As the German battles to turn things around at Old Trafford, speculation over who would replace Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season has increased in recent weeks.
Mauricio Pochettino, the current manager of Paris Saint-Germain, and Erik ten Hag, the manager of Ajax, are the two names on everyone’s lips.
However, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s name was put into the mix this weekend as Southampton won the tactical battle against Manchester United in their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
On BT Sport, Glen Hoddle said of the Saints manager taking over at United: “Wouldn’t that be a good fit? If they’ve worked so closely together, and if he’ll eventually be the sporting director, it works for me.
“Southampton will want to keep him, of course, because he’s doing a fantastic job with the guys he’s got there. He’s doing a fantastic job. It would make sense if he desired it.”
Paul Scholes, a former Manchester United midfielder, added: “It hadn’t occurred to me until Glen suggested it in the last ten or fifteen minutes. When I watch that interview, I notice a bond between them.
“He was the right pick at the right time for Leipzig as a sporting director, and he did excellently, and I’ve always loved him. I’ve always thought his playing at Southampton, with a not-so-stellar squad, was underwhelming. They’ve had success with this style of play. His teams have been entertaining to watch, and I believe that comes over really well.
“This would be a different type of pressure; I believe people around the club, particularly fans, are thinking more of Pochettino or Antonio Conte and what people have been at the bigger clubs.
“The more I think about it, the less I believe it would be a horrible thing. He looks nice the way he goes about his work.”
Rangnick, who is moving upstairs at United at the conclusion of the season to act as a consultant for two years, knows Hasenhuttl well, as Hoddle mentioned.
Under Rangnick, Hasenhuttl established himself as a great manager at RB Leipzig.
Following Leipzig’s promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in club history with Rangnick at the helm in 2016, the German stepped down and was replaced by Hasenhuttl.
Rangnick chose Hasenhuttl for his football philosophy; the Austrian prefers a high-energy, high-pressing style of play – the sort Man United aspires to play and the type that defeated them on Saturday.
Using Rangnick’s 4-2-2-2 configuration, which Hasenhuttl has used at times this season at United, Hasenhuttl constructed an ingenious approach that saw his team starve the opponents of space.
His system relied heavily on the two full-backs, who were continually running down the flank to extend the pitch.
Leipzig was unbeaten in their first 13 Bundesliga games under Hasenhuttl, a record for a newly promoted Bundesliga team, and finished the season top of the Bundesliga after match-week 11.
When the job at Bayern Munich became available in 2017, Hasenhuttl’s name was inextricably tied to it.
“Ralph could coach any team in the world,” Rangnick claimed of the Austrian at the time in an interview with Sport Bild.
“The question is whether or not he wants to do it. There’s no reason to get off the train here at Leipzig right now. Not for our athletes or our personnel, which includes me.”
Rangnick’s admiration for Hasenhuttl hasn’t waned in the years afterward, with the United manager praising his pal ahead of this weekend’s showdown at Old Trafford.
“I’ve known [Hasenhuttl] for six or seven years, and he’s grown in those years,” Rangnick added.
“You can see what he did at Southampton, but he also did well at Leipzig, finishing second in the first year of the Bundesliga and sixth in the second. What he’s accomplished at Southampton is fantastic, simply fantastic. Excellent trainer.”
It remains to be seen whether Hasenhuttl is a true contender for the United post, but with Rangnick moving into a consulting role, there are worse managers he could have working for him.
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