Manchester United were brilliant against Crystal Palace during the first half of their Premier League clash at Old Trafford on Sunday but ran out of steam after the break
The German’s impact on the stuttering Premier League outfit was evident in the first half, as they delivered an intense performance.
United were full of energy, confidence and desire, putting Palace under plenty of pressure. Gegenpressing had arrived in Manchester.
In the second half, however, it was a different story. United slowed down considerably, almost costing them the game.
Palace nearly scored through Jordan Ayew and the hosts needed a stunning goal from Fred to snatch all three points.
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United ran out of steam, suggesting it could take a while for Rangnick to get his star-studded squad up to speed.
It’s a reminder, though, of the task at hand. Speaking after the match, Rangnick admitted he was surprised by his team’s intensity.
“I am very happy with the way the team performed, especially the first half hour, with the pressing, it was exceptional,” he told Match of the Day.
“The only thing missing was the 1-0 or 2-0. The way we defended, we had control of the whole game. The clean sheet was the most important part.
“These are the things we must improve. We need to keep clean sheets. With just the one training session, I was really impressed. We did much better than expected.
“We always tried to be on the front foot. We were never not apart from maybe the last five minutes. At all other times we were trying to keep them away from our goal.”
Another positive was the performance of Marcus Rashford, who was relentless down the left and made Cristiano Ronaldo’s job a lot easier.
Fred also did well in midfield. The Brazilian may not be the most talented player, but his industry and enthusiasm cannot be denied.
“United have been criticised for not pressing their opponents but the Brazilian midfielder Fred always gives everything and presses opponents all the time,” said World Cup winner Rivaldo earlier this week.
“This is the kind of mentality that all United’s players need to adopt. Rangnick’s mission will be getting his players to press higher and collectively which will approximate them to the success.”
On Sunday’s evidence, Rangnick won’t struggle to get his players to adopt his methods. His problem will be getting them to do it for 90 minutes, rather than just 45.
That is achievable, as the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel have proved. But it’s hard to guess how long it will take.
Klopp needed time at Liverpool to get his team up to scratch, finishing eighth in his first season, while Tuchel got Chelsea going within weeks of his arrival.
This is where Rangnick’s interim contract becomes a problem. Although he’s got a consultancy gig lined-up, United’s next manager may not adhere to his philosophy.
Despite these worries, the temporary boss has made a good start to his Premier League career. Sunday’s display was an improvement on the last few months.
There’s still a lot more work to do, though. Rangnick has the tools to make United competitive again but needs time.