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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Manchester United

Dom Booth of the Manchester Evening News on The Red Devils

13 December 2021

Manchester United are sixth in the Premier League table at the time of speaking, with seven wins from their first 15 league games. What have you made of what you have seen so far?

It is difficult to give just one answer because it has been such a mixed season with the flying start, the Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured above) signing and aspirations of, maybe, a title push, which have fallen away dramatically since. Now they have got Ralf Rangnick in as interim manager until the end of the season, it feels like United are stabilising a little bit, but top four is probably the ambition now, which is a disappointment given where they were at the end of last season and the progress they seemed to be making over the previous couple of years. So it has been really inconsistent, but there’s never a dull moment covering Manchester United.

As you said, Rangnick has succeeded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager - albeit on an interim basis - and oversaw a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in his first game in charge. How excited are the fans about what is to come?

They are excited about his reputation in the game and the improvements that he will surely make, both on and off the pitch. The tactical improvement was already evident in the space of that one game and I think fans think they can realise their potential in terms of the quality they have in the squad and how they should be performing. He is known to have taken teams way beyond their ability in Germany, so there’s hope that United can put together a real, consistent run under him this season and then long-term, that he can stay in the consultancy role he will take up next summer and improve things off the pitch as well.

Ronaldo has lived up to and exceeded expectations set of him after his move to Old Trafford from Juventus. Would you say it has been the fairy tale return?

I would say both yes and no. He has provided those key moments, especially in the Champions League, and the lift he gave the club when he first arrived was incredible. His reputation as a legend is now secure with this move back and what he has done already, if he wasn’t considered one already after what he did 12 years ago and before. The constant debate around Ronaldo this season is how he fits into the style United should be playing and that Rangnick will play, but despite what the critics say, I think it has been a really good move and just given the mood at the club a massive boost.

Aside from the Portuguese, which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on on Tuesday night?

There are a few players I could say, though it depends on their form at the time and how much Rangnick will be getting out of them. Jadon Sancho will be the one I will name-check as I think he could be a player who really takes off under the new manager. We have seen flickers of it after a difficult start following his signing from Borussia Dortmund, but he is a player United wanted for a long time and, when playing at his best, he’s a really dangerous attacking player. United will want to exploit the weaknesses Brentford have at the back and with them being an open, front foot team, I think that could play into his hands.

How is Rangnick likely to set up his side in west London?

He went for a 4-2-2-2 formation against Palace and I can see him continuing with that against mid-to-lower table opposition, so I think it will be that setup on Tuesday, with Ronaldo starting alongside Edinson Cavani if he is fit, Marcus Rashford if not, with a hard-working midfield behind them.

This is the first meeting between the two sides since United ran out 2-1 winners in a League Cup tie in September 1975. What’s your score prediction for this one?

I’m quite confident that United will win, Rangnick will continue to get a better tune out of the defence and his side have the quality to score a goal or two, so I’ll go for 2-0.

Tuesday's game is live on BT Sport and around the world through the Premier League's broadcast partners.

Supporters can also listen to live Bees Player commentary with Jonathan Douglas and Charlie MacDonald joining Mark Burridge. 

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