An admission by Gary Neville over a ‘strange’ aspect of Manchester United’s tactics for their derby defeat to Manchester City exposed one of Ralf Rangnick’s major weaknesses. Rangnick took charge of his first Manchester derby on Sunday but left the Etihad Stadium with nothing despite a spirited performance from his side.
The German was forced to deal with the absence of star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed the game with a hip flexor injury.
In Ronaldo’s place, Rangnick opted to try out a new system, with Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga playing as the forward men in a 4-2-2-2 formation.
Though United looked threatening at times, the change in formation did not provide as many attempts on goal as Rangnick may have hoped.
The Red Devils had just five shots in total, including Jadon Sancho’s first-half curling effort, as they struggled to test Ederson.
City’s early opener appeared to be a wrecking ball to Rangnick’s tactical plans, with United forced to chase the game.
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While Rangnick was dealing with the injury absences of Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani, it was a problem of his own making.
Though Rashford is more comfortable out wide, the Englishman is very much capable of playing through the middle.
The presence of a natural frontman would undoubtedly have helped the visitors, while Rashford’s pace would mean that the tactical plan would have been similar to starting Sancho and Elanga.
That decision by Rangnick to shun Rashford ultimately exposed the weakness in United’s squad of their lack of quality striker options.
Notably, the issue with creating chances continued after the break, with attempts on goal from the Red Devils being few and far between.
Much has been made of United’s decision to sign Ronaldo in the summer window, but his absence clearly had a negative impact on his side in an attacking sense.
The lack of a real striking threat allowed City to be comfortable and manage game effectively after the break.
While Rangnick may be happy with elements of United’s performance at the Etihad, striker would appear to be a huge weakness under the German.