Marcelo Bielsa and Ralf Rangnick meet in Sunday’s huge derby with both bosses struggling to live up to the praise heaped on them by their successful students
I’ve said Manchester United have their problems this season, and I’ve always thought Paul Pogba is chief among them.
Which is why I reckon their game against Leeds on Sunday Is one where the two managers find themselves under real pressure.
In fact, I don’t think Ralf Rangnick OR Marcelo Bielsa will be at their respective clubs as manager come the summer… quite possibly because they are victims of an unbearable expectation.
With Rangnick, he follows Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp who have had incredible success in England, and have praised his influence on themselves and German football extensively. Tuchel was even given a job by him, so I can imagine the phone calls now.
Ralf on the blower to Tuchel, saying (I won’t do it in German, I’ve only got a Stan Boardman grasp of German) that as much as it’s nice he’s giving him the big billy build up, it’s absolutely killing him because the United fans expect the same.
He’ll probably be on to Klopp too, asking if there’s any way he can stop English supporters believing the German managers have the Midas touch.
It’s the same with Bielsa. When you get Pep Guardiola saying he’s one of the greatest coaches of all time and someone he has learnt from and looks up to, then there’s huge expectation.
Neither of them have lived up to it. In the case of Rangnick, it was always going to be difficult turning United around without a big influx of talent in the January window.
You look at the team he’s inherited, and it’s completely unbalanced. Pogba is a cause of that, but a victim too, because it is hard to fit him in a midfield two, as they need to be defensive-minded given the forward line they have who are always going to be selected ahead of him.
I think Rangnick’s work will continue beyond this season, but in an executive role, sorting out their structures to bring United in line with the top clubs who are dominating on the pitch and off it.
As for Bielsa: well I’ve always wondered if Guardiola’s praise over-rates him a bit. You look at his record, and he hasn’t won much, and by much I mean virtually nothing outside an EFL Championship.
He hasn’t stuck around long anywhere either. Leeds is by far the longest term he’s done with a club side. It suggests to me that when the going gets difficult, he tends to move on.
Watching Leeds at Everton last week, it suggested that the going is getting very tough indeed for them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they get dragged right into the relegation scrap.
Given he only signs one-year contracts, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does depart at the end of the season, either.