Ralf Rangnick hailed Fred as a ray of sunshine after a fine strike from Manchester United’s much-maligned midfielder gave the interim boss a winning start.
A 77th-minute strike from United’s Brazil international clinched a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace as Rangnick took charge from the dugout for the first time.
The former Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig boss watched from the stand when United beat Arsenal 3-2 on Thursday, and it was a first day in the frontline for the German on Sunday.
Among a plethora of likely match-winners, Fred was way down the list, but it was his stylish strike, with his unfavoured right foot, that saw off Patrick Vieira’s Eagles.
Fred’s deep-lying midfield role has been frequently cited by United observers as a weak point in their team, but on this occasion he was a hero. He has scored twice in 12 Premier League matches this season, as many as he managed in 76 appearances across his first three campaigns in the competition.
Rangnick said: “I think everybody loves Fred. You have to love Fred. I’ve got to know him for only two days now but he’s a sunshine.”
A United training session on Saturday had to be brief due to grotty Manchester weather, reducing Rangnick’s already limited opportunity to work on the pitch with his new players.
The 63-year-old still managed to piece together a tactical plan that just about paid off, with United pressing heavily at times and showing a subtle change in shape, Marcus Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes given fresh instructions.
Rangnick made the point in his Friday news conference that a priority would be to keep the opposition away from United’s penalty area, and he felt his players came good on following that instruction.
The outcome means United have lost just two of their 25 Premier League matches against Palace (W18 D5), keeping a clean sheet in their last two league games against the Eagles.
In an interview on United’s official website, Rangnick said: “Obviously it was about keeping them away from our goal, keeping them consistently under pressure and chasing balls and winning balls.
“We decided to go for a slightly different formation but only slightly different. We played with two strikers, Marcus and Cristiano up front with Jadon and Bruno on the 10 position and for the rest of the team it was the same position as usual. I just thought it might be better to have control in the centre of the pitch with Cristiano having a partner up front and I think it worked out well.”
United nudged up to sixth place in the Premier League and have taken seven points from three games since being thrashed 4-1 at Watford, the result from which there was no coming back for former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Rangnick added: “In quite a few games I saw on TV and also against Arsenal, we were a bit shaky in certain times of the game but today we had the feeling that we controlled the game.”
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