Ralf Rangnick could not believe how timid Manchester United were in the first half of their draw against Atletico Madrid, explaining what they must change in the second leg.
Man Utd eventually earned a draw from the first leg of their Champions League Last-16 tie. Anthony Elanga scored late on with their first shot on target after a disappointing team performance. His goal cancelled out Joao Felix’s early opener.
With the away goals rule no longer in place, the two sides will reconvene in Manchester next month all square. United will have to perform better if they are to ensure progress to the quarter-finals.
Interim manager Rangnick was not happy with how they played, particularly in the first half. He thinks they need to take more risks to break down a team like Atletico.
Rangnick told BT Sport: “I don’t know if I rescued it but after the performance in the first half, it could only get better. What we played in the first half I still cannot believe. We played without conviction, without aggression and that is why we were struggling.
“Second half we did better, more possession in areas that mattered and if we played another 10 minutes we might have won the game.
“We have to play better in the first half. I was very disappointed by that performance in the first half.
“Against and with the ball we were far too apprehensive and did not take any risks. We only played it in our own half and then it is difficult against a team like Atletico. Their goal was difficult to defend, a brilliant cross and finish.
“We have to play with more conviction on the ball. We need more deep runs and the way we scored the goal was exactly that. This is how we have to play against them.”
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Someone who has shown how United should be playing is young forward Elanga. His first-time finish across goal was a pivotal moment for United.
Rangnick wants more of his squad to follow the Swede’s lead.
He said: “He is playing as though it is a dream come true. It is a joy and fun to watch him play.
“I wish a few other players would take him as an example and as a role model.”
Rangnick explains defensive decisions and previews second leg
At the opposite end of the pitch, Rangnick put Victor Lindelof at right-back, with Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane at centre-half. He thought the plan would work, but conceding early on rendered it irrelevant.
As such, they had an uphill battle to bring a draw back for the return leg – which he hopes will go more in their favour.
Rangnick concluded: “Football is an important sport, even more so for the supporters, and it is a ball game. This is what I wish us to do especially in the second leg.
“To start with, we could do with him (Lindelof) in aerial duels, set-pieces, free-kicks for and against us. All three centre-halves were in good shape, but after seven minutes we were 1-0 down. The plan was in the dustbin.
“I knew this was not his best position, when we had Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the ball and Alex Telles, we had more possession and more assistance from the wings. In the end, due to the early goal it was difficult.
“In the second half we showed in quite a few moments how we have to play. It will be different at home in front of 75,000 fans and more conviction than we did in the first half.”