Rangnick wants everyone to 'fulfil their potential' – so what is that?

McTominay can improve under forensic coaching, Sancho could reach the very top – but Lingard is still heading for the exit… Ralf Rangnick will be watching Man United’s players’ ‘potential’ closely tonight – so just how good can they all be?

  • Manchester United have confirmed the arrival of Ralf Rangnick as interim boss
  • The popular German manager will take charge until the end of the season
  • Rangnick revealed a desire to get every United star playing to their potential
  • Sportsmail looks at the respective potentials of every single Red Devils player 

With every coaching appointment, there is the ‘new manager bounce’ – and how badly do Manchester United need that boost from Ralf Rangnick. 

The German manager was appointed as the Red Devils’ interim coach on Monday until the end of the season, with the former RB Leipzig and Schalke boss looking to stablise the Old Trafford ship after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s topsy-turvy reign – once his work-permit issues are sorted that is.

In the meantime, Rangnick will be watching the team closely when they take on Arsenal at Old Trafford tonight, under the caretaker charge of Michael Carrick, and will hope to have taken the reins for the visit of Crystal Palace on Sunday.

As he spoke to United supporters for the first time earlier this week, Rangnick revealed his desire to make every single Red Devils star ‘fulfil their potential’ – with the 63-year-old set to bring an attacking, pressing-influenced style of play to Old Trafford. 

But what are the respective potentials of each and every United star and can Rangnick and his style help them reach that level? 

Ralf Rangnick was confirmed as Manchester United’s new interim boss on Monday morning

German boss Rangnick wants every single Man United player to ‘fulfil their potential’ with him

David de Gea

Last season many feared for David de Gea’s future at Manchester United, with Dean Henderson installed as first-choice goalkeeper under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for their Premier League campaign.

But the Spanird has responded well to his Europa League final disappointment – he missed the decisive penalty after the entire rest of the team had scored – by taking advantage of Henderson’s injury woes at the start of the season to gain his place between the sticks back at Old Trafford.

De Gea has simply refused to let his spot go again and has pulled off some top saves this season – and is in some of the best form of his United career.

David de Gea has been one of the very few stars from United’s season with his displays in goal

The 31-year-old is in the final years of the prime stage of his career but if this season’s displays are anything to go by, then he can still continue to be one of the league’s top goalkeepers. 

Potential: World class 

Victor Lindelof 

The Swedish centre-back has gone from one of the first names on the team sheet to a back-up player in his five years at Old Trafford – and the chances Lindelof has been presented with at United this season have not been taken.

The 27-year-old has been given opportunities to stake his claim for a starting spot through Raphael Varane’s injury problems and suspension issues with Harry Maguire, but United have won just twice when Lindelof has started this season and kept one clean sheet. 

Victor Lindelof has gone from key player to back-up option in a short space of time at United

Lindelof still has two years left on his contract so Rangnick has time to get the best out of him, but with Varane and Maguire in the squad it is difficult to see him improve on anything more than his back-up role.  

Potential: Squad member

Eric Bailly 

Behind Lindelof in the centre-back pecking order is Eric Bailly, who has been awarded less game time than his Swedish team-mate at Old Trafford this season.

The Ivorian has been used just twice in the Premier League so far this season, with his first outing seeing him concede an own goal within minutes of the Manchester derby loss to City earlier this month. 

Bailly has been regularly linked with a move away from United over the past 12 months, with the defender reportedly feeling disrespected by the club earlier this year after he received a new contract offer that would only have increased his overall transfer value.

Eric Bailly (right) has failed to take the chances presented to him at Old Trafford this season

The 27-year-old has two years left on his United contract, like Lindelof, but it is difficult to see him staying past the next summer window.  

Potential: Exit bound

Phil Jones

It’s incredible to think that Phil Jones is still contracted to Manchester United. 

The Red Devils’ forgotten man made a rare appearance in the United matchday squad for the draw at Chelsea last week, with his last competitive first-team outing coming before the coronavirus hiatus at the start of 2020. 

Jones has suffered with long-term knee problems and United legend Rio Ferdinand recently accused his former team-mate of denying a young player a spot in the first-team squad. 

The 29-year-old’s United deal runs out at the end of next season but the fact he has only just returned to the club’s squad after nearly two years away does not bode well for him.  

Potential: Exit bound

Harry Maguire

Rangnick will be looking for leaders in the dressing room to help convey his ideas across and they don’t come more important than Harry Maguire. 

The Red Devils captain remains one of the most important players in the United squad as his displays often dictate whether the club win or lose matches.

Harry Maguire is a key leader at United but can occasionally lose concentration in defence

One area where Maguire needs to improve is his concentration. His red card against Watford earlier this month was entirely of his own making and while ball carrying is his strong point, playing a high line in a Rangnick-style way is not.

