United looked hungry in the press

It didn’t take long for Ralf Rangnick’s thought processes to make their mark on Manchester United, even from afar.

To anyone with a pair of eyes, it has been clear that United’s problems as a pressing unit start and end with Cristiano Ronaldo. Simply put, United are not aggressive enough in the press with the ageing striker in the team and, for a man, who built his coaching reputation on applying a stranglehold on opposing defenders, Rangnick will have strict ideas on what he wants from his front three and so Ronaldo was omitted from the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge and Michael Carrick, the caretaker United manager, appeared to adhere to them. Those who played instead of Ronaldo showed signs of their hunger for the ball by hunting in packs against Chelsea yesterday.

It was noteworthy, too, that Jadon Sancho, a player who dominated in Rangnick’s native Bundesliga, was in the starting line-up. The manner in which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer utilised the former Borussia Dortmund attacker baffled observers in Germany who salivated over his performances during a spell in which he announced himself as a global superstar. He has been a pale imitation of that player on his return to England but looked much more reminiscent of his Dortmund self, not least when he seized upon Jorginho’s slack control and charged from the halfway line to score the opening goal.

It was a dogged performance by United in holding on for a draw and was a positive sign of what might be to come.

Gerrard will recognise kindred spirit in McGinn

John McGinn admitted he would enjoy watching the replay of his clinching goal against Crystal Palace on Saturday with a cup of tea which was fitting, since he made the finish look as if it was a piece of cake. It was anything but. The Aston Villa midfielder capped a man-of-the-match display with an exquisite curling strike from the edge of the area to give Steven Gerrard his second win in succession since leaving Rangers for the Midlands club.

McGinn was his usual model of self-deprecation saying: “The manager has told me if I get into those positions to let rip – it wasn’t really one of his [a Gerrard wonder goal] but [I’m] just delighted to help the team and get back on the scoresheet.”

It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Gerrard must be excited at the prospect of working with the Scotland midfielder, in whom he will no doubt see comparisons with his own game. McGinn is an all-action presence who drives his side forward and has developed a handy knack for scoring crucial goals for club and country. He might not be quite in Gerrard’s class but his new manager, who was so effusive in his praise for the 27-year-old following last weekend’s win over Brighton, knows McGinn is the closest thing he has in his line-up to a talisman.

Roberston answers his critics

Another Scot who demonstrated his considerable worth to his side at the weekend was the national team captain, Andy Robertson. The left-back’s place in Jurgen Klopp’s starting line-up at Liverpool has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, not least because of the form of Kostas Tsimikas but Roberston dispelled any notions over who might be the undisputed first choice with a display full of energy and accuracy against Southampton. The 27-year-old was first for sprints and for chances created in the 4-0 win over, setting up one goal, creating another that was ultimately disallowed and laying a couple of others on a plate only for his team-mates to spurn them. The inescapable conclusion is that Robertson has welcomed the challenge that Tsimikas has brought – and that can only be good news for Steve Clarke and Scotland.

Newcastle are a mess

Another week elapses and Newcastle are still without their first win of the season. The longer that run goes – and a look at a fixture that includes Leicester City, Liverpool Manchester City and Manchester United on the horizon suggests it might extend as far as the end of December – the more the decision to appoint Eddie Howe as manager will come under scrutiny.

Of course, prior to that daunting run Newcastle take on fellow strugglers Norwich City and Burnley – but neither match will be a foregone conclusion. It raises the question as to why Howe – a project manager rather than one equipped to deal with a reclamation project – was the pick of the definitely-not Saudi regime back Public Investment Fund to take on the job. More surprising still was the decision to appoint him before they named a sporting director, traditionally a task carried out by someone with a modicum of experience in football administration. There is a knowledge deficit in the corridors of St James’ Park and it is blindingly obvious. Worse still, they will likely find themselves attempting to recruit from a position of weakness, cast adrift at the bottom of the table with only money to wave at potential new signings. No doubt plenty of mercenary types will say ‘yes’. It’s a fitting scenario.

Warm glow amid the snow at Leicester

There were brilliantly farcical scenes at the King Power stadium yesterday even before half of a polar ice cap landed on the pitch during the match between Leicester City versus Watford. William Troost-Ekong gifted the opener to James Maddison with a howler that gave Claudio Ranieri the worst possible start on his return to the club where he won the Premier League in memorable circumstances in 2016. The scoring did not end there – Jamie Vardy, one of the heroes of that title triumph netted twice following an equaliser from the penalty spot by Josh King – as the second half was played out in near-blizzard conditions. It brought back nostalgic memories of a bygone era when games would regularly go ahead amid a heavy deluge. To those who recall the analogue era of tiny, plastic aerials mounted on the top of the box, it was a reminder of times when static would interfere with the signal and give that impression of a game played in a snowstorm. There was an added novelty, too, in the form of a yellow ball – the Premier League standard issue during this stage of the season rather than the old-fashioned orange ball of yesteryear – which was practically invisible during a slapstick half in which Emmanuel Dennis and Ademola Lookman added goals for each side in a 4-2 thriller.