Ralf Rangnick started his first game in charge of Manchester United with a new look 4-2-2-2 formation against Crystal Palace. United won the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from their midfielder Fred. In the first half, United were impressive going forward with their pressing, vertical passing and the number of chances they were creating. There was a clear difference to how United played compared to their previous games.
A key feature in the 4-2-2-2 formation is the double pivot which was occupied by Fred and Scott McTominay against Palace. Rangnick was full of praise for the two midfielders after the game.
Rangnick on McTominay and Fred in 4-2-2-2: 'Scotty and Fred are almost perfect defensively on that. There were one or two mistakes. In the first-half, two square passes – one from Scott and one from Fred. I don't like those kind of balls in midfield from those positions.' #mufc
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) December 5, 2021
🗣 Rangnick: "With those two numbers sixes [Fred & McTominay] we are able to play aggressive football against the ball." [@footballdaily]
— UtdDistrict (@UtdDistrict) December 5, 2021
It is pretty clear that from Rangnick’s statement, he wants the midfield two to be defensively good and be aggressive against the opponent when playing without the ball. He did comment on a couple of poor passes but with an attacking front four in the 4-2-2-2, the emphasis would be on the two midfielder’s defensive qualities. This is a serious problem for Donny van de Beek who is more suited to a number 8 or a number 10 role. If Rangnick continues with this formation, the Dutchman’s only chance to play would be as one of the number 10s but at the moment he will not be able to displace either Fernandes or Sancho for that spot. Also, the number 10 role in this formation is expected to defend in wide areas and combine with the full backs in the wide areas, something which van de Beek is not known for.
van de Beek has not been given a fair chance so far in his United career under Ole Gunnar Solskajer but his fortunes might not change under Rangnick as well. There have been reports of United’s interest in Amadou Haidara, who would be perfect for the midfielder role in this new formation. It might be better for the Dutchman to leave United in the January transfer window and seek first team opportunities elsewhere.