Would Julian Nagelsmann be a good fit for Manchester United?

Julian Nagelsmann is the exciting 32-year-old ‘Mini Mourinho’ who has innovated with minimal tactics, video screens and dressing room diplomacy… but would the German boss be a good fit for Man United?

  • Sportsmail revealed Man United’s interest in German boss Julian Nagelsmann
  • 32-year-old, currently at RB Leipzig, is one of world’s most exciting managers 
  • German innovator believes that only ’30 per cent of coaching is tactics’ 
  • Nagelsmann has been described as a ‘Mini Mourinho’ for his attention to detail
  • One of his innovations was to install a giant video screen at the training ground
  • But he would need time to bring his philosophy to life at an elite club 

Watching Manchester United’s players languidly pass the ball sideways as they tried and failed to break down a packed Newcastle United defence on Sunday didn’t exactly suggest a great deal of tactical innovation at Old Trafford.

Luckily, if Julian Nagelsmann ever becomes United’s manager, they wouldn’t have to worry about such things.

’30 per cent of coaching is tactics, 70 per cent social competence,’ the young German once declared when invited to outline his managerial philosophy.

Julian Nagelsmann, the 32-year-old RB Leipzig coach, is attracting interest from Man United

The German is regarded as one of the most innovative and pioneering coaches in the game

What Nagelsmann means is that if each of the players in the side are in the correct psychological condition, their quality will ensure everything else is taken care of.

Nagelsmann is only 32 but has long been turning heads at Europe’s elite clubs, who view him as the most interesting and progressive of today’s young coaches.

In the summer of 2018, German heavyweights Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund both considered making a move for a coach who’d just delivered unglamorous Hoffenheim into the Bundesliga top four for the second successive season.

They shied away, citing his lack of experience, but an undeterred Real Madrid made an approach as they looked to find Zinedine Zidane’s replacement.

Now, as Sportsmail exclusively revealed on Wednesday, United have earmarked Nagelsmann as a future Old Trafford manager. Bayern also continue to be admirers.

The pressure may be mounting on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following the club’s worst start to a league season in 30 years, but United see the German as one to watch for further down the line.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is feeling the heat after United’s worst start to a season in 30 years

Nagelsmann with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, a coach who has influenced him

Whoever they assign to complete their due diligence will certainly be kept entertained as Nagelsmann embarks on his project at RB Leipzig, whom he joined in the summer.

Leipzig were so keen to recruit Nagelsmann they activated an exit clause in his Hoffenheim contract in the summer of 2018 with a view to him starting the role a year later.

They duly re-appointed Ralf Rangnick as a one-season stopgap with the task of ensuring Nagelsmann would be coaching in the Champions League when he arrived.

In many ways, such a young club as Leipzig – they were founded only 10 years ago – suits such a young manager, not least because Nagelsmann clearly doesn’t give a stuff about their controversial back story that makes them despised by fans of Germany’s more traditional clubs.

‘Good work should be appreciated, whether a club has been here for a short time or for decades,’ he told Spox.

‘When a start-up comes up with great inventions, nobody says: “They have no tradition so that’s a s*** product”.

‘Nobody knew Apple 30 years ago but today almost everyone has an iPhone.’

Nagelsmann has been unapologetic about joining such a reviled club as RB Leipzig

Christopher Nkunku (centre) celebrates after scoring Leipzig’s equaliser at Bayer Leverkusen

Nagelsmann’s team currently sit fifth in the Bundesliga standings after seven matches

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Nagelsmann is a deep and innovative thinker. When planning strategies for games, he locks himself away in an empty room with just a pen and notepad.

Yet he also places great trust in the brains around him, always sharing space and ideas with his assistants. At Hoffenheim, he didn’t have his own office.

Also unsurprising is that the teenage Nagelsmann, having seen persistent knee injuries ruin a playing career that had seen him play at youth level for 1860 Munich and Augsburg, began a Business Administration degree at university before switching to Sports Science.

That set him on the coaching path and he briefly worked under the current Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel at Augsburg before becoming assistant coach at Hoffenheim.

It led to the Hoffenheim goalkeeper Tim Wiese describing him as a ‘Mini Mourinho’ because of his meticulous approach. 

Nagelsmann wrestles with a tactics board during RB Leipzig’s pre-season training camp

The 32-year-old manager has already attracted attention from some of Europe’s elite clubs

He also took charge of their youth sides, learning his craft. ‘My philosophy is to attack the opponents near their own goal because your own way to the goal is not as far, if you get the ball higher up,’ he explained back then.

‘I think the Spanish way is the philosophy similar to mine.’

One small but significant way in which Nagelsmann fostered team togetherness was to invite his players to address him using the informal ‘Du’ form for the word ‘you’ rather than the more respectful ‘Sie’.

It removed any airs and graces with his squad in a stroke and, when he began his first full season as Hoffenheim’s first-team coach, he allowed the players to democratically select their captain and the season’s objectives.

When they reported for pre-season training, the players found that Nagelsmann had installed a huge 26-square-metre, high-definition video screen by the side of the training pitch.

Four cameras – two from a tower high above the halfway line and one behind each goal – constantly record practice matches, allowing the coaches to review and analyse passages of play as the team watch them back.

When the FIFA 19 video game came out, staff managed to hook a PlayStation up to this mammoth television for a bit of downtime.

The video screen and one of the camera gantries Nagelsmann had installed at Hoffenheim

Hoffenheim staff play FIFA on the giant screen installed at their training ground 

The innovations continued upon Nagelsmann’s arrival at Leipzig when, influenced by something Pep Guardiola had done at Manchester City, he demanded the dressing rooms at the Red Bull Arena be reconfigured into an oval shape so he could speak to each of his players more clearly.

His Leipzig side have adopted various formations in the early weeks of Nagelsmann’s tenure, reflecting his belief that such things aren’t as important as players fully applying themselves.

‘It’s a question of five or 10 metres whether it’s a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1,’ he once said. ‘You only see teams adhering to that at kick-off and perhaps eight times during the game.’

Contracted to Leipzig until 2023, Nagelsmann is only just at the beginning of his process there.

While his innovations would make him a genuine breath of fresh air at Old Trafford, he wouldn’t be an effective quick-fix. Time would be needed to feel the full effect of his approach.

Nagelsmann argues with Lyon manager Sylvinho during their Champions League meeting

Given his laissez-faire attitude towards tactics, he perhaps wouldn’t be someone to offer a definite direction of travel straight away but his focus on man management and psychology could heal some of the scars of recent seasons.

There are also signs he could restore something like the siege mentality United were famous for under Sir Alex Ferguson. Nagelsmann certainly isn’t ashamed to be the manager of such a reviled club as Red Bull-funded Leipzig.

He remains untested at one of Europe’s biggest clubs but it’s a matter of time for this young and exciting coach. It remains to be seen if that club is Manchester United.


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