Manchester United are finding life under Ralf Rangnick more of a struggle than anticipated.
But in his opening four games in all competitions, the German still hasn’t lost with two draws and two wins to his name.
However, even though the results are on the up compared to United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the team seems to have stagnated in attack somewhat, with a lack of energy. The complete opposite to what many United fans expected when the ‘Godfather of Gegenpressing’ took over.
Four goals have been scored in four games for Rangnick at United, again, not too bad. But you would expect better when you see those games have come against Norwich City, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace, and BSC Young Boys.
A combined total of 5.6 xG over the four games shows that United aren’t taking their chances well, but this number should be much higher for a team like United. When simplifying this down to the three Premier League games, Rangnick’s side only had three goals with an xG of 4.7.
When you look at the three Premier League teams United have faced, and compare them to how they fared against United’s rivals; it becomes grim reading.
Liverpool combined for nine goals with only one conceded against them, with an xG total of 7.1. Chelsea ultimately put 13 past the trio of Norwich, Newcastle, and Crystal Palace, to the tune of 6.1 xG, and not a single goal conceded.
So what is wrong with United?
Firstly, this team still isn’t a ‘Rangnick team’. The German hasn’t had a single window to change the players within his squad and has had to deal with postponements and the temporary closure of Carrington, which will have only hindered progress.
But, some of his decisions regarding players has been baffling.
The biggest one, and arguably the most crucial one, is the lack of Luke Shaw in the team.
Rangnick has favoured Alex Telles as his starting left-back since he took over. Of course, when first taking over, Shaw was suffering from a concussion and Telles had to start.
However since his return from injury, Shaw has only played in one game under Rangnick, in the Champions League against Young Boys. Shaw was instrumental in the game, bagging an assist off a sublime cross to Mason Greenwood.
The current season hasn’t been kind to Shaw and many fans had been calling for Telles’ inclusion over him in the autumn. He seemed to be suffering from an international hangover that seemed to have hindered the majority of the players from England’s Euro 2020 squad.
But despite that poor form Shaw is still leagues ahead of Telles.
As per FBRef, if you looked at the majority of creation stats and even skewed them by using per 90 metrics, Shaw trounces Telles in chances created, assists, expected assists, passes into the final third, progressive passes, key passes, and passes into the box.
FBRef’s goal-creating actions and shot-creating actions continue with this story, with Shaw once again easily coming up on top. Telles is still yet to register a goal-creating action while making 2.09 shot-creating actions per 90.
Shaw has seven goal-creating actions to his name this season while creating 3.25 shot-creating actions per 90.
One of the biggest criticisms of Rangnick’s current system at United is their lack of creativity. With the team seeming to rely solely on Bruno Fernandes to create, the load needs to be shared.
Jadon Sancho has been helping immensely in this regard, although he was dropped for the game against Newcastle.
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But if United want to do well under Rangnick, Shaw needs to play. Players such as Angelino, Tino Livramento, Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Alphonso Davies, and Andy Robertson have thrived in systems that have fed off Rangnick’s style.
If the Rangnick style has always got the best out of full-backs in the past with different managers, why not give time to one of the best full-backs in the world now that they are healthy once again?
Hopefully, Rangnick has noticed and should give more time to Shaw in the coming weeks.
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