Ralf Rangnick will look to steady Manchester United’s ship when his work visa clears and he’s able to take the reins for a top-four Premier League push.
Given the talent at Old Trafford and the fixture list ahead, United should be favored to enter 2022 in a top-four position. United hosts Arsenal on Thursday before meeting Palace, Young Boys, Norwich City, Brentford, Brighton, Newcastle, and Burnley.
[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]
And that matters in a big way as United attempts to lure a big name like Mauricio Pochettino or Erik ten Hag to the red side of Manchester for the 2022-23 season. After all, it would seem unlikely any top mind leaves a Champions League club for Europa League.
Rangnick has been far from a stickler to formation during stints at RB Leipzig, Schalke, and Hoffenheim, but it seems likely that his last run at Leipzig is the one to eye with expectation.
[ MORE: Messi, Putellas win Ballons d’Or ]
Leipzig opted for a 4-4-2 with a pair of holding midfielders in most of the big games down the stretch of the 2018-19 season, including Rangnick’s German Cup Final loss to Bayern (that featured USMNT midfielder Tyler Adams in one of the aforementioned mid roles).
But a 4-4-2 with a diamond was also a favorite of his, though he’s a chameleon and would deploy 3-5-2, 5-3-2, and 4-3-3 at times.
So, all that said, we’re predicting that the lineup Rangnick trots out most weeks will look like a 4-3-3 on paper. There will be plenty of demands for players to track back and make it look like a 4-5-1 at times.
So… how will Manchester United lineup under Ralf Rangnick?
Let’s assume that Raphael Varane is back to full health for this scenario.
No manager is going to roll into town and bench a man with five Ballons d’Or, so expect Cristiano Ronaldo to get every chance to thrive as a starter.
Ronaldo, it must be mentioned, has spent some time as a left wing in the Portugal team set-up over the past year and perhaps he could work in a two-man front line with Marcus Rashford on occasion.
This is where it gets sticky for Rangnick, who has no choice but to play Bruno Fernandes at attacking midfielder. Besides perhaps Varane, no single player has meant so much to United since Wayne Rooney post-Ronaldo.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s biggest failing was his inability to properly utilize Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek and it will be hard for those players and Ronaldo to all see the field (There’s Edinson Cavani, too. And Mason Greenwood. Good luck, Ralf).
Perhaps the biggest question mark is whether Rangnick, who loves a rampaging full back, will choose for Alex Telles over Luke Shaw or opt for safety given the attacking forces ahead of the backline.
Accounting for the returns of Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane in parentheses, here’s how Rangnick seems most likely to line United up (keeping in mind that there’s a role for Nemanja Matic in a Rangnick world).
Wan-Bissaka — (Varane) Lindelof — Maguire — Shaw
(Pogba) Van de Beek — McTominay
Sancho — Fernandes — Rashford