Football is a simple game - so why negative running mid-blocks and hyper pressing?

Published: Monday, 07 March 2022

The only certainty to come out of the Manchester derby is that Ralph Rangnick won’t be managing Manchester United next season. Surely?

I’ve added ‘surely’ because you simply don’t know with United. It’s very probable that they’ll f**k it up again. He shouldn’t be in charge - that’s a certainty.

Richard Arnold is the man who’s ultimately got to decide. Rangnick is not his man - so get rid. Start again.

You can’t possibly have a situation where Rangnick is choosing his successor. Who would that be? Someone who shares his ‘philosophy’ - whatever that is? Presumably someone that he can control? So who would want to work shackled like that? Certainly none of the big boys. No. He’s got to go.

I liked the guy when he came in. He seemed honest - which I believe he is (mmmmmm - why didn’t Ronaldo play? I’ll comeback to that) but the message has worn thin.

It’s the same every week. He’s the coaches coach. I’ll bet he’s got a terrific power-point presentation. Iain Dowie was famous for that. He was impressive with a lap-top in front of him! Owners can be impressed with that kind of thing. Dowie certainly conned enough of them.

This week United were ‘ok in the hyper-press first half. It required a lot of negative running, but it worked’. This is what Rangnick told us post-match at City.

So what happened? Well, he added that he decided to ‘attack City from a mid-block’ second half. I forget the rest. I stopped listening at that point.

His players look as though they’ve stopped listening as well. Look - I understand things change. We must evolve - or we go backwards, but come on. All that’s changing here is the language. How many of you guys that play on a Sunday morning are talking about ‘low blocks’ or ‘negative running’? ‘False 9’s’ ‘inverted full-backs’ or ‘rest defending’? It’s physco-babble.

What Rangnick meant was that United tried to knick the  ball high up the pitch - and had to work hard chasing it. They were forced back a bit later in the game - had to defend deeper and try to get out from there.

I don’t hear Guardiola talking about ‘low blocks’ or ‘negative’ running. His team keep it a whole lot more simple. Get it - give it - go. Football is simple. Players want it to be simple. In defending Jack Grealish this week Guardiola was arguing that we‘ve become obsessed with stats. I was talking with a football scientist here in Qatar last week who said to me ‘we’ve been creating ‘athletes’ - not footballers’. Food for thought eh?

Klopp’s teams play with a ‘high block’ do they? No. They get in your face and suffocate you. Chelsea do much the same, but keep it wider. At the end of the day - if you’ve got the best players you will generally win. But….

You’ve also got to convince players you know what you’re doing. This is a massive part of ‘owning’ a dressing room. You can’t lift this from a coaching manual. Players will find a coach out in no time. They can work a fraud out pretty easily. If you lose them early you’re sunk. From what I’m seeing Rangnick has lost his players.

I’m not absolving them from all blame. They were hopeless at the weekend. They’ve got to be better than we saw surely? These are top players. These are players I thought might mount a title challenge this season. Something is very wrong. Am I right? Has Ronaldo blown up the dressing room?

You can’t blame it all on him but his behaviour this weekend was a disgrace. Where was he? He’s always very keen to tell us ‘it’s all about the team’. Is it? Well - where were you Ronnie? Why weren’t you supporting the team?

He’s been my favourite footballer over this past decade or so. He’s been awesome. I’d take him every day over Messi. I’ve loved his energy, dedication, leap, creativity, belief, talent, arrogance - the whole package. But he’s let himself down big-time since going back to United. He’s had one long strop from the moment he arrived. He’s set himself apart with his body guards and behaviour on and off the pitch. A lot of the guys aren’t having it. He’s not different. He’s a player.

He’s not what he was either - nothing like it. Rangnick is right to question what’s left in the tank. I’ve said all season long - it’s got to be cameo’s only from now. The best way to use him is as an impact sub.

Of course - he’s not having that. It’s hard - when you’ve been all of the above - to accept that it’s coming to an end. He can work as hard as he likes - but age is impossible to deny. Not even botox will help in that respect.

Was he injured? My guess is his pride was. The more likely scenario is that he was told Thursday that he wouldn’t be starting - and spat the dummy. If that’s not the case - where was he? Surely ‘it’s all about the team’? Surely his team-mates had every right to expect to see him at The Etihad?

United have got to get out of this one as well. How about they have a quiet work in Beckham’s shell-like and get him off to MLS? There Ronaldo can have another few years on his terms - he can’t at United.

Well done Jesse Marsch. It took him four days to get Leeds looking like a team again. I expect to hear a lot coaching-jargon going forward - but the start point was simple - ‘defend well - keep our shape - and hit them when we can’.  They deserved more out of the game at Leicester. Marsch seems to be a likeable guy. Let’s hope he gets it right. And keeps it simple.

Top marks for Eddie Howe as well. What a run Newcastle are on. They’re safe. There’s no way they’re getting back into trouble. They might even finish top half. Why not? They’re playing well enough.

And it’s been built on simplicity - with the solid citizens I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. Yes - Joelinton has been enormous - but so has Dan Burn. They’ll need a whole lot better than either of those two guys if they want to achieve their dreams - but right now it’s great to see the likes of Burn getting a good press.