Elanga impresses Ralf ahead of Anfield trip
Anthony Elanga could have played his way into Manchester United’s showdown with Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday night as the race for the top four hots up.
The 19-year-old’s versatility impressed United interim boss Ralf Rangnick in our 3-2 Old Trafford win against Norwich City on Saturday.
The Swedish international started ahead of Marcus Rashford as Rangnick had to make a decision on his attacking personnel against the Canaries.
But Elanga also proved his worth as a makeshift right-back later on in the game as United looked to hold onto the lead.
It was an eventual three points, coupled with defeats for rivals Arsenal and Tottenham, that has put the Reds right back in the mix for the coveted Champions League spot.
United are now three points behind Spurs with both having played 32 games and are level with Arsenal having played one match more.
But points at Anfield are still vital in a match that is sure to be, as usual, a feisty affair in a red hot cauldron.
Elanga has tasted hostile environments already this season in the Manchester derby at the Etihad, against Leeds at Elland Road, away at Everton and in Madrid against Atletico.
The teenager scored against Leeds and Atletico but Tuesday night would be his biggest test yet. And Rangnick says Elanga has shown the attitude needed to get into his team.
“I had to decide between him (Marcus) and Anthony Elanga today (against Norwich),” he told a post-match press conference.
“I think Anthony, not only did he do well when he prepared the first goal, he also played for the first time in his career as a right-back and did well in the last 20 minutes, the way he defended.
“He won most of the balls on his side in those 20 minutes and then Marcus came on for the last 25 minutes.”
Elanga had to be employed in the right-back role late on, with Rangnick unable to call on the injured Scott McTominay and Fred in the defensive midfield roles leaving United with an offensive line-up.
The boss has reported that probably both McTominay and Fred will not make the visit to Merseyside and Rafael Varane is also in a race against time to be up for selection.
Elanga’s cameo at right-back will provide Rangnick with an option at Anfield. And the clash with our historic rivals will require United to be on top form against an opponent fighting for the Premier League title and still in with a chance of four pieces of silverware this campaign.
Rangnick and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp were close friends when they managed in Germany and respected rivals in the Bundesliga.
Klopp has a number of Rangnick’s former players at RB Leipzig in his squad. Joel Matip, Naby Keita, Sadio Mane, Ibrahima Konate and Takumi Minamino were all Rangnick finds.
He admits Liverpool will be tough. “They are good, they are extremely good,” he says.
“It's no coincidence that they're as good as they are. Jurgen has built that team over the last six and a half years. Six or seven of those players used to be my/our players, we signed them for our clubs when nobody knew them and again it's no coincidence that this is probably the club with the highest number of players from our former clubs.
“Everybody has seen today’s game (against Norwich) and we all know what kind of team we are playing against on Tuesday. If we play like that like we played today it will be very difficult to get even a point out of the next game. This is what we have to be realistically aware of.
“We have to go to Liverpool and just get anything out of that game. If possible, we need three points. That can happen in football, it has happened before but we have to be realistic. We have to play a lot better in possession of the ball.
“Still we got the result [against Norwich] and that was important today and now we have to create something that nobody will expect [at Anfield] so we have to be up for the game on Tuesday and we will see.”