Football: Behind-the-scenes work will be Ralf Rangnick's key contribution to Man United, says Peter Schmeichel

Manchester United German Interim head coach Ralf Rangnick during a match against Young Boys in Manchester on Dec 8, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - In the two matches he has overseen as Manchester United manager, Ralf Rangnick has already introduced a more urgent, pressing style of play. Yet the most significant change the German will bring to the club, believes Red Devils legend Peter Schmeichel, will be off the pitch.

On the sidelines of the JSSL Singapore FA Cup at Our Tampines Hub on Saturday (Dec 11), the former goalkeeper noted in a chat with The Straits Times that Rangnick has a different profile from the four previous managers that have been at the helm since long-serving manager Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013.

Rangnick, who previously managed German clubs like Schalke and RB Leipzig, was the head of sports and development at Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow before he joined United on Nov 29.

Said Schmeichel: "He has come in with a certain reputation of… how he structures a football department and how he sets up everything that we don't see on the pitch and behind the scenes, how he develops coaches as well and how he leads.

"These are all incredibly important attributes and I think it is important for Man United at this moment in time to have somebody who's good at that."

 

Former Manchester United player Peter Schmeichel conducting a goalkeeping clinic at Our Tampines Hub on Dec 11, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

After Ferguson retired, his replacements - David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked on Nov 21 - were managers in the traditional sense but struggled to replicate the Scot's success over 26 years, when he won 38 trophies that included 13 English Premier League (EPL) titles.

This is why Schmeichel believes the "new direction" for the Red Devils' backroom set-up under the guidance of Rangnick and technical director Darren Fletcher is the right way forward.

Noting the influence of the latter, the Dane, who played 398 games for United from 1991 to 1999 and won five EPL titles, three FA Cups and a Champions League crown, said: "In the last three games he (Fletcher) has been in the technical area, and I had the pleasure of being at the Arsenal game (a 3-2 win on Dec 3) and actually very close to the technical areas.

"And I was very impressed with Darren Fletcher… I never played with him but I know him quite well. And it gives me confidence that Darren's been in the decision-making (of hiring Rangnick) because I believe he will know precisely what needs to be done.

"I can hope for these changes to be implemented at the club (and) hopefully it's going in the right direction."

On Saturday morning, Schmeichel, 58, spent an hour with 10 aspiring goalkeepers aged between 12 and 16, sharing tips and practising goalkeeping drills.

"It's my first visit today in this fantastic venue," he said. "It's so great to see kids play football and kids being happy on a football pitch. We've got this wonderful tournament here - the JSSL Singapore FA Cup - and… kids are playing football, they're back on the pitch enjoying this wonderful sport and this tournament, it's an incredible event."

The JSSL Singapore FA Cup kicked off on Dec 10 and will conclude on Dec 12 with the Cup and Plate finals. A total of 144 teams of vaccinated boys and girls, aged 12 to 17, are taking part in the four-a-side tournament.

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