Ralf Rangnick, the manager of Manchester United, praised Diego Simeone, the coach of Atletico Madrid, for turning the Spanish champions into “one of the most recognised” in Europe.
Simeone took over as Atletico Madrid coach in 2011 and has led the club to two La Liga crowns, two Europa League victories, and two Champions League finals, all of which they lost to city rivals Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016.
Last season, Atletico won their second title, but they are currently sixth in La Liga, 15 points behind leaders Real, after losing at home to Levante last week.
On the eve of United’s first European Cup match against Atletico, Rangnick waxed lyrical about the club’s identity under Simeone, despite Atletico’s troubles this season. “He won titles with a strong identity, with an identifiable playing style during those 11 years, and I don’t think that has altered in the recent years,” Rangnick added.
“There’s always an emotional side to everything, and that reflects the manager’s personality.” Diego Simeone is perhaps one of Europe’s most emotional managers, and his team’s style and performance have always reflected the feelings he strives to instil in them.
“And that’s the point: we have to match the emotions and energy in both games, and that’s what we’ll have to keep in mind.” I’ll do my best to prepare our squad for such a challenge.
“It’ll be physical, emotional, and we’ll have to be psychologically tough in both games, especially away.” I’ve never had the opportunity to play against him, but I’ve always respected what he’s accomplished in 11 years.
“He completely transformed Atletico into one of Europe’s most renowned clubs, and I’m looking forward to those two games we’re playing.”
In the mid-2010s, Atletico Madrid reached the Champions League’s last four three times in four seasons, whereas United has not advanced past the last eight since their final campaign in 2011, when they crushed Rangnick’s Schalke side in the semi-finals.
United has been thrown out of the competition three times in the last decade, reaching the quarter-finals only once under David Moyes in 2014 and once under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when he was still interim manager in 2019.
Rangnick admitted that United’s poor record was perplexing, but he claimed that second-tier clubs in Germany, like as Schalke and previous European Cup winners Hamburg, had pedigree worthy of the last four.
“We also have to be realistic; there must be some reasons why this wasn’t the case previously,” Rangnick added. “We shouldn’t be too concerned with what happened in the last seven or eight years; the future is in the present tense, as is everyday life.”
“We have a chance to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals, but we need to show that we are ready for it and that we can beat Atletico Madrid. If we can achieve that, it will give us another boost, it will boost the players’ confidence, and then we’ll see what happens.”
“To argue that a team like Manchester United should be in the Champions League semi-finals on a regular basis, I can think of other clubs in Europe where this should also be the case.” Some of them compete in the second tier. I could name three or four clubs in Germany where this is the situation.”