Time will tell whether Maguire can start bringing the consistency he shows for England into his club form.  

Potential: World class

Paul Pogba

It seems like United are braced for an important six months under Rangnick, but this will also be a vital period in the career of Paul Pogba.

The Frenchman’s contract runs out at the end of the current season and he looks closer to leaving Old Trafford than he has ever done before. His latest significant injury has even posed the question of whether he will ever don the United red ever again, with the January transfer window coming up, which could be United’s last chance to earn a fee for him.

Rangnick will take charge of Paul Pogba (left) not knowing whether he wants to stay at the club

But could a skilled philosophical coach like Rangnick be the mastermind Pogba needs to finally reach his huge potential in a United shirt? Excellent displays from the French international have been sporadic – and normally come in international games.

Like Maguire, Pogba needs to start producing the performances he unleashed for France, but at United. But has the 28-year-old already decided to end his Old Trafford career in 2022?

Potential: World class 

Cristiano Ronaldo 

What Rangnick does with Cristiano Ronaldo is anyone’s guess. 

United’s new interim boss will bring a high-pressing game to the club’s forward line but is that really the Portuguese forward’s game?

What Rangnick will be tasked with doing is making sure Ronaldo hits his goals target. Many predicted the 36-year-old to be hitting the 30-goal mark this season and while he has 10 goals in 15 games so far this term, he only has one in his last eight league games. 

Can Rangnick get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo with his intense pressing game?

United need quality in this barren run of form and they don’t come much better than Ronaldo, who is not deemed a long-term option at Old Trafford – but then again, neither is Rangnick.  

Potential: World class

Juan Mata

United’s No 8 has only played 63 minutes of football this season and 62 of them came in the club’s Carabao Cup defeat to West Ham in September. 

The 33-year-old is very much in the twilight of his career and is not expected to be in Rangnick’s plans nor to extend his contract beyond next summer. 

A few impact substitutions off the bench may be the most he gets at Old Trafford this season, but nothing too substantial.  

Potential: Exit bound

Anthony Martial  

He was named as Europe’s Golden Boy back in 2015, but Anthony Martial’s Manchester United career is slowly falling by the wayside. 

The 25-year-old is the less attractive option to the likes of Edinson Cavani and Ronaldo up front and there’s a feeling that the Frenchman doesn’t quite fit in at Old Trafford anymore.

There have been some glimpses of quality from Martial this season, namely his strike against Everton last month, but Rangnick will be tasked with getting more of the super-talented player United signed for £36million six years ago.  

Potential: Key player

Marcus Rashford

The England international is set to be another key figure Rangnick is likely to target in the Manchester United dressing room between now and the end of the season, with Rashford now firmly back from his injury woes.

The 24-year-old’s tally of three goals in nine games is not too shabby considering he missed the first chunk of the season due to a shoulder injury, but now is the time in his career to see Rashford starting getting regular high goal numbers.

Marcus Rashford (middle) has successfully come back from injury but now needs to push on

Rashford netted 21 and 22 goals in his last two season at Old Trafford so there’s a good tally to target, but can United’s No 10 start emulating club legends such as Wayne Rooney? 

Potential: World class

Mason Greenwood

One of Rangnick’s big tasks is to rediscover the form of Mason Greenwood, who was one of the plus points in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure at Old Trafford.

The 20-year-old has rose to prominence at United under the Norwegian over the past 18 months and started this season strongly for United, scoring in each of his opening three league matches of the season.

But ihe England international’s form has slowly dropped and he has been left out of United’s team for three out of their last four games. 

Mason Greenwood started the season well but his form has dropped off in recent weeks

As a two-footed talent who is an excpetional finisher, Greenwood has the potential to go however far he wants to in football – but is Rangnick the man to help him reach those levels?

Potential: World class

Lee Grant 

Three years at United, just two appearances and holding the role of fourth-choice goalkeeper at 38 years of age. 

Sorry Lee, there’s not much expected of you at Old Trafford.

Potential: Exit bound

Jesse Lingard 

There’s a feeling that Jesse Lingard wants to succeed at United, but even the 28-year-old is feeling resigned to a move away from Old Trafford soon. 

The midfielder returned to the club after his promising loan at West Ham last season – but his career is yet to kick-start again at United. 

Jesse Lingard looks set to leave United in 2022 despite Rangnick’s arrival at the club

All of Lingard’s appearances in the Premier League and Champions League this season have come from the bench and while there have been moments of quality, such as impressive strikes against Newcastle and West Ham, they have not been enough to earn him a start. 

The 28-year-old could be given a run of games by Rangnick but that is not assured given Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek are currently ahead of him in the midfield pecking order.

As Sportsmail revealed earlier this month, Lingard has his heart set on a move away and that is likely to come either in January or within the next seven months.  

