The notion of a football club with its own DNA is a misguided concept, but it still manages to spark much debate among fans and at Old Trafford it has turned into their own modern day cultural war.
Many fans winced whenever Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used this phrase at a press conference. Solskjaer seemed to have a good grasp of Manchester United’s DNA, he just couldn’t translate that into success on the pitch. Trophies have eluded him and if United is anything, it’s likely a silverware streak win.
The decision to turn to Ralf Rangnick as interim manager likely strayed from the idea of United’s DNA. It was a bold appointment, a seasoned German coach who is just as adept at operating in the corridors of power as he is on the training ground.
He is a firm believer in the way football should be played, but even a footballing luminary like Rangnick was sucked into the idea of United having DNA during their introductory press conference.
On two occasions he mentioned this phrase, which may have been the only moment fans sighed during an enlightening and intriguing press briefing.
But rather than wince at the use of a phrase that ultimately damned Solskjaer, it may be worth considering Rangnick’s own interpretation.
He gave an honorable nod to United traditions, but also indicated that it is time to adapt them to modern play rather than continuing to live in the past and in outdated style when it comes to to succeed.
“The important thing is to celebrate the DNA of this club, but also to implement it in the transformation of modern football,” said Rangnick.
“It’s pretty easy in football. You must have some idea – what we want to represent, call it a corporate identity. How do we want to be seen? How do we want to play? How do our fans want us to play?
“Then you have to make sure you have the best recruiting possible, signing the best possible players for this kind of football.
“And in the medium and long term to have the best manager to develop, coach and train them.”
Who will be the best manager to do so is a debate that will continue for the next six months, especially if Rangnick is successful in his interim six month period.
Rangnick might want to celebrate United’s DNA, but his comments about having a “pretty easy” identity are fascinating. He wants to introduce a more dynamic playstyle, possibly requiring “pressing monsters”, although he knows it will take time.
Rangnick was respectful of United traditions, he made signs of wanting to meet Sir Alex Ferguson again and said all the right things, but his best contribution to the DNA debate at Old Trafford might be to bring in the style of play into the 21st century.
It’s a phrase that divides opinion inside and outside the club. Naming a Rangnick is probably a break with that tradition and he can now continue on the pitch.
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