Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui has emerged as one of the leading contenders to succeed Ralf Rangnick as Manchester United boss – his appointment would bring a boost for Cristiano Ronaldo
Manchester United are stepping up their search for their next permanent manager to be appointed this summer.
Ralf Rangnick is the interim boss at Old Trafford until the end of the current campaign having replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in December.
The German will take up a two-year consultancy role at the club after this season to assist the club in transitioning towards a fresh long-term approach.
United will begin the process of deciding on the permanent position in the coming weeks with Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag, Luis Enrique and Julen Lopetegui all under consideration.
Those are the details reported by The Athletic, with Spain boss Luis Enrique and his predecessor Lopetegui, currently at the helm of Sevilla, said to be admired among United’ hierarchy.
Lopetegui has previously had stints at the helm of Porto, Real Madrid and the Spanish national team, but what would he bring to the Old Trafford role?
This is Lopetegui’s blueprint and how a move to United would potentially play out.
United’s formations this season have varied; Solskjaer favoured a 4-2-3-1 system before reverting to a 3-5-2 in the closing weeks of his reign.
Under Rangnick, the side have fluctuated through several approaches with a 4-2-2-2 setup abandoned and 4-2-3-1 being the favoured system in recent weeks.
Lopetegui’s system is primarily a 4-3-3 – one that has not been used with any regularity in recent seasons.
It is a setup which focuses upon defensive solidity from midfield and one which relies on a high goal output from attackers – in a similar fashion to Liverpool.
Importance of width
As with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, the importance of the full-backs are crucial for Lopetegui’s approach to play with both encouraged to bomb forward.
Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are fundamental attacking players for Liverpool while the same has been true for Sevilla under Lopetegui.
The Andalusian side’s Europa League triumph in 2020 saw crucial roles for Jesus Navas and Sergio Reguilon, who were encouraged to push on regularly to provide with.
This may spell bad news for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, whose attacking credentials have been critiqued, and would make the likes of Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles particularly important.
Ideal for Declan Rice
Due to Lopetegui’s insistence on full-backs attacking, the deepest lying of his midfield trio often drop back into the centre of defence.
This is a particularly crucial role as this will push both starting central defenders slightly wider and they will act as the main link-up between defence and midfield.
The role has been played at Sevilla by former Man City midfielder Fernando and United’s main transfer priority for this summer transfer window is a player in this mould.
West Ham ’s Declan Rice is a name who has continually been linked and this would make a lot of sense in this system – the England international excels in interceptions, positioning, ball carrying and playing out from the back.
Play out from the back
Speaking of which, Lopetegui insists that his team build-up attacks from deep and have a lot of patience on the ball.
This places responsibility on defenders to be comfortable with the ball at their feet – which is true of Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof.
There is an emphasis on tempo and inter-linking passes higher up the pitch but Lopetegui prioritises his team controlling both possession and position on the pitch.
This structured approach means that United will be encouraged to take their time on the ball and think more about their passes, rather than rushing decisions and playing on instinct.
Lopetegui’s insistence on full-backs getting forward is linked in to his desire for strong deliveries into the box for the central striker.
His Sevilla side are a major set piece threat – something which United have not been this campaign – and the quality of delivery into the box is hugely important for him.
Lopetegui, somewhat controversially, placed a huge amount of trust in Luuk de Jong – a striker who lacked mobility but who was a threat in the air, could hold up play and create space for himself in the box.
This is a role that would fit Ronaldo, whose aerial threat would allow him to thrive from this new approach.