When news broke on Thursday that Ralf Rangnick was set to join Manchester United as the new interim manager, the nature of the moment seemed appropriate.
Lokomotiv Moscow were preparing to face Lazio in a Europa League match in the Russian capital in just hours, but the man overseeing a supposed Railroad revolution is already heading to England.
“We are focused on the game” Lokomotiv technical director Tomas Zorn said when asked about Rangnick’s imminent departure.
For the media and many fans, however, the attention was clearly elsewhere.
The websites, social media and column columns were already bulky filled with the story of Rangnick’s new role at Old Trafford, which is expected to be made official on Friday.
Lokomotiv lost 3-0 to their Italian visitors. They are at the bottom of Group E in the Europa League with just two points in five games and have no chance of reaching the round of 16. They haven’t won in European competition in their last 16 matches.
Nationally, Loko occupies fourth place in the Russian Premier League standings, part of a group grouped behind leaders Zenit St. Petersburg. They have lost just two of their 15 league games, but their tally of seven is a testament to their uneven form.
Scenes after Lazio’s loss may have better summed up the club’s vibe as captain Dmitry Barinov had a pitchside conversation with disillusioned fans.
That’s what Rangnick leaves behind as he takes up his new role at Manchester United, where he will accept a six-month contract to become an interim manager before taking on a consulting role for another two years.
Unlike Moscow, the emotions among Old Trafford devotees – and elsewhere in England – are mostly excitement before Rangnick’s arrival.
The 63-year-old is widely respected as the “godfather” of the modern German coaching school, inspiring figures like Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel with his well-drilled, high-octane “gegenpressing” approach.
The consensus is that Rangnick will add desperately needed form and structure to an apathetic Manchester United side.
Beyond that, a grateful United will have the luxury of tapping into the stupendous knowledge Rangnick has brought to RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg in recent years.
Feelings were similar when Rangnick arrived in Moscow earlier this year, signing a three-year contract at Lokomotiv to work closely with the club through his new football consultancy firm.
Officially unveiled in July but in the works for several months, the move was touted as a major blow for Lokomotiv, who effectively gave Rangnick carte blanche as sports and development manager to form a new squad and reform the club. .
Rangnick brought a new team with him, including installing the aforementioned Zorn – who had previously worked at Spartak Moscow – as technical director and his right-hand man.
According to the Russian point of sale Championship, Rangnick would pocket up to 4.5 million euros per year for his services.
Rangnick and his crew undertook their overhaul. Their stated goals were to “Develop and modernize” Lokomotiv. The focus was on signing young prospects with high resale value potential. The likes of fellow German Christian Mockel were brought into the screening department.
On the game side, around € 30million has been spent on players – an insignificant amount for English Premier League clubs, but not to be sniffed out by Russian standards.
Croatian defender Tin Jedvaj arrived from Bayer Leverkusen, Nair Tiknizyan and Konstantin Maradishvili came from CSKA Moscow, Gyrano Kerk was signed from Utrecht, young Frenchman Alexis Beka Beka moved from Caen, while the teenager’s swoop much appreciated Tino Anjorin on loan from Chelsea was considered a particular coup.
The jury is out on many signatures, possibly with the exception of Beka Beka, who was a rare ray of hope. Lokomotiv’s number 10 shirt – last worn by club legend Dmitry Loskov – was not even retired for Anjorin, but after the Englishman announced himself with a scoring goal against Marseille in the Europa League , he has since returned to his parent club after suffering a metatarsal injury in training.
31-year-old Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, one of the squad’s highest paid and best players, was heading to Lokomotiv to join Krasnodar, one of the squad’s best players, an indication clear of the new team profile.
Then came the change in the dugout that most expected Serbian Marko Nikolic would be sent to pack, replaced by German Markus Gisdol, a longtime Rangnick associate.
Rangnick sounded the changes, but the results did not follow. Much of the Lokomotiv season has been characterized by indifferent national form and familiar failures in Europe.
In his defense, Rangnick could argue that his changes are fundamental and will inevitably take time. They could still pay off, and he will leave his side in place in Moscow as he embarks on his new Premier League challenge.
But the nature of its links with Lokomotiv remains uncertain. The opinion of most fans and experts in Russia seems much more obvious: They feel that more of Lokomotiv has been duped, perhaps naively waiting for more of Rangnick and his band of merry men, only to have them. left aside.
Former Lokomotiv Moscow manager Yuri Semin made a revealing remark when asked about the team’s mutilations by Lazio on Thursday night.
“I’ll say it briefly – it’s hard to do something, but easy to destroy it” noted the legend of Lokomotiv.
Take a look at the commentary sections of stories featuring Rangnick in the Russian press, and you get some less than flattering views.
“He came, he saw and left a mess” read a comment under a story at the exit of Rangnick.
It could be attributed to the bitterness of a despised lover or the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations, but the feelings are undeniably that Ralf destroyed him in Loko.
“If Ralf Rangnick was not Ralf Rangnick, the Russian football community would unanimously consider him one of the worst sports directors in national history,” he added. wrote the popular Russian Football News Twitter account scathingly.
If Ralf Rangnick were not Ralf Rangnick, the Russian football community would unanimously consider him one of the worst sports directors in national history. Let’s see where Loko goes from here, and if Zorn is able to execute a successful plan.
– Russian Football News (@RusFootballNews) November 26, 2021
Lokomotiv Moscow handed the keys to Rangnick and he derailed the train – at least that’s what the case against him supports.
United fans can read whatever they want there. Rangnick is clearly joining a very different club than the one he is leaving, with much bigger ambitions and very different resources.
But while the German will be welcomed with open arms in Manchester, any future visit to Moscow could be as freezing as the winter weather ahead.
By Liam Tyler
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.