Wayne Rooney believes Manchester United’s 4-2-2-2 formation under Ralf Rangnick could be overwhelmed by stronger sides, with the former Red Devils captain claiming Arsenal are one of those ‘better teams’.
Rangnick has switched the Red Devils set-up to a more direct formation, with Edinson Cavani partnering Cristiano Ronaldo up front, with wingers such as Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho lining up behind them in a four-pronged attack.
The German interim boss suffered his first defeat in the Old Trafford dugout on Monday night as United put on a dismal display to go down 1-0 to Wolves, which generated criticism from Jamie Redknapp about the 4-2-2-2 set-up.
Wayne Rooney has raised doubts Manchester United’s 4-2-2-2 formation under Ralf Rangnick
Rangnick used the formation and suffered his first United loss on Monday at home to Wolves
And United’s all-time record goalscorer Rooney has called on Rangnick to get his United stars ‘working as a group rather than individuals’ – a task which he believes is one of the toughest in football.
Discussing United’s season so far in an interview with Alan Shearer before United’s loss to Wolves, the now-Derby County manager told The Athletic: ‘I’ve been to a few games, taken my kids. Obviously it’s been difficult for them.
‘I think it had got to the point with Ole where everyone could see it was coming to an end. With the new manager now, you don’t know. I’m sure it’s a lot different to anywhere he has managed before. There’s a lot more pressure, managing a lot of high-profile players.
Ex-United star Rooney (above) believes Rangnick is under the biggest pressure of his career
‘I was at his first game against Crystal Palace and I thought they looked very good. My only concern, with that shape, was that when you come up against better teams — Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal — you could get punished.
‘The most important thing is that the players need to buy into it. He needs to get them working as a group rather than as individuals.’
United’s loss to Wolves leaves Rangnick’s side in seventh place, four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, though the Red Devils do have a game in hand over the Gunners.
Rangnick changed his formation from a 4-2-2-2 to a back three at half-time and United substitute Bruno Fernandes struck the crossbar when the scores were 0-0, but Wolves midfielder Joao Moutinho scored from distance with nine minutes to go to consign Rangnick to a first defeat in his new role.
United were beaten by Wolves, who got an 82nd minute winner through Joao Moutinho (right)
The German interim boss slammed his own side’s display after the match and admitted that he is aware of the huge task facing him at Old Trafford this season.
Rangnick told Sky Sports: ‘We didn’t play well at all, neither individually nor collectively.
‘In the first-half, we had big problems with control to keep them away from our box and our goal. In the second-half, we changed our formation to a back three and we had more control and then had a spell of 15 minutes where we could have scored where he hit the crossbar.
‘But the goal is one too many this season where Moutinho could just shoot completely unmarked with no pressure at all. We are disappointed about the result and about parts of our performance.’
Substitute Bruno Fernandes (above) hit the crossbar in the second-half with the scores at 0-0
In his press conference, he added: ‘I knew it would be a difficult job, that was the reason they contacted me and signed me. I knew from the start it wouldn’t be easy to find the right balance offensively, defensively.
‘Today we showed similar problems, the team had three or four weeks ago before I arrived. It is not an easy job to develop a DNA with and without the ball.
‘Wolves were the best team we’ve played. We didn’t press at all. We tried but we were not able to get into those pressing situations.’
Jamie Redknapp accused United of lacking an identity after their 1-0 defeat against Wolves
Sky Sports pundit Redknapp was one of many critics of Rangnick’s 4-2-2-2 set-up, claiming that the formation led to a lack of identity from the Red Devils.
Redknapp said: ‘We speak about managers coming into the game and he came in with this famed 4-2-2-2 system – it doesn’t work. When you come here, you have to have the right players, it doesn’t matter what system you play.
‘Then he went to a three at the back, today he played 4-4-2 and at the end of it, I think he’s making up systems. There was no real identity of how they were trying to play.’