Potential: Exit bound

Amad Diallo

Ivorian winger Amad Diallo’s Manchester United career has got off to a slow start following his £37million move from Atalanta, but there have been glimpses that the teenager could be a vital United player in the future.

The 19-year-old made some spectacular cameos for United last season under Solskjaer – and even scored for the club in the Europa League against AC Milan – but he was not deemed ready to play a considerable first-team role this season.

Amad Diallo showed positives signs last season but is yet to make an impact at United this term

That is mainly due to the arrival of Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho as attackers over the summer and United failed to find a suitable loan move for Diallo over the summer.

A spot on the Champions League bench for the Villarreal win reminded fans that he can still play a first-team role this season, but there is a lengthy queue ahead of him. 

Potential: Key player


The Brazilian midfielder splits opinion at Old Trafford. Some claim Fred is not good enough for a team like United, while others insist he is misunderstood and the club’s problems do not lie at his door. 

Solskjaer persisted with the 28-year-old alongside Scott McTominay in a midfield pivot, which was often slammed by Red Devils fans for being too conservative with the likes of Pogba and Donny van de Beek as other options. 

Brazilian midfielder Fred divides opinion but could be given a new lease of life by Rangnick

Perhaps Rangnick could take a look at the Fred-McTominay pivot and stick with it for now, especially if they do bring defensive solidity in a high-pressing game.

But with names such as Declan Rice and Amadou Haidara being thrown around as transfer targets, there is a feeling that United are looking for better midfield options than Fred.

Potential: Squad member 

Bruno Fernandes 

While Bruno Fernandes is one of Manchester United’s most important players, this does feel like a crossroads for the Portuguese midfielder.

The 27-year-old has four goals and nine assists in 19 games after what was another exciting start to the season for him, but he was dropped by Portugal for their crucial World Cup qualifier for Serbia this month and was also snubbed from the start for United’s trip to Villarreal. 

Bruno Fernandes started the season brightly but is now at a crossroads in his whole career

He has not scored in the Premier League since September 11 and while he has at least one assist in every Champions League group game so far for United, Fernandes’ progress has stalled slightly from last season. 

He needs a breath of fresh air and Rangnick could give him that. But with that comes a change in style which he will have to conform to. 

Potential: World class

Raphael Varane  

Along with De Gea and possibly Maguire, Raphael Varane is one of the few Manchester United players whose starting line-up role is safe. 

The French defender brings stability at the back and United have won the vast majority of the matches in which the 28-year-old has played. 

Raphael Varane is one of the few United stars who has a guaranteed starting spot if fit

Varane will not get any better but has won pretty much everything there is to win in the game at Real Madrid and his champion mentality will be crucial for Rangnick as he tries to get United picking up victories again.  

Potential: World class

Diogo Dalot 

The Portuguese right-back has a fairly important back-up role at United as he often fills in for Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Luke Shaw when there are injury or suspension issues.

Dalot showed what he can do on loan at AC Milan last season but has struggled to make a similar impact at United this term – with all of his Premier League appearances coming off the bench. 

The full-back is just 22 so there is plenty of time and areas of his game that can be improved, but it is difficult to see a future for him as a key player at Old Trafford, especially with Serie A clubs being continually linked with a move for Dalot. 

Potential: Squad member

Edinson Cavani

Whenever Edinson Cavani appears in a Manchester United shirt, he very rarely lets the club down. 

His 17 goals last season – his first in England – shows Cavani simply has a knack for scoring and affecting matters in the final third. Though this season has been a bit more of a struggle.

Edinson Cavani has never let Manchester United down when he has appeared up front

Injury problems have kept him on the fringes of the United team but Rangnick knows he has a pure goalscorer in his ranks that he can turn to. 

His role in the 3-0 victory over Tottenham alongside Ronaldo and Fernandes shows exactly what he is capable of and if United are willing to get back in the top four picture, then the Uruguayan’s displays will be vital. 

And as one of the hardest working forwards off the ball in world football, if anyone is capable of pressing from the front like Rangnick likes, it’s Cavani.

Potential: Key player

Tom Heaton 

Like fellow back-up goalkeeper Grant, Tom Heaton is highly unlikely to play a major role at Manchester United under Rangnick. 

His chances may improve if Dean Henderson gets a loan move away in January but he is likely to stay clear of the first-team picture and remain as third choice, so his work will be confined to the training ground, helping the other goalkeepers improve. 

Potential: Squad member

Luke Shaw

Luke Shaw has enjoyed an incredible rise in 2021. 

From being out of the Manchester United and England picture to a regular in both starting XIs – via a Euro 2020 final goal – this is clearly the purplest patch of his career.

Luke Shaw could be a useful asset for Rangnick, who puts an emphasis on set pieces

The left-back has continued his form into this season but injuries will always be concerning due to Shaw’s history of them – and he could miss the start of Rangnick’s reign with a head injury. 

