Interim manager Ralf Rangnick picked the brains of Manchester United predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in preparation for a job he is open to extending beyond the end of the season.
An alarming drop in results and performances led to the departure of 1999 treble hero Solskjaer last month, with Michael Carrick steadying the ship as caretaker boss during an unbeaten three-game stint.
Rangnick watched Thursday’s 3-2 victory against Arsenal from the Old Trafford directors’ box and is set to take charge of his first game as interim manager at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday.
The highly-rated German coach signed a deal until the end of the season and will then take up a two-year consultancy role, but he has not ruled out staying on as permanent manager.
“I mean, the people with whom I have spoken so far have been very clear that we’re talking about a six-and-a-half-month role as a manager currently,” Rangnick said at his unveiling.
“We have never spoken about what will happen in the summer. Right now I’m fully aware they might be looking for a new manager.
“Maybe if they ask my opinion and everything goes well and we develop the team, I might even make the same recommendation to the board that I did at Leipzig twice, when I recommended it might be a good idea to keep working with me for one year.
“But this is all hypothetical. We cannot speak about that. For me now it’s about winning the next games and this is the major focus.”
Rangnick got the green light from authorities to take the role on Wednesday evening, leaving his role of director of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow to join United.
Prior to that post he worked for Red Bull’s clubs and played a key role in Leipzig’s rise up the German pyramid, including managing the club on two occasions.
Rangnick’s work saw him interviewed for the England job given to Sam Allardyce in 2016 and approached about a short-term role at Chelsea earlier this year before Thomas Tuchel’s appointment.
“At the time when Chelsea contacted me in February we spoke only about the interim manager for four months, without any perspective to work in the long-term together,” he said.
“Here now we are talking about six and a half months, so we only have one-third of the games played in the Premier League and, as you all know, we have agreed on a two-year advisory role after those six and a half months.
“In the end, to be honest, when a club like Manchester United contacts you for such a role you cannot possibly turn it down.”
Rangnick is excited by the “abundance of talent” at the club and is prioritising bringing the side “more balance, more control of the game”, highlighting the need to play more proactively.
The German is hoping to bring in up to three new faces to the backroom team that will largely stay the same, although he was unable to persuade first-team coach Carrick to stay on after fulfilling his caretaker role.
Rangnick sees that expertise and continuity as important and is grateful to Solskjaer for giving him the background on the group he is inheriting at United.
“We haven’t spoken about (the consultancy role) in detail in all the conversations we had with John (Murtough, football director) and also with Ed (Woodward, executive vice-chairman) but especially with John,” he said.
“I also had a long phone call with (co-chairman) Joel Glazer for more than half an hour. I also spoke with Ole last Sunday before the Chelsea game for almost two hours.
“He was very generous to spend one and a half hours on the phone with me telling me all his inside details about the team.”
Rangnick brushed aside talk of January signings and said “the squad is definitely not too small”, before laughing off reports he would land a £10million bonus for bringing in Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland.
The 63-year-old is more interested in the stars already in the Old Trafford dressing room and is confident Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored a brace against Arsenal, will flourish despite his well-documented high-pressing style.
“You always have to adapt your style or your idea of football to the players you have available, not vice-versa,” Rangnick said.
“Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half at the age of 36, an amazing top professional. At his age, I’ve never seen a player who is still that physically fit.
“He’s still a player who can easily make the difference. So yes, it’s about how we can develop the whole team not only Cristiano.
“We play in the most competitive league in the world so we need all the players on board. What I saw from Cristiano yesterday, he is more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team. His team-mates will have to do the same.”