'The standout candidate' - Why Man Utd hired Rangnick as interim manager over Valverde and Favre

Global Football|November 30, 2021

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Shortly before 9.30am on March 10, it was clear that some big news was about to come out of Manchester United. 

At midday, confirmation came that the club had hired their first football director. Among all the names that had been linked with the inaugural appointment, the man who took the job had not really been mentioned. 

John Murtough was a relative unknown to those outside of the walls of Old Trafford and Carrington. 

Google searches of his name went through the roof in the hours following his appointment. And while match-going supporters knew nothing of Murtough – or his background at the club – key people at other clubs had already become acquainted with him. 

Since the 2018-19 season, Murtough has been touring around Europe introducing himself to top football figures. That is how he first met Ralf Rangnick at RB Leipzig. 

The pair got on well and that helped in negotiations when United got in touch with the 63-year-old over the interim manager position last weekend. 

Having made the decision to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the Saturday night following the Premier League defeat to Watford, the conversation turned to a shortlist of managers to take charge on an interim basis. 

It was deemed unlikely that the club could get their first-choice, permanent appointment midway through the season. An experienced coach to see them through until the end of the current campaign before bringing in someone else was, therefore, the most suitable option. 

It is understood there was a shortlist of five names for the interim job, and conversations, driven by Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher, were held with Ernesto Valverde and Lucien Favre. Rangnick, though, was top of their list. 

Among the five candidates, another of which was Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui, there were "a couple of very good" options, according to sources, but Rangnick was the standout during the interview process. 

The United board were impressed with Rangnick’s clear plans about how to get the team out of the slump they had found themselves in. 

The German was persuaded to take the role after conversations were held to give him a two-year consultancy position once his contract as interim manager is up in the summer. 

It is understood that on Sunday he had initial reservations about moving from Lokomotiv Moscow, where he was said to be happy, to come for a temporary position. However, the opportunity to be involved behind the scenes appealed to the former Hoffenheim boss.

Sources say it was Ed Woodward pushing that consultancy role as he believes Rangnick’s "unbelievable knowledge and experience" will be key in helping those at board level. 

Woodward is still expected to officially step down as executive vice-chairman at the end of this year but it is possible he, too, could be available in an advisory capacity. 

It is expected that Richard Arnold, current group managing director, will take over from Woodward but he does not have a football background and the hope is that Rangnick’s extensive football knowledge will be hugely beneficial. 

Rangnick is expected to be involved in the conversations being held over who should come in to replace him as permanent manager, with Mauricio Pochettino the current first choice. For now, though, his sole focus is improving things on the pitch. 

Michael Carrick’s decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo against Chelsea on Sunday led to suggestions that Rangnick was already having an influence.

Carrick, and club sources, denied that was the case and the suggestion that Rangnick was giving Fletcher advice through an earpiece was also shut down. Fletcher was actually communicating with analysts who were sitting higher up in the stand at Stamford Bridge. 

Rangnick is set to bring a "small number" of his own staff with him but the core group of coaching staff at the club will remain the same.

Carrick, Kieran McKenna and Mike Phelan are all expected to stay in their roles with Carrick continuing to lead the team until Rangnick’s work permit is approved by the UK government. 

Whether that happens before United face Arsenal at Old Trafford on Thursday night remains to be seen. 

However, even if he does manage to make it into the dugout for that fixture, it is likely that fans will have to wait a little longer to see the impact of the plans and philosophies he impressed with in his interview. 

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