hour talk, and Rangnick’s insider info on the Manchester United dressing room could prove invaluable to new manager Ten Hag
The writing was on the wall from the moment Erik ten Hag arrived at Old Trafford with regard to Ralf Rangnick’s future in a ‘consultancy role’ for Manchester United.
‘ETH’ made it quite clear in his debut press conference he saw little value in the German having any meaningful say over transfers, tactics or training in any over-arching role. In any case, football director John Murtough was not naïve enough to hand the effective power of his role to someone else.
Yet while Rangnick’s consultancy will turn out to be two hours, rather than two years – the length of the phone call between Rangnick in Germany and Ten Hag in Amsterdam, as reported by The Telegraph – it could yet prove invaluable to the new boss.
Rangnick afforded unique insight into squad mentality
It is when things are going badly that real insight is gained, and plenty of the players at United let their guard drop believing the German was not going to have a bearing on their future. Several knew they were on their way at the end of the season with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani all at the end of their contracts.
With the honorable exceptions of Mata and Matic, the returns from those players declined under Rangnick. Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones and Dean Henderson (who had David De Gea in his way) were all massively underused by Rangnick, who was unimpressed with what they could offer.
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Who passed the test?
David De Gea, Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Elanga, Scott McTominay, Fred, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw will have been given positive mentions by Rangnick with all of the above maintaining tough and good attitudes to training and playing.
Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot, for all that they have at times looked vulnerable defensively or simply below the standard required, were used extensively by Rangnick. But the outgoing boss was frustrated with the ability of several players to maintain their levels.
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Strength and conditioning … or strength of character?
Rangnick felt the squad was too soft with not enough players ready to run through the pain barrier. Raphael Varane formed one half of the most effective central defensive partnership, but was frequently ill or injured meaning he was unable to string together a sustained run of games.
While Rangnick will be ready to give France international the benefit of the doubt, he will not have been feeling as generous to Cavani who he felt was too quick to pass himself off as unfit during a miserable final year of his contract. Rangnick made it quite clear he felt the number of injuries which hit his side needed further investigation.
Despite hailing the quality of strength and conditioning and medical departments, he questioned why United had so many injuries compared to Liverpool and Manchester City who were active in more competitions.
The most fascinating part of Rangnick’s two-hour briefing to Ten Hag will have concerned Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford, who the manager believed were suffering confidence issues which can be overcome.
Maguire had a miserable season compounded by suggestions he had not seen eye to eye with Ronaldo leading to rifts in the squad. But Rangnick felt there was a better player in there who just had not shown it.
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Similarly Rashford frequently dazzled with his training performances but flopped on the pitch, and appeared to need a new arm around the shoulder. Neither have become bad players overnight and Rangnick is likely to have suggested as much to Ten Hag.
Donny van de Beek, who was underused and shipped out on loan, was a player Rangnick did not fancy but is another who could benefit from a familiar face and an arm of support. Ten Hag and the midfielder were successful together at Ajax albeit with different players alongside him.