Ralf Rangnick was mocked when he adopted Der Kaiser tactics, but is now Manchester United boss

The Revenge of Dummies! Ralf Rangnick was mocked when he criticized ‘Der Kaiser’ Franz Beckenbauer’s tactics – but now he’s Manchester United manager and has the final say

  • Ralf Rangnick took over the entire German football establishment in 1998
  • Then manager at second-tier Ulm, he explained why everyone was wrong
  • He was later criticized as a “Kopfmensch”; the closest English word is ‘geek’
  • But Rangnick had the last laugh – he is now Manchester United manager











On the night the bespectacled nerd in the gray suit and tie took on German football’s Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer, there was reportedly only one winner – and it wasn’t Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick.

“Kopfmensch” was one of the more polite terms thrown at Rangnick that night, which literally translates to a person full of head knowledge, the implication being that she lacks emotional intelligence.

Geek might be the closest word in English. In all fairness, he looked a bit like an art critic on Melvyn Bragg’s South Bank Show, never handsome when trying to win over the football establishment.

Ralf Rangnick’s appearance on the German ZDF Sport-studio television channel in 1998 was not a great success – the then Ulm coach took over the tactical ideas of the German football establishment

Pictured: Rangnick's TV appearance 23 years ago involved using a tactical whiteboard

Pictured: Rangnick’s TV appearance 23 years ago involved using a tactical whiteboard

Rangnick, manager of second-tier Ulm, a backwater of German football, had the audacity to go on German television and explain the tactical revolution his team was implementing and why everyone was wrong.

It was 1998 and Rangnick, 40, was a promising young manager explaining to viewers why the sweeping system, perfected by Beckenbauer at a German football institution, was outdated.

In fact, he pretty much told ZDF Sport-studio viewers that everything German football had ever believed in was now over.

Warming up to his theme, Rangnick used a tactical board to demonstrate why pressing the ball and using a zone-marking back four was far superior to man-marking and a sweeping system.

“I think we have the problem in Germany that many players have been trained in a completely different way and maybe that’s why it takes a little longer in Germany to pass on that style of football to a team,” enthused Rangnick, a player whose career culminated in the Third Division.

“In Germany it’s mostly about being one-on-one with the opponents. But we’ve seen here that it’s often possible to mark someone but deliberately walk away to close the space around of the ball.

Rangnick was then harshly criticized by many people, including

Rangnick was later harshly criticized by many people, including “Der Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer

Imagine a young Championship manager at the time telling Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Robson that everything they knew was wrong and you get an idea of ​​how audacious that take was.

Germany had won the World Cup in 1990 under Beckenbauer and Euro 96 under Berti Vogts playing with a sweeper and these two coaches were central to the 1974 World Cup triumph as players.

These are defining points of German football, their sacred cows.

Sure, they were embarrassingly knocked out in the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals by Croatia, but their record in that decade didn’t suggest the national side were crying out for a tactical restart.

The backlash against Rangnick was therefore enormous. National team manager at the time, Erich Ribbeck, made a pointed reference to the program when asked what disappointed him the most during his first 100 days in charge.

“I’m disappointed with all this exaggerated talk about tactical systems, like on Saturday night at ZDF’s Sportstudio we have a colleague spouting platitudes as if every manager is a complete moron,” Ribbech said, as quoted in Ronald Reng’s Matchdays : The Hidden. History of the Bundesliga.

But Rangnick had the final say - now the 63-year-old is Manchester United manager

But Rangnick had the final say – now the 63-year-old is Manchester United manager

Beckenbauer agreed. “All this talk about systems – it’s a bunch of bullshit. Foreign players can do more with the ball. Ours cannot. Back four, zonal markings, libero, all of that doesn’t matter. The back four is a fatal error.

Put back firmly in his box, Rangnick would regret his appearance. “It was a mistake,” he told Raphael Honigstein in Das Reboot. “It was stupid to tell others about my tactics. I was considered a theoretician – it was an insult.

Indeed, the German football establishment largely rejoiced when he subsequently failed in the Bundesliga at Stuttgart.

However, Ribbech turned out to be the worst German national team ever, his team knocking out the bottom of their group at Euro 2000 with one point.

Beckenbauer was found by a FIFA ethics investigation to have breached bribery and corruption rules, although he was not prosecuted due to the statute of limitations.

And Ralf Rangnick is now the manager of Manchester United.

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