Ralf Rangnick’s page in the Manchester United history books is already up for debate, but their place in his life story was cemented long before moving to Old Trafford.
Named interim coach in November last year, Rangnick moved to England with a hefty reputation as a tactical revolutionary and scouting innovator back in his native Germany.
The issue for Man United, though, in their crucial race for a spot in the top four, is Rangick’s trophy cabinet hardly screams ‘elite’.
It does, however, show a special relationship with German giants Schalke, who the 63-year-old achieved enormous success with during two short coaching spells.
Rangnick guided the side to a second-placed Bundesliga finish and cup final in his first stint in 2005, and did even better with cup and super cup wins in his second in 2011.
But the Champions League was where the real magic happened, taking the club to an unexpected final four appearance, where he first encountered current club United.
One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s best-ever squads eventually dominated the 2011 tie 6-1 on aggregate, with Rangnick leaving later that year, but just looking at that squad and its later editions, it may be a career regret.
Rangnick’s 2010-11 Schalke featured two of football’s greatest ever players in the shape of Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeping legend Manuel Neuer, as well as Real Madrid icon Raul.
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It also featured two young faces in the shape of Liverpool’s Joel Matip and Paris Saint-Germain’s Julian Draxler, explaining how such an unfancied side made it to the final four. But that’s far from the end of the story.
If Draxler wasn’t enough of a talent to be produced by the club’s academy in Gelsenkirchen, the club also made former Real Madrid and Arsenal star Mesut Ozil, as well as Bayern danger-man Leroy Sane.
In a potential line up dotted with Champions League winning talent, there’s also former Barcelona man Ivan Rakitic who played for Schalke between 2007 and 2011 as well as treble winning Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka.
PSG’s Thilo Kehrer is yet another star to have been given his chance by Schalke, while ex-Arsenal man Sead Kolasinac also made it through the academy.
Right back Rafinha went on to win 18 trophies with Bayern, and its when you look at the success achieved by superstars picked up by the Munich giants, it’s unarguable that Schalke would have won more silverware had they, and Rangnick, stayed.
A combination of the pandemic and financial mismanagement now sees Schalke in the second division for the first time since 1991, struggling to make their way back up.
The club even had their chance at securing the return of Rangnick in a directorial role during the summer, only to see that opportunity similarly fumbled by ownership.
However, with the club’s academy still producing exceptional talent and Rangnick’s interim spell at United not exactly going to plan, perhaps the two could again reunite to try and recreate the team that could have dominated Europe.
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