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red revival Manchester United's five-point plan to get their confidence back up to speed


Ralf Rangnick needs to help Harry Maguire rebuild his confidence. Photo: Getty Images

Ralf Rangnick needs to help Harry Maguire rebuild his confidence. Photo: Getty Images

Ralf Rangnick needs to help Harry Maguire rebuild his confidence. Photo: Getty Images

1. Address Maguire’s form and keep Varane fit

Harry Maguire missed Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea through suspension after his sending-off against Watford marked a new low in a calamitous five weeks for the Manchester United captain. There were signs of improvement in the midweek Champions League win over Villarreal and Ralf Rangnick will need to restore Maguire’s confidence ahead of a hectic period as he eyes a top-four Premier League finish and European qualification.

Raphael Varane has missed all but two of United’s past nine matches during this woeful run and his absence has been keenly felt. The Frenchman is due back soon and Rangnick, who has long prided himself on a strong injury prevention record, will hope to keep his best centre-half fit for the remainder of the campaign.

After the 2018-’19 season with RB Leipzig, Rangnick said: “In top-class football it’s about avoiding injuries and about precautionary treatments so that injuries don’t happen at all.

“In the last three weeks of our season, after 56 competitive games, we didn’t have a single injured player. This was due to the massive job all our physios and the whole medical department had done.”

2. Reinvigorate Solskjaer outcasts

Despite Solskjaer’s demands for a big squad, his reluctance to rotate, even as results and performances nosedived, bred resentment among players who were under the firm impression last summer that they would get more playing time. Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Eric Bailly are among those who will now hope for more opportunities.

3. Maximise Sancho, Greenwood and Rashford

United have three of England’s most exciting attacking talents in Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford but they were all stagnating under Solskjaer. Having been well schooled in pressing football by Borussia Dortmund and the patterned play of Manchester City before that, Sancho should be the obvious beneficiary of Rangnick’s structured approach and he will inherit a player who has flickered into life with two goals in as many games over the past week.

Rashford has, for some time, looked in need of a coach who can maximise his pace and power and smooth his rough edges, Greenwood the direction and discipline to help unlock his extraordinary potential.

4. Harness Ronaldo’s talents

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Michael Carrick’s decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo against Chelsea has only intensified the debate about how Rangnick, a staunch advocate of a high-energy, intense pressing game, plans to accommodate the Portuguese, even if Sunday’s omission had nothing to do with the new interim manager.

At 36, Ronaldo cannot play every match but any omission is likely to generate headlines given his standing in the game, goal output (10 in his first 15 matches) and the pressure to play a man signed on a £40 million annual contract.

Solskjaer never established a cohesive framework that allowed Ronaldo to flourish while giving United a platform to defend and attack and Rangnick will be tasked with finding a swift solution.

5. Decide on his staff

Rangnick is expected to bring a small number of staff with him, although Lars Kornetka will not be joining him as the video analyst has replaced him as head of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow.

Rangnick will review the credentials of Carrick and the army of other staff, although they are expected to stay for now.

Carrick has done a solid job of steadying the ship but it remains to be seen if Rangnick is happy working with such a large backroom team. Carrick sidestepped the question on Friday when asked whether the plan was for him and the others to continue under Rangnick. Mike Phelan, Solskjaer’s No 2, and Martyn Pert, an assistant coach, would appear the most vulnerable to any changes down the line.

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