Scott McTominay’s header was enough for Manchester United to beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup, but concerns remain over the direction of the Red Devils under Rangnick.
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The hands-on approach of Manchester United interim boss Ralph Rangnick to his team appears to be paying off, despite Premier League top scorer Alan Shearer doubting their quality.
Rangnick has only lost one of his six games since replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in late November, but the Red Devils’ performances are mostly underwhelming.
That trend continued on Monday night when United played host to Aston Villa in the third round of the FA Cup, which Rangnick’s side won by a small margin thanks to an early header from Scott McTominay.
But Villa were the best side for most of the game at Old Trafford, and were unlucky not to score even one goal, with David de Gea making a series of impressive saves.
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McTominay’s goal came second in his last three games in all competitions, scoring the first goal against Burnley in the Premier League.
The strike means that he has scored as many goals in his last three matches as he has scored in the previous 39 matches.
McTominay’s reshaping in front of goal also suggests that Rangnick is finally making progress in his training.
The Scottish midfielder has started all but one of United’s games under Rangnick, but the German has occasionally expressed his displeasure with McTominay’s tendency to pass sideways.
“They [McTominay and Fred] made one or two or three mistakes, especially in the first half there were two square passes – one from Scott, one from Fred, ”Rangnick said after beating Crystal Palace.
“I don’t like balls like that in midfield in such positions. But in general, when the other team is in possession of the ball, Fred and Scotty are almost perfect for that kind of football. “
McTominay also praised Rangnick for his “solid” instructions that helped him get better under the German leadership.
“Virtually every team in the Premier League is pressing the center of the pitch with maximum intensity,” the Scotsman told Sky Sports in December.
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“His idea in this regard is that most of the returns leading to goals are likely to be through midfield, possibly small passes that will be intercepted.
“It’s being outdoors, it’s being smart. This [Rangnick’s thinking] is flexible and easy to understand as well. He is very tough, very purposeful and knows what he wants.
“In meetings he is very clear, as it happens in football. To get your point across, you need to be clear and strong.
“If the players do not do what you ask, then he does not hesitate to tell you about it. First impressions are very, very good. “
While Rangnick’s hands-on approach pays off with McTominay, former Premier League winner Shearer doesn’t believe United have the players to succeed under the German.
“It’s good to have this kind of faith in how to play, but it also means that the player has to play that way and in the system he would like to play, no, I don’t think they have players.” He told BBC Sport.
“I think there are a lot of good players here, but I don’t think there are enough very good players here.
“I watched them at Newcastle, they were terrible, Newcastle had to beat them easily, I watched them against Wolverhampton, they were terrible, I know they beat Burnley, but that the evening they weren’t that good either. ”