Newly-installed Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick has made an encouraging start to his reign at Old Trafford. Unbeaten in the three games in charge so far, the 63-year-old German will only lead the team until the end of the season, but former Red Devils striker Louis Saha believes that he can sign off with an unlikely Champions League triumph.
Winning Europe’s top prize might represent United’s best chance of qualifying for the competition again next season. However, it’s a major ask for a side that have struggled for consistency for some time now.
United face a tricky-looking round of 16 tie against Atlético Madrid in the new year, before even considering the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Manchester City who could lie in wait later in the competition.
Speaking to bookmakers.co.uk, though, Saha insisted that United have what it takes to spring a surprise – and be crowned European champions for the fourth time in their history.
“With the type of players Manchester United have, yes I think they can win the Champions League,” declared the Frenchman, who himself won the competition with the club in 2008.
Rangnick is able to call on Cristiano Ronaldo, the most prolific goalscorer ever in the competition, but few would rank United’s squad among the best in the tournament.
“They need to find the right form. In cup ties, you have to show up and be good on the day and the bigger the side you face, the stronger you have to be mentally. If you can do that, anything is possible.”
In making his prediction, Saha pointed to Chelsea’s victory last season, which came after Thomas Tuchel took over from Frank Lampard mid-way through the campaign.
“When you don’t have the right spirit or attitude, or you overthink things or don’t have the right tactics, you are in trouble.
“But you can find all that with a change of management. We saw Chelsea do it last season when they brought in a new manager and won the Champions League.
“It happens, and when things click – as it did with Chelsea – big things are possible.”
It’s an exceptionally bold claim from Saha, particularly given that United had to scrap hard simply to qualify from their group. Ronaldo’s haul of six goals eventually helped the Red Devils to top spot in Group F, but it was far from plain sailing.
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As you might expect given his high hopes for United this season, Saha was full of praise for Rangnick as a coach.
“I think he’s done a great job in finding a balance. His way of communicating is great and he’s been like that his whole life he says, that concise way of talking.
“He’s willing to give everyone a chance. We saw him put out a lot of youngsters in the Champions League [against Young Boys] for example.
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“He’s also improved the defensive side of United’s game which is always good for building confidence. It’s always important to start a new job with wins, but what he’ll look to do from here is install a bit of flair and style into the team,” predicted Saha.
The outsiders of all four English sides in the competition as far as oddsmakers as concerned, Champions League win this term would come as a significant shock at present. Rangnick would see his name go down in legend at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ if he can make it happen.