Friday, January 21

Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick’s time at Lokomotiv Moscow: Fraud or misunderstanding?

If you had read the Russian press, and especially Russian social media, in recent days, you would have got the impression that Ralf Rangnick’s work at Lokomotiv Moscow was hugely unpopular.

Most journalists and fans are outraged by the apparent damage the German tactician did to the club, only for him to suddenly leave to take over as interim manager at Manchester United.

As described by Sergey Kolesnikov of, some claim that Rangnick’s tenure has been “the biggest fraud in the history of Russian football.”

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Dmitry Selyuk, the agent provocateur best known for portraying Yaya Toure, compared Rangnick to Ostap Bender, the most famous fictional thief in Russian literature.

Countless jokes and memes have spread far and wide, leaving rival supporters to laugh at Lokomotiv mercilessly.

Rangnick is blamed for dismantling a decent team that was quite functional last season, finishing third to qualify for the Europa League, while also winning the Russian Cup.

But after a major summer overhaul, they are now 11 points behind leader Zenit after just 16 matches, having won just two of their last nine matches. On Monday, they were thrashed 3-1 by the humble Arsenal Tula.

Rangnick’s first unpopular decision after his appointment in July was to sell out midfield stalwart Grzegorz Krychowiak against the player’s wishes. The Polish international was bought by Lokomotiv’s direct rivals Krasnodar for just € 2.5 million (£ 2.1 million / $ 2.8 million) in early August, and is enjoying a strong season, scoring four goals. to your name until now.

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Meanwhile, the summer transfer list included French midfielder Alexis Beka Beka of Ligue 2 Caen and Dutch winger Gyrano Kerk of Utrecht, both costing € 6 million (£ 5 million / $ 7 million). ) each.

Lokomotiv also paid Moscow rivals CSKA large sums for untested midfielders Konstantin Maradishvili and Nair Tiknizyan, as experts commented that Rangnick’s strategy in the transfer market was unnecessarily costly and risky.

It was also not just with the gaming staff that Rangnick made unpopular decisions.

Marko Nikolic was a popular coach among Lokomotiv fans and was generally considered a hard-working and honest coach. His future, however, was in doubt from the moment Rangnick arrived, as his defensive style and lack of pressure were not adequate for the new concepts that were being introduced.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Serb left by mutual consent at the beginning of October. He was replaced by Markus Gisdol, whom the Russian media largely considers Rangnick’s puppet.

Former Lokomotiv president Nikolay Naumov criticized the appointment, saying: “She is not a coach, but a secretary. Rangnick doesn’t need someone like [Jose] Mourinho or [Roberto] Mancini, but rather a man who will follow your instructions.

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“They came to the club with only one goal: to turn Lokomotiv into a player buying and selling business. Results are not important to them and they need an anonymous coach who is willing to receive a good salary and do what they say.” . “

Now, with Rangnick’s departure for United confirmed, it was widely assumed that the entire system he brought in would crumble, leaving Lokomotiv in shambles.

However, it seems that such a point of view will be shown to be wrong, for no other reason than Rangnick’s role and his entire project in Moscow has been totally misinterpreted.

For starters, even though he will be on the Old Trafford bench on Sunday when Crystal Palace takes on United, Rangnick has not “left” Lokomotiv, simply because he never had an official job within the club in the first place.

Described in his appointment as the club’s sports and development manager, he was not actually on the Lokomotiv payroll and his name never appeared on the club’s official website. Instead, he signed a contract with his agency, Rangnick Kornetka Consulting, which basically made him an independent advisor.

“The contract is still intact and the project is supposed to continue,” Ivan Zhidkov, editor-in-chief of Sport Den Za Dnem newspaper, told Goal. “Lars Kornetka, Rangnick’s right-hand man, will continue to work with Lokomotiv on a daily basis, and Rangnick himself is supposed to have the final say on the most important issues.

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“Rangnick took his work at Lokomotiv extremely seriously. He brought in a whole team of scouting specialists, who now work for a club that did not have a proper scouting department prior to his arrival.”

“There are new standards when it comes to medical staff and dietitians. The plan is to make the club much more professional and modern.”

Rangnick’s appointment was always made with a long-term vision, and the strategy of the transfer market, for example, is not, as Naumov claimed, to be a sales club, but rather to make the club more efficient and excel. in the countryside.

“According to Rangnick’s philosophy, they should only sign ambitious young players and they should not be over 25 years old,” explains Zhidkov. “Investments should be made in those who want to grow, rather than in veterans whose motivation might be wrong for the project.”

Rangnick went to great lengths to explain the project during his stay in Russia. He held a special press conference in the weeks leading up to the news of United’s interest in him, but instead of discussing strategy and the future, journalists kept asking the German about Nikolic and Krychowiak, focusing on the past.

He also invited the leaders of the fan movements for a friendly chat at a restaurant in October, but it is unclear whether his methods convinced them.

“It is very important to understand that it is a long-term project, led by the best specialists. It would be ridiculous to judge it based on the immediate results, but people do not want to understand that,” Zhidkov continues. “Most of the journalism in Russia is driven by sheer emotion. Most of the analysis is very superficial.

“You can already see that Beka Beka, for example, is making significant progress, and at 20 he is a very promising footballer. These things take time.”

Therefore, Rangnick is completely misunderstood in Russia, although it must be said that the very vague description of his role has not helped his cause.

His work at Lokomotiv has just started, and it wasn’t supposed to end after just four months when Manchester United called him. As such, success or failure shouldn’t be measured so early.

However, Russian fans and journalists are only able to see immediate impressions, and former Lokomotiv CEO Ilya Gerkus stated that “there are three games left in 2021. If the Germans achieve good results, they will continue. If they don’t. , they will not “.

Rangnick will almost certainly face the same problem in England as well. Despite being only United’s interim manager, he will inevitably be judged by what happens on the field, even if the true purpose of his appointment doesn’t begin until the summer.

That being said, his role as a consultant for the next two seasons is extremely vague, even more so than at Lokomotiv, and therefore fans and journalists are highly unlikely to be patient with him and trust his process if the results of the coach he helps. name not improve.

And while Rangnick is definitely not guilty of being “the biggest fraud in Russian football history,” and he’s not a scammer, either, there are lessons about what he’s done at Lokomotiv that Manchester United fans would do well to learn from. in the future. weeks, months and years.

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