Colin: Ralf’s willingness to make adjustments and substitutions pays off.
Something which had been an all too familiar point of criticism under Solskjaer (albeit typically focused on Van de Beek in particular) was the delayed use of substitutes. This continued under Rangnick however, and the interim boss made quite a few head scratching substitutions as well, usually opting to take off one of his more creative players in favor of another forward. Today was different however, and Rangnick took off an underperforming and perhaps still injured Cristiano Ronaldo. While Ronaldo moped on the bench like a child, the team continued to take control of the second half, and found the net one more time as well.
Although the big changes came at half time to adjust the team shape and get Bruno Fernandes and the midfield more involved, removing Ronaldo and Greenwood allowed the team to sure up defensively for Brentford’s eventual comeback attempt as well as add another talented counter attacker to the forward line. Marcus Rashford got his much needed goal, and a clumsy team defense of a long throw in was the closest the Bees got to getting back in the game.
While the defensive mishap was avoidable and frustrating (can we please figure out set pieces?) Rangnick’s willingness to make concessions to his initial plans shows that he’s both adjusted to the job at hand and gotten to know his squad a little better. Nothing is fixed just yet, but he’s picked up some positive vibes at least until the weekend.
Chris: McTominay impresses in box-to-box role, but furthers midfield debacle.
Scott McTominay was instrumental for the Reds in the second half, as he won the ball back in the midfield to create United’s second and third goals. The Scotsman, along with the rest of the team, looked miles improved in the second 45 minutes following Ralf Rangnick’s tactical changes at halftime to fix a lackluster first-half display.
McTominay started the match as the lone defensive midfielder behind Fred and Bruno Fernandes, which is a position he hasn’t thrived in this season due to his defensive weaknesses. However, playing in a midfield pivot in the second half allowed McTominay to advance up the pitch like a No. 8 and unleash the side of him that many fans adore: his tenacity to get stuck into challenges, intercept the ball, dribble up the field, make late runs into the box, and shoot from outside the box.
His statistics from the win, provided by Squawka Football on Twitter, exemplify how vital the Scottish international was while drifting further up the field.
Scott McTominay's game by numbers vs. Brentford:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 19, 2022
100% tackles success rate
100% shooting accuracy
90% pass accuracy (highest)
13 duels attempted
11 possessions won
9 duels won
6 dribbles attempted (most)
5 dribbles completed (most)
It’s unclear whether McTominay will be allowed to play in a box-to-box role for the remainder of the season with Paul Pogba set to return to the lineup in two weeks. The French 2018 FIFA World Cup winner has demonstrated his elite quality in the position, and it’s likely he’ll slot in as the No. 8 behind Fernandes once he’s fully fit.
With veteran defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic unable to play 90 minutes every game due to his fitness, McTominay, more so than Fred, seems likely to be the placeholder No. 6 until the club fills the much-needed position either this transfer window or in the summer. McTominay will need to remain consistent in the meantime and follow up Wednesday’s display with a performance of the same standard against West Ham on Saturday.