The now former Manchester United interim manager led his new side to a 3-0 victory over Croatia in his first match since it was announced that he would leave Old Trafford, having previously been expected to remain at the club in a consultancy role. But as the strains of Rangnick’s new job became clear, the 63-year-old decided to concentrate full-time on Austria and turn down the chance to be part of Erik ten Hag ‘s revolution.
Rangnick’s team picked up a convincing three points on the road, as ex- Stoke City and West Ham star Marko Arnautovic gave them the lead before half-time. Goals from Michael Gregoritsch and Marcel Sabitzer in the second period wrapped things up, as Champions League final winner Luka Modric ‘s introduction prevented Croatia from conceding more.
Elsewhere, there was defeat for United defender Raphael Varane in Group 1’s other match between France and Denmark. Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema put Les Blues in front at the Stade de France after 51 minutes, but the Danes came back to win 2-1 after Andreas Cornelius scored twice to turn the game on its head.
Varane’s night was made worse by suffering an injury, limping off in place of Arsenal starlet William Saliba. Kylian Mbappe also had to be forced off, with Red Devils transfer target Christopher Nkunku coming on at half-time and failing to add to his sensational tally of 35 goals this season.
In Group 4, Louis van Gaal ‘s Holland powered their way to top of the table by thumping a star-studded Belgium 4-1. The Netherlands were backed by Liverpool stalwart Virgil van Dijk and Premier League champion Nathan Ake in defensive, but it was Tottenham Hotspur’s Steven Bergwijn who broke the deadlock shortly before the break, profiting off a pass from another United target, Frenkie de Jong.
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Memphis Depay then scored two goals in 14 minutes either side of Denzel Dumfries’ strike to seal the emphatic triumph before former Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi pulled a consolation goal back in added time. On Wednesday, Poland produced a late comeback to beat World Cup -chasing Wales 2-1 in Wroclaw, but have now been bumped down to second place.
There were also Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, with Ivory Coast beating 3-1 Zambia at home, partially thanks to a goal from ex-Spurs defender Serge Aurier. Uruguay also beat 3-0 Mexico in a friendly, with Edinson Cavani netting twice following his release from the Red Devils.