The German will take the helm until the end of the season – but the offer of a two-year consultant job is what convinced him to heed Old Trafford’s call after rejecting an approach similar from Chelsea in January.
United still plan to continue the search for a permanent successor to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the end of the season, with Mauricio Pochettino being a prime target. But by ensuring Rangnick is linked to the club beyond his six-month interim contract, they have given themselves the opportunity to include him in that process.
The 63-year-old was already being considered a candidate for a permanent post, alongside Pochettino, Erik Ten Hag, Brendan Rodgers and Zinedine Zidane.
Although United were able to bring him in now, they intend to stick to their original plan to wait until summer to make a final decision.
But if Rangnick has a transformative effect on their campaign, it would cast doubt on Pochettino’s hopes of landing the job he has long coveted.
Solskjaer was named ahead of the former Tottenham manager in 2019 after making a spectacular start as an interim.
United already believe they’ve landed one of modern management’s greatest thinkers – and it might become impossible to let him go if he impresses.
But, as it stands, the club insist they are not looking past the end of the season and will continue their recruiting process over the next six months.
United hope to harness that expertise on the pitch, but also want it to help shape the club’s future direction after Solskjaer became the fourth manager to be sacked since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
He is unlikely to be in position for Sunday’s clash with Chelsea as he awaits a work permit, but could be in charge of Thursday’s game against Arsenal.
Pochettino, meanwhile, is hoping to strengthen his record by leading Paris St-Germain to the French title and possibly the Champions League.
The Argentine wants the United job and was supposed to be ready to leave the French giants immediately if given permission.
United were also keen on him, with Sir Alex Ferguson being one of the main supporters, but the club feared protracted negotiations with PSG would derail their season further.
They were aware of the Qatari-backed club’s response to Kylian Mbappe’s attempts to force a move to Real Madrid this summer – and did not want a repeat with Pochettino at a time when their campaign was in freefall.
The immediate priority was to stabilize the season, with Rangnick seen as the overwhelming candidate to do so.