Ralf Rangnick saw his expectations exceeded as Manchester United beat Crystal Palace on Sunday, in a game in which he noticed the first signs of his pressing style translating to their play.
Rangnick was on the touchline for the first time since becoming Man Utd’s interim manager. Despite some complications, he got off to a good start. They backed up the midweek win over Arsenal, which he watched from the stands, with another three points against Palace.
Fred scored from the edge of the box midway through the second half with what was the only goal of the game.
United have now won back-to-back games for the first time in almost three months. They also kept their first home clean sheet of the season against Palace.
Although it could have been more comfortable, the game actually went better than Rangnick was expecting. In particular, he pointed to their pressing and defensive effort as pleasing aspects – and even Cristiano Ronaldo came in for some of that praise.
Rangnick told Match of the Day: “I am very happy with the way the team performed, especially the first half hour, with the pressing, it was exceptional. The only thing missing was the 1-0 or 2-0.
“The way we defended, we had control of the whole game. The clean sheet was the most important part.
“These are the things we must improve. We need to keep clean sheets. With just the one training session, I was really impressed – we did much better than expected.
“We always tried to be on the front foot. We were never not apart from maybe the last five minutes. At all other times we were trying to keep them away from our goal.
“We wanted to play with two strikers, especially in the central position. By the way, Cristiano Ronaldo’s work off the ball, chapeau.”
Ralf Rangnick reacts to Fred goal
The match-winner was Fred, who scored with his weaker right foot to cap off an encouraging display.
Fred has split opinion at Old Trafford during his Man Utd career, but this was a sign of what he can be capable of.
Once again, the moment impressed Rangnick to a greater degree than he thought possible.
The interim boss said: “I had to ask my assistant coach if that was Fred’s right foot. I thought he could only shoot with his left. I’m happy for him.”
Next up for United is a Champions League group game against Young Boys in midweek. After that, they visit Norwich City in their next Premier League match.
The schedule is about to get busier, but Rangnick is confident they have put the foundations in place for more sustained success.
He added: “It’s always easier to build on things after you’re successful. We must produce further clean sheets and get better at creating chances for our attack.
“Overall I was very pleased with the way we played today.”