But United’s new interim boss stressed the importance of set pieces to his philosophy and Shaw is United’s first-choice deal-ball taker from wide areas. Expect some improvements in that game at United under Rangnick.  

Potential: Key player

Jadon Sancho 

It’s been a slow start to Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United career after his £73million move from Borussia Dortmund, but the England winger is starting to come back to his best. 

Sancho was on the fringes of the team for most of his time working with Solskjaer, but starred in the defeat to Watford before netting back-to-back goals against Villarreal and Chelsea last week. 

Jadon Sancho appears to be hitting form at the right time ahead of Rangnick’s arrival

Sancho is starting to replicate the form that saw him net 20 goals and a similar number of assists for Dortmund in each and every season in Germany, in what would be a much-needed boost for United.

The 21-year-old’s pace and determination is a good fit to Rangnick’s high-pressing game, so the German manager’s arrival could be the added boost Sancho needs. 

Potential: World class

Dean Henderson 

The England goalkeeper was expected to push on after a stellar campaign last term, which saw him oust De Gea at United before earning a call-up to the Three Lions squad for Euro 2020.

But Henderson withdrew from the England set-up due to injury and now finds himself playing catch-up to the in-form De Gea this season. 

Goalkeeper Dean Henderson could look to leave on loan should his game time not improve

The 24-year-old still has quality but may decide that the instability at United following Solskjaer’s sacking is the perfect chance to get a loan move. 

A permanent move away from United for the 24-year-old may not be so wise, given De Gea is 31 and only set to have a few more years left at the top. Age is on Henderson’s side.

Potential: Key player

Alex Telles 

Brazilian left-back Telles had a back-up role at left-back behind Shaw under Solskjaer – and is widely expected to continue that job under Rangnick.

But slight injury issues for Shaw means that Telles could be starting the German interim’s first matches in charge, which could give him the opportunity to steal a march on Shaw’s spot. 

Either way, Shaw’s ability to take set pieces perfectly means he is likely to return at left-back when he returns from injury. Telles, 28, could end up moving on from Old Trafford before his contract ends in 2024 should his game time fail to improve. 

Potential: Squad member

Aaron Wan-Bissaka 

Aaron Wan-Bissaka always has a tough role trying to emulate the likes of United legends Gary Neville and Antonio Valencia at right-back, but there is a real question mark as to what type of full-back he is. 

The 24-year-old is known to be a defensive-minded full-back but his lapses in concentration have been exposed on several occasions in big matches – most notably against Liverpool and Manchester City this season. 

Aaron Wan-Bissaka needs to work out what kind of right-back he is, with Rangnick’s help

His attacking game is not much better, with his delivery often criticised and he is never likely to get on the scoresheet. 

But there is a reason why United splashed out £50m to sign him and Rangnick could help Wan-Bissaka, who is blessed with pace and power, make strides towards being a right-back capable of putting his name in the hat for an England spot. 

Potential: Key player

Nemanja Matic 

The Serbian midfielder could be an important figure that Rangnick could turn to, but Matic is not really in line to be a key player for United between now and the end of the season.

The 33-year-old earned his place back in the United starting line-up for their last two league matches against Watford and Chelsea but did not pull up many trees in those matches.

Matic is another player whose contract expires at the end of next season and, with Fred and McTominay regulars in the pivot position, he may be tempted to leave.

Potential: Squad member

Donny van de Beek 

It may have taken Solskjaer to leave the club for this to happen, but Donny van de Beek’s time at United looks like it is finally taking off. 

The Dutchman was a regular (unused player) on the substitutes’ bench while the Norwegian was in charge, while there was a certain symbolism that Van de Beek’s finest hour in a United shirt came against Watford earlier this month in a game which ended Solskjaer’s reign at the club.

Midfielder Donny van de Beek could open a new chapter in his Manchester United career 

Nobody really knows why the 24-year-old was never fancied by Solskjaer but the £40m signing must now take it upon himself to become a regular feature in the middle of the park.

As previously mentioned, the Fred-McTominay partnership is often criticised by fans so that is Van de Beek’s chance to show his worth.  

Potential: Key player

Scott McTominay 

Like Wan-Bissaka, nobody is really sure what type of midfielder Scott McTominay is.

The Scottish international is sometimes viewed as a defensive option, given the fact he sometimes plays at centre-back for his country, but he was a regular in the opponents’ penalty box during Solskjaer’s final few months in charge.

Scott McTominay is a United star who does not know what kind of role he is best suited to

What Rangnick must do is give the 24-year-old a fixed role and decide whether he is good enough for United. 

McTominay is a popular option among United fans and may become a key player, but right now he is a long way from where the likes of Roy Keane, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes were at his stage. 

Potential: Key player 

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