“Manchester United, Ralf Rangnick believes physicality, rather than any drop in fitness levels, is the key to his team being able to hold onto leads.
The Reds failed to pick up a win from either game when leading in successive back-to-back matches at half-time for only the second time since the inception of the Premier League. The last time was in December 1998, during the Treble-winning campaign.
After also scoring first against Middlesbrough, before going out of the Emirates FA Cup on penalties, and surrendering a two-goal lead at Aston Villa recently, it is an obvious point of concern for the interim manager.
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However, the German is not convinced this is down to the players running out of steam, even if he would have preferred a full-season to work with the group, rather than being appointed at the end of November.
“To be honest, I don’t know if we are not fit enough to play that way [with high intensity] because I came in the middle of the season,” said Rangnick. “We had no pre-season and, in essence, maybe only two weeks in total where we could train in the normal way.
“If I watch the team in training and the way this team prepare for games, I wouldn’t allow myself to say we are not fit enough to play like that. I don’t think this is the case because then we would also struggle in the last 20 minutes of a game.
“Against Burnley and against Southampton, I think we showed we were physically able to play forward,” he added. “We didn’t always take the right decisions. We were not as composed and structured enough in the way we played in the first half. Compared to the last half-hour, we were a little bit erratic in those moments.
“I would have wished us to stay a little bit calmer and cooler but we had the chances. I don’t think it is a question of physicality, with regards to fitness, yes it might well be – as I’ve said, the players that we have are technical players. They like to play technical football but, in the Premier League, no matter against which team, more so against teams like Southampton, you cannot win games only in a technical way. You have to show some physicality.”
United are back in action on Tuesday, against a Brighton & Hove Albion side that won 2-0 at Watford on Saturday