Gegenpressing is a relatively new concept for Premier League fans – and Manchester United has never fallen victim to it.
But their new interim manager, Ralf Rangnick, has been using the high octane bullet recovery tactic since the 1980s.
In fact, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel both credit the German for inspiring their own versions of gegenpressing, which have put the Red Devils to shame this season.
If anyone can organize the deeply talented United squad into something closer to the Premier League’s elite, it’s Rangnick, the man Klopp once described as the best German manager around. .
United are the originators of heavy metal football: forward passes only and stalk the opposition like possessed players.
As well as being a revolutionary tactician, the former RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig boss understands the nuances of English football, or as we so eloquently say, rushes into it.
After all, Rangnick started his football journey playing out of the league on marshy grounds for Southwick, while studying at the University of Sussex, breaking three ribs and puncturing a lung.
Quickly giving up on his dream of turning pro, he turned to the coach at his home club, FC Viktoria Backnang.
And that’s where the 63-year-old discovered his famous philosophy, during a match against Dynamo Kiev in 1983:
Rangnick recalled once: “Dynamo Kiev, the team of legendary coach Valeriy Lobanovskyi, were staying at a nearby training center and needed easy opposition for a friendly match.
“A few minutes later, when the ball was out for a throw-in, I had to stop and count their players. Did they have 13 or 14 men in the field?
“I had played against the best teams before – we always lost to them, of course – but they had at least given you a breather every now and then. Kiev was the first team I met to squeeze. systematically the ball.
“It was my footballing epiphany. I understood that there was another way to play.
Rangnick would use his tactics across the various divisions in Germany, eventually ending up in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart in 1999.
But before that, the German would train a young Tuchel at SSV Ulm in the third division.
While Tuchel’s career as a defender was cut short by a serious knee injury at 24, his time under Rangnick has proven to be invaluable.
Rangnick recently told The Times: “Thomas has become a coach through me.
“He was my player at Ulm and had to end his career because of knee problems. I gave him a job as an under-15 coach. He didn’t even intend to be a coach, he worked in a bar in Stuttgart.
“If you look at Chelsea now, you see a mutual plan for when they have the ball or when the other team has the ball. Thomas is tactically at a very sophisticated level.
“Zsolt low [Tuchel’s No 2] was my player and assistant coach in Leipzig and plays a vital role in his team and you can see from the way he interacts with the players that Thomas has great leadership skills as well.
Rangnick had mixed success in Stuttgart, Hanover, Schalke and Hoffenheim – but it was perhaps Liverpool who profited the most from their decades in Germany.
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His Hoffenheim side hammered Dortmund from Klopp 4-1 in 2008, after which the current Reds boss said: “We have to get to where they are now.”
The two managers go back a long way – and Klopp even phoned Rangnick for advice before being appointed to Mainz in 2001.
Rangnick told Coaches Voice in 2018: “I was honored when Klopp suggested I could be the best German coach. He and I have known each other for over 20 years and we certainly like each other.
“It’s common knowledge that we have a pretty similar idea of how football should be played, and I think that’s why he said these nice things about me.
“My Hoffenheim side played against Jurgen’s Borussia Dortmund in 2008. We beat them 4-1 and Jurgen (below) said a week later, before his next game, that our style was exactly the kind football he wanted to play with Dortmund.
“In two years he had transformed the team and made them play that style of play – and ultimately there was success. They won two consecutive Bundesliga titles – in 2011 and 2012 – as well as the German Cup in 2012.
“The style we both love is very proactive football. It’s high-pressure, counter-press football with a quick and proactive counterattack.
“Success is the most important thing, but football is also about entertainment.”
English football fans will know him best for his recent work at Red Bull clubs.
Salzburg and Leipzig would thrive after the German took office as director of football in 2012, using his “three C’s” to inspire success.
“Capital is a limited success factor. Alone, it is far from sufficient. Plus the concept and the skill, if you use it right, will generate capital, ”Rangnick said.
“The three Cs go hand in hand – and the chances of real success increase if the three Cs come together. “
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has often been criticized for his lack of clear direction – and one thing is for sure: United will know exactly what to do under Rangnick.
Now it’s up to the players to make it work.
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