Erik ten Hag will be eager to make an immediate impact at Manchester United this summer, and he may be able to do so by studying how Ralf Rangnick’s tenure began at Old Trafford.
United supporters will be hoping that Ten Hag leaves a far stronger legacy than his predecessor, but there are ideas and concepts tried by Rangnick that might play a vital role in the club’s future.
One of those alterations could be to United’s formation, namely how they might set up if they sign a new forward during the summer transfer window.
Rangnick advised his former team to sign two modern forwards in the offseason, and Ten Hag is said to agree, albeit they may only be able to sign one this summer.
If only one player can be signed in the coming months, signing a guy who can play both out wide and through the middle makes the most sense, but maybe the most exciting prospect is Benfica striker Darwin Nunez.
The 22-year-old has recently finished a great season in the Portuguese top division, scoring 34 goals in 41 games, including goals in the Champions League against Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool.
Ten Hag is also well aware of Nunez’s lethal skill in front of goal, having scored the deciding goal that knocked his Ajax side out of Europe back in March.
Nunez may be the ideal player to relieve Cristiano Ronaldo’s burden next season, and at such a young age, he could learn so much from the Portuguese and still have so many years ahead of him to help replace him once he leaves.
Nunez might not only be the ideal understudy for Ronaldo for a year, but he could also be the ideal striking partner at times.
During their time at United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Rangnick both experimented with playing with two central strikers, and both were successful.
Rangnick tested a 4-2-2-2 system as early as his first match in command when Ronaldo was joined by Marcus Rashford in a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace when Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani started as a duet.
“After the win against Arsenal, it was natural for me not to change too many positions or too many things,” Rangnick remarked after his first game in charge. “Everyone was fully fit, nobody was injured, and everyone was fully recovered, so I started playing the same starting XI.”
“The question for me was how can we establish pressure on the ball and control?” So I chose to go with a 4-2-2-2 formation with two strikers, not Cristiano alone up front, but with Marcus as well, utilizing pace for vertical balls… “I believe that every player should play in his optimum position.”
While a two-pronged assault might not be appropriate in every match, there are clearly instances in which having two lethal strikers on the field may make the difference for United next season.
Ten Hag may have arrived at Old Trafford with the intention of repeating his successful 4-3-3 system, but it is critical that he has the flexibility to change things up when his team is desperate for a goal.
Nunez might be Ronaldo’s long-term replacement as well as his short-term partner in crime.