Wreck it Ralf
Manchester United rolled back the years when they paraded Raphael Varane on the Old Trafford pitch after his summer arrival but it was a contrasting reception for Ralf Rangnick’s first match as he emerged to applause from the tunnel surrounded by the backroom staff.
That in itself is refreshing. This is a man who is simply here to get to work and do a job, the perfect antidote to a club that has become obsessed by off-pitch recognition and trying to break social media with every positive announcement.
Rangnick talked the talk when he was unveiled at his press conference last week and now he is looking like he can talk the talk given how United controlled the win over Crystal Palace and held on to secure a precious three points.
There will be more memorable matches during his reign but as first impressions go United’s interim manager made the best possible start on and off the pitch.
Defensive struggles solved?
United headed into the match having conceded in 15 consecutive home games in all competitions, their second-longest ever such run, after a 21-game streak ending in March 1959.
By full-time they were celebrating three points but also their first home clean sheet of the season, a much-needed change in form given how porous their backline has been all season.
The feat is made more remarkable by the fact Raphael Varane, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw were all missing from the starting line up, though in their place fringe players showcased their importance to the new interim manager.
Five players shine under new manager
A new manager means a clean slate but Rangnick resisted any temptation to tear up his team selection which allowed a number of periphery players to get another chance.
Jadon Sancho looks the perfect fit in the new system and could soon be one of the first names on the team sheet while Fred and Scott McTominay also gave the interim manager what he wants in a high-pressing midfield.
Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles have both taken their recent chances at full-back and continued to offer plenty of attacking threat against Palace, they certainly deserve to feature more in the weeks ahead given their evidence on the pitch.
New formation suits attackers
United might have named the same side which defeated Arsenal in midweek but there was a clear difference on the pitch in regards to how they actually operated.
Rangnick opted for a 4-2-2-2 formation from the start with his four attacking players operating in an ever-changing forward line with an emphasis on player movement in order to drag the Palace defence out of position.
It looks to be a system that will not only work well with those who started on Sunday but also the likes of Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard. It should also give Edinson Cavani more opportunity to play alongside Ronaldo, when fit, a system Ole Gunnar Solskjaer briefly experimented with himself.
Work in progress
It might have been Rangnick’s first match in charge but it will take a while yet before fans are treated to his new football approach in full flow.
After only one full training session progress has been made in regards to United’s cohesion on the pitch though there are still noticeable teething issues in regards to their collective effort when pressing and positioning when out of possession.
In a different world United would have been two or three goals ahead by the break, instead they went in level and were made to work for their win in nervy circumstances throughout the second-half.
When glancing at the score sheet it would easy to dismiss Rangnick’s start as a nervy one but to win and keep a clean sheet was the stuff he had dreamed of all week.