Rangnick wanted to use this visit from Young Boys as an opportunity to watch those on the fringes of his side in first-hand action and, after a low-key 1-1 draw in which United started well but then faded into the as the night wore on. , he will have liked part of what he saw, but not all of it.
Good? The brilliant scissor goal of Mason Greenwood, even though we knew he was capable of that kind of finish already, and the senior debuts of Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage, sons of Robbie. Could it be better? Donny van de Beek did not disgrace himself in a midfield role at all, even though he gave the ball cheap to equalize Fabian Rieder, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka suffered a worrying late injury.
Still, it was a low-stakes night and the point extended United’s unbeaten streak to five games, their longest of the season and a streak that coincides exactly with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure. And in the midst of all the rotation and debut, there was some evidence in this second game of Rangnick’s interim reign of the organization and control he is gradually trying to introduce.
Rangnick hinted that there would be changes and they were by and large, with everyone who started Sunday’s win over Crystal Palace entirely excluded from the squad. Van de Beek and goalkeeper Dean Henderson played from the start as planned, as did teenagers Anthony Elanga and Amad, the less spotted Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic played an unknown role in the center of defense. These are not the only surprises either.
United’s substitute bench had just seven players instead of the authorized 12 and that included two goalkeepers. With the exception of veteran goaltender Tom Heaton, the average age was only 18. It could become a case of Young Boys versus Young Boys. For that to happen, however, United would have to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
United didn’t get the job done quickly and efficiently enough, despite the passing of a 20-year-old who was one of the oldest names in this experimental lineup. Greenwood already has a nice catalog of finishes, but this was one of their best. Luke Shaw’s cross from the left fell slightly behind him, but a quick readjustment of his feet and acrobatic finish turned half a chance into a goal.
Greenwood was excellent throughout the first half, pulling in an exquisite cross pass that put United on a 3-1 hour in the half hour. The move really should have resulted in a second goal, but Amad hesitated before shooting, then missed a shortcut to Jesse Lingard. Greenwood did better with a similar cut for Juan Mata moments later, after charging down the left and along the line, but goalkeeper Guillaume Faivre blocked with his legs.
United were missing out on chances but were at least comfortable. Then suddenly they weren’t. Van de Beek had done quite well as Rangnick’s only midfielder until the end of the first half, when he misplaced a single pass at the edge of his own box directly into Fabian’s feet. Rieder. Presented with a clear view of the goal, the Young Boys attacking midfielder was right, firing a shot out of Henderson’s reach and into the upper right corner.
Another reckless pass, this time from Matic, just before the break, sparked a Young Boys move that ended with Eric Bailly deflecting a Michel Aebischer shot over his own crossbar and not knowing it a lot. Some fragility was inevitable given the number of changes, perhaps, but after exercising the control Rangnick insists on for much of the first half, they came into the gap needing some sort of wake-up call.
The United interim manager responded by tweaking the 4-1-4-1 lineup he started with and reverting to his confident 4-2-2-2, with Mata offering Van de Beek’s support in the roles deeper midfielders, but we hadn’t seen the last of the evening’s experimentation. Naturally center-half Teden Mengi replaced Luke Shaw at left-back and there was even an after-hour goalkeeper change with Henderson replaced by Heaton on his United debut, almost 20 years after joining the academy for the first time.
The changes haven’t resulted in a particularly marked improvement in United’s game. Elanga had completed a promising counterattack by shooting Faivre early in the first half, but after that the best chance went to Young Boys and Quenitin Maceiras, who shot far from inside the penalty area. with time and space to pick his place after a ball floated above United’s defense and a neat cut from Silvan Hefti.
The visiting Swiss champions began to look the most probable. A first away victory in this competition since defeating Limerick in 1960 seemed possible when Mengi slipped deep into his own half and allowed Wilfried Kanga to sprint towards goal, although The teenager’s recovery run and his glide challenge to block the shot saved him the blushes and earned him a high five from Bailly.
Another slip from Matic in the final stages almost let the Young Boys in once again, although the opportunity did not present itself. The muted second half ended with slight worry as Wan-Bissaka collided with the panels and had to be carried off the pitch on a stretcher after a full time. He was one of the former manager’s few regulars to start this match and now faces competition from Diogo Dalot for his starting spot. But on this evidence, other Solskjaer favorites can feel their place is secure for now.