EPL TALK: Man United throw the dice with Ralf Rangnick hire

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  • Ralf Rangnick
    Ralf Rangnick
    German association football manager
Ralf Ragnick, who is set to take over as interim manager of Manchester United.
Ralf Ragnick, who is set to take over as interim manager of Manchester United. (PHOTO: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — How have your favourite English Premier League (EPL) teams performed over the past week? Yahoo News Singapore looks at the key talking points surrounding the league in this weekly review:

Rangnick could be masterstroke hire, or implosion waiting to happen

WHAT HAPPENED: Ralf who? It is very likely that a sizeable chunk of Manchester United fans were scratching their heads when news emerged of the person who became interim manager for the struggling English giants on Monday (29 November).

Ralf Rangnick may not be a household name in global football, but in the perennial football powerhouse nation of Germany, he is highly regarded as a visionary tactician who laid the groundwork for the high-intensity "gegenpressing" football espoused by both Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel.

That Man United have quickly finalised the 63-year-old's move from far-flung Lokomotiv Moscow - where he is currently manager of sports and development - shows how eager they are to engage his services and, once and for all, set up a proper, progressive footballing strategy amid the club for the first time since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

Indeed, they can ill-afford to fall further behind the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in terms of long-term planning for successful football, especially after the disastrous end to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure. 

Caretaker manager Michael Carrick tried to stop the rot at all costs in Sunday's EPL clash with league leaders Chelsea, putting out an ultra-defensive formation, dropping Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench, and somehow eking out a 1-1 draw.

Good result aside, Man United are crying out for some brilliant tactical mind to give their talents a direction and a structure for them to seek success. Rangnick ticks all boxes, yet there are also big question marks surrounding his impending hire.

First, the German has never coached or managed a club as massive as Man United. His biggest successes were at modest Bundesliga sides Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, who punched far above their weights due to Rangnick's style of football. Can he handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being a Man United manager?

Second, as he has never managed a big club, how will he handle the egos of the star players in United - in particular Cristiano Ronaldo, who has never been enthusiastic about pressing? Rangnick has a reputation of being a prickly character who is insistent on players following his instructions on the pitch. What will happen when stars like Ronaldo, Paul Pogba or Harry Maguire question his methods?

Third, Rangnick's appointment is only on an interim basis until the end of the season, and that could work against the implementation of his tactical ideas, with players unsure of whether to follow his plans or wait for the permanent manager. 

So while this sounds like a masterstroke hire on paper, there are pitfalls which Man United must be aware of ahead of Rangnick's appointment. It could go both ways: either Rangnick is successful in outlining a clear playing philosophy for the current United squad, or he implodes so badly that United are forced to start from square one again. 

The stakes are high. Man United have to make this management hire work.

WHAT'S NEXT: With games coming thick and fast in December, Man United completed Rangnick's hire just before Wednesday's home tie with an in-form Arsenal. They will then play another home match on Sunday against Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have two away ties this week, against struggling Watford and high-flying West Ham. Two wins and six points will be very much welcomed for the Blues as they try to fend off Man City and Liverpool atop the league table.

Seamus Coleman of Everton reacts their 0-1 defeat by Brentford in the Premier League.
Seamus Coleman of Everton reacts their 0-1 defeat by Brentford in the Premier League. (PHOTO: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Contrasting fortunes ahead of Merseyside derby

WHAT HAPPENED: Ahead of the first Merseyside derby on Wednesday, the mood in both clubs cannot be more different.

Liverpool are motoring ahead in their title bid, making easy work of Southampton in their 4-0 home win on Saturday to stay two points behind Chelsea. Last season's injury-hit title defence is but a distant memory.

Instead, it is Everton who are mired in a terrible injury crisis this season, and whatever optimism gained from their good start to the season has evaporated. Sunday's 0-1 loss to Brentford - their fifth defeat in six matches - saw frustrated fans loudly jeering the team after the final whistle.

Should the Toffees crumble at Goodison Park on Wednesday, it would put massive pressure on the tenure on manager Rafael Benitez, who is already an unpopular hire due to him being a former Liverpool boss. 

To be fair, Benitez has had to deal with debilitating injury absences to key players like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina and Abdoulaye Doucoure - the spine of an Everton team which can be enterprising at full strength. 

Yet what angered fans are the meagre resources Benitez has even after heavy transfer spending by the club since owner Farhad Moshiri arrived in 2016, and the Spaniard's reluctance on giving youngsters a go despite the injuries. 

The recent successes of their arch-rivals would only have made Everton's frustrations even deeper, and Liverpool would definitely not be in a charitable mood on Wednesday, especially since their injury woes last season began at this corresponding fixture, as robust challenges caused serious injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara.

So Everton's backs are against the wall as they host their closest rivals, and with a busy December coming up, it seems bleak for the long-suffering Toffees fans. A spirited defensive stand against Liverpool would be much welcomed.

WHAT'S NEXT: Following the Merseyside derby, Everton will face another tough opponent at home on Monday in Arsenal. An away tie against Palace is next, before they face league leaders Chelsea. Four tricky ties to negotiate amid their current slump - it doesn't get any tougher.

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