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Friday, May 20, 2022

What problems must Ralf Rangnick and Manchester United address in January?

Ralf Rangnick has only been at Manchester United a matter of weeks, but the German coach is already shaping the club in his own image. Hired to straighten out United’s 2021/22 season, with the Old Trafford side currently sitting in seventh place in the Premier League table at the time of writing, he has a number of key decisions to make in the January transfer window.

Somewhat unusually, Rangnick is building for the future despite only being interim Manchester United manager until the end of the season, with the 63-year-old set to stay on in a consultancy role. Here are five things Rangnick must address next month to get his new team on the right track again.

Sign a central midfield anchor

There is an obvious hole in Manchester United’s squad. While Rangnick has world class options in most areas of the pitch, he is lacking in central midfield, where United need a midfield anchor to give them structure and balance. If the Old Trafford club is to enter the transfer market for a player in January, it will surely be someone in this position.

Amadou Haidara and Tyler Adams, both of whom Rangnick knows well from his time at RB Leipzig, have been linked with United. Declan Rice is also believed to be a long-term target although with West Ham fighting for a top-four spot, a January move for England international might not be realistic. Whether or not Rangnick can find the right figure to anchor his team could determine the success or failure of his time at Old Trafford.

Sell Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard

Anthony Martial’s agent made clear his client’s desire to leave Manchester United, with Philippe Lamboley stating the French winger “just needs to play.” First team opportunities this season have simply been few and far between. Jesse Lingard is another expected to be on his way out of Old Trafford after playing a peripheral role in the first half of the season.

While Lingard and Martial are valuable assets, United have already botched the opportunity to sell the former for a sizable fee in the summer. There has been much focus on Manchester United’s transfer strategy in terms of players coming into the club, but they must also improve in selling on players to raise funds.

Make a final decision on Paul Pogba’s future

Almost from the moment Paul Pogba returned to Manchester United in 2016, there has been speculation over his future at the club. Now, the Frenchman is into the final six months of his contract and United have a decision to make – do they continue their efforts to sign Pogba to an extension or entertain offers for the midfielder?

United are well-stocked for central midfield options and so they could get by without Pogba in the short-term, at least until the end of the season. Even if there are no transfer offers for the 28-year-old, Manchester United can’t waste any more time being distracted by the talk around Pogba’s future. They must make a final decision and stand by it.

Test Atletico Madrid’s determination to keep Kieran Trippier

Rangnick’s 4-2-2-2 system is dependent on the full backs to provide width. This has already seen Diogo Dalot jump in front of Aaron Wan-Bissaka with the former a more natural attacker than the latter, but Manchester United might wish to find a higher calibre option in January. Kieran Trippier would fit the bill.

United’s interest in Trippier is already established after their failed move for the England international in the summer. Trippier will be out of contract at the end of the season, meaning Atletico Madrid might be open to cashing in on the right back while they still can. Rangnick would be wise to push through a transfer for a player who would offer his team the extra punch it needs.

Lay the groundwork for the summer window

Transfers can be difficult to conduct mid-season; Rangnick’s time might be best used laying the groundwork for the summer when Manchester United will stand a better chance of getting the players they need. After all, Rangnick will play a key role in guiding transfer strategy once his role as interim manager ends.

In the past, United have been guilty of acting impulsively in the transfer market. Rangnick has been hired to straighten out the club’s long-term future and the six months between now and the end of the season, even if no signings are actually made, will be crucial to this process.

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