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Ronaldo follows Manchester United’s plan to press and earns interim manager Ralf Rangnick’s admiration

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Manchester United goalkeepr David De Gea chats with interim manager Ralf Rangnick during the game against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Manchester United goalkeepr David De Gea chats with interim manager Ralf Rangnick during the game against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Manchester United goalkeepr David De Gea chats with interim manager Ralf Rangnick during the game against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Ralf Rangnick admitted he was “positively surprised” by Manchester United’s performance and lauded Cristiano Ronaldo’s work off the ball after hailing a “perfect” start as interim manager.

Rangnick had been given an early introduction to the Manchester weather after having to cut short his only training session on Saturday due to the “disgusting” rain and wind.

But he was impressed by the intensity of United’s football and the way they carried out his instructions after having barely 60 hours to prepare for his first match in charge against Crystal Palace following Thursday’s 3-2 win over Arsenal.

“I must admit I was a bit surprised, because not only did we play Thursday, a late kick-off, we had two days less to recover compared to Crystal Palace and we had not even a full training session yesterday because it was 45 minutes,” Rangnick said.

“It was pouring. It was not just Manchester weather – it was disgusting.

“It was heavy rain, windy, so it was almost impossible to train in a concentrated and focused manner, but they still did it in those 45 minutes on the pitch.

“We explained how we wanted to play and the rest was video footage, a lot of personal conversations with players, individually, in groups, explaining to them how we want to play. I didn’t expect them to play at that level after such a short time.”

The German added: “I’m more than happy. I was positively surprised by the physical state and intensity. The first half-hour was amazing. I felt it was an extremely high tempo, high intensity, always on the front foot. The only thing missing in the first half-hour was not scoring one, two or three goals.

“For me, it was clear you cannot play the whole game, 90 minutes, at this level of intensity, but even after that we had control of the game. The second half we started again well and, in the end, we deserved to win.

“I’m more than happy with a clean sheet, a beautiful goal with his weak right foot by Fred. It was about gaining control and we had control most of the time. It was a perfect first game for us to play.”

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Marcus Rashford played centrally alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in a 4-2-2-2 system and Rangnick made a point of praising the Portugal forward’s work off the ball.

Questions have been asked about how Rangnick plans to accommodate Ronaldo in a pressing system but the five-time World Player of the Year’s performance served as a riposte to those who criticise his work-rate and earned a special mention from his manager.

“By the way, what Ronaldo did today ‘against the ball’ – chapeau,” Rangnick said.

Rangnick said he planned to celebrate, but admitted there was no time to dwell on the victory.

Asked how he would celebrate, the former RB Leipzig coach said: “Maybe a good dinner and a glass of red wine. Tomorrow 9am (we are back training), so not much time to celebrate.”

United face Young Boys in the Champions League at Old Trafford on Wednesday, having already qualified for the knockout stages as the group winner, and Rangnick said he was planning to make changes.

“I don’t know if we will play a completely new 10 players but it’s definitely possible we could play with some new players,” he said.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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