Wayne Rooney delivers his verdict on Ralf Rangnick's tactics

Ralf Rangnick has played a 4-2-2-2 formation for most of his Manchester United reign so far.

The German was forced to alter it for the second half of Monday evening’s 1-0 defeat against Wolves, when he matched up Bruno Lage’s men with a three-man defensive system.

The tactics saw United press the ball effectively in the first half an hour of his maiden match in charge against Crystal Palace.

But since then, United have struggled to get pressure on the ball in the way Rangnick will have hoped and expected when he took over.

Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

United’s leading scorer Wayne Rooney is now a manager himself, trying to guide Derby County to Championship survival despite the Rams being docked 21 points this season.

In an interview with the Athletic, Rooney delivered his verdict on Rangnick’s tactics and shared a concern over a potential problem which may arise.

“It had got to the point with Ole where everyone could see it was coming to an end. With the new manager now, you don’t know.

“I’m sure it’s a lot different to anywhere he has managed before. There’s a lot more pressure, managing a lot of high-profile players.

“I was at his first game against Crystal Palace and I thought they looked very good. My only concern, with that shape, was that when you come up against better teams — Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal — you could get punished.

“The most important thing is that the players need to buy into it. He needs to get them working as a group rather than as individuals.”

Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

United have not yet played any of the best sides in the country under Rangnick but Wolves are a level below that and picked the Red Devils apart at Old Trafford on Monday.

Bruno Lage explained after the game how his side were able to stop United pressing them by flooding the centre of the pitch and then using the width from the wing-backs.

The 4-2-2-2 is not the start and end of all United’s problems but it does not seem to have improved things and it is hard to see many players it is getting the best out of.

But as Rooney said, whatever Rangnick chooses to do, he needs to get the players to buy into it and it does not look like they have so far.

That is not solely the German’s fault – some players have to look at themselves first of all – but something needs to change and it remains to be seen how long Rangnick sticks with his 4-2-2-2 system.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.