Ralf Rangnick has been surprised by how hard it is to beat the Premier League’s smaller clubs during his short time as Manchester United’s interim boss.
Three of Rangnick’s first five Premier League games have been against the bottom three, with United lucky to overcome Norwich and take a point at Newcastle before beating Burnley.
They were also pushed all the way in the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Monday by 14th-placed Aston Villa, their opponents again in the league on Saturday.
Manchester United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick admits the strength of teams at the lower end of the Premier League has taken him by surprise
United are struggling to find their best form as they try and achieve a top four finish
Rangnick admits he is more used to the status quo in Germany where clubs like Bayern Munich dominate and are rarely beaten by the Bundesliga minnows.
He said: ‘What has surprised me a little is that the teams in the lower ranks of the league are very physical, tactically astute and play in a very organised way.
‘In this league even against the bottom teams it is never easy, the top teams can lose those games.
‘In Germany, if Bayern play the bottom teams in 10 games they will ordinarily win eight or nine.’
Scott McTominay scored United’s winner as they overcame Aston Villa in the FA Cup last Monday – now they will meet again in the Premier League on Saturday
Man United fixtures
Premier League unless stated
Saturday Aston Villa (A)
January 22 West Ham (H)
February 4 Middlesbrough (H)
FA Cup fourth round
February 8 Burnley (A)
February 12 Southampton (H)
February 20 Leeds United (A)
Rangnick admits there is still a long way to go to turn United into a team that can dominate games in the way he wants.
He added: ‘I was fully aware this cannot happen overnight. It’s a work in progress but we have shown we have conceded fewer goals than a couple of weeks ago.
‘It’s also about controlling the game and obviously we have taken a few steps but things can still get better and we have to find the best possible formation.
‘We need to make sure we have the best, freshest players on the pitch and this means we can change formations during the game or from one game to another.
‘It’s still a work in progress and there are still quite a few things to improve.’
Rangnick expects Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire and Phil Jones to be fit for the trip to Villa Park after missing the cup win over Steven Gerrard’s side through injury.
‘I think they will be available,’ he said. ‘They only trained yesterday for the first time – Cristiano yesterday, Harry the day before yesterday. We have to wait for the final training session, but they should be available.’
Rangnick expects Cristiano Ronaldo to be fit enough to make the trip to Aston Villa