'Professor' Rangnick to press ahead in EPL

His main task is to steady the ship at United, before his 2-year consultancy role at the club

LONDON • When Chelsea sacked Frank Lampard in January, it was Ralf Rangnick the club first turned to before settling on fellow German Thomas Tuchel.

After turning down the Blues, he then said: "I'm not an interim coach. To the media and players, you would be the four-month manager, a lame duck from day one."

The 63-year-old is, however, on the verge of accepting the position of interim manager at Manchester United until the season's end, allowing the board to take their time to find a permanent successor to the sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The key difference between the Chelsea job and the one at Old Trafford is that he will move upstairs in the summer to take on a consultancy role for two further years, giving him the power to rule over future transfers as well as have a hand in club matters.

That was not on the table at Stamford Bridge and multiple media reports yesterday said the United board is ironing out the fine details of a deal with Lokomotiv Moscow, where Rangnick is the head of sports and development.

Michael Carrick will continue as the caretaker boss for tomorrow's English Premier League away game against Chelsea.

The architect of the rise of RB Leipzig and the man widely regarded as the forebear of much of modern German football is set to land the most high-profile post of his career, albeit temporarily.

Former Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde, Lucien Favre, formerly of Borussia Dortmund, and Rudi Garcia, a French champion with Lille, were all considered.

It was Rangnick, though, who quickly emerged as the front runner, having spent much of the past decade establishing and fine-tuning the Red Bull network of clubs, taking posts at both RB Salzburg and Leipzig.

Rangnick's CV is rather modest, winning only one major honour - the 2011 German Cup with Schalke.

But he has guided Hoffenheim - essentially a village team with no history - from the lower reaches of German football into the Bundesliga, helped turn Salzburg into regulars in the Champions League and Leipzig into one of the most consistent clubs in Germany.

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To many, Rangnick is the godfather of the German pressing game, also known as gegenpressing, that now permeates most top-level European football.

Despite never ending up at one of the big clubs, his nickname in Germany, "The Professor", represents his ability to implement convincing tactical strategies.

Pundits believe Rangnick can be the man to not only steady the ship at United but also play a guiding role in shaping transfer policy and youth development when he takes on his consultancy role.

Gary Lineker tweeted it was "a smart appointment", while former Leicester defender Christian Fuchs, who played under Rangnick at Schalke, told the BBC of his ability to transmit ideas quickly.

"He has a very clear philosophy of how he wants to play, the idea of coaching and pressing and that will never change," Fuchs said.

"He knows exactly what he wants and he will also demand from these players to stick together and work hard together."

The likes of Ajax's Erik ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino are the most convincing contenders for the full-time role, but any attempt to lure either to United is likely to be rebuffed, at least initially.

On the rampant speculation surrounding Paris Saint-Germain coach and former Tottenham boss Pochettino, who is reportedly unhappy in the French capital, PSG's sporting director Leonardo yesterday said: "I think it's important to clarify the situation given the amount of false information circulating.

"Mauricio Pochettino is under contract with the club until 2023. We don't want Pochettino to leave. He's never asked to leave and no club have contacted us in relation to him."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2021, with the headline 'Professor' Rangnick to press ahead in EPL. Subscribe