As an apprentice at West Ham, Michael Carrick gaped in awe at the Manchester United players as they strode through the Boleyn Ground tunnel in their blazers. In his tailored Paul Smith suit, Carrick strides with a business-like authority.

Shielded from the chill by a smart-casual quilted Barbour coat, Carrick carried a quiet authority at Stamford Bridge, where he was almost always stood, crouching down occasionally to advise a substitute.

In front of the cameras, Carrick is not as natural - unless he is discussing tactics. As the conduit between the defence and the attack as a player, Carrick occupied the ideal role to prepare him for management and he is reading the game from the dugout as promisingly as he played it.

A question about Jadon Sancho's potentially defining week elicited an insightful breakdown of United's game plan. "It's not an easy place to come to, a place like this. Chelsea are playing well, things are going for them at the moment, they have the momentum and confidence to certainly take the ball and dominate the game, I was aware of that.

"We came here to do that, we tried to do that, we tried to hide the ball and dominate in that way but, at the same point, we were realistic.

"The front three, Marcus [Rashford], Jadon and Bruno [Fernandes] did a terrific job, a real disciplined job, of picking the moments to jump and press. But [also] picking the moments to block the middle and give a platform for the seven behind to work off and spread the spaces so we weren't chasing too much."

Carrick was conscious of 'stopping the little passes they thread through to Jorginho and Loftus-Cheek through the middle of the pitch'. The midfielders 'tried to make it as predictable as we could to force them into certain spaces and avenues we could adapt to'.

On the evidence of Carrick's first week in the suit, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ought to have listened to him more. Solskjaer, not quite as sharp in a club suit, could be clunky during his media briefings and, in one week, Carrick has charted United's tactical approach with an erudite authority that was beyond his predecessor in nearly three years.

Solskjaer's English is fluent from spending nearly 18 years in Manchester and there is a Mancunian twang to his accent. Every Friday, though, that integration was powerless to prevent him from the weekly platitudes that preceded another disasterclass. Every time Solskjaer stressed United had had 'a good week' one sensed it would end badly.

Media duties may have already ended for Carrick if United finalise Ralf Rangnick's appointment before Wednesday's pre-match preview from Carrington. Rangnick lived in England and is a self-confessed Anglophile, having studied at the University of Sussex and played for non-league Southwick. He vividly remembers Liverpool fans' 'Seaweed' retort to the Brighton chants of 'Seagulls'. United's followers meted out similar treatment during the 1983 FA Cup final.

Rangnick could manage United for the first time against Arsenal on Thursday
Rangnick could manage United for the first time against Arsenal on Thursday

Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp, Rangnick acolytes, are as captivating in the press room as they are in the technical area. Rangnick is certain to be a more commanding communicator than Solskjaer, although he seems to be in his element discussing tactics, which is seldom back-page worthy.

Rangnick will be when he is asked about Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo's dubious omission from the XI at Chelsea prompted Gary Neville to don a tinfoil hat and seriously suggest Rangnick had selected the side and Carrick was merely preaching the gospel of Ralfball.

Tuchel struggled to suppress laughter when Sky's Patrick Davison asked him if United bore any resemblance to a Rangnick team. "No," he repeated. Would Rangnick, synonymous with gegenpressing - pressing when out of possession - pick a 33-year-old Nemanja Matic? No.

Ronaldo was straight down the tunnel at full-time and he was stood in its mouth a minute before the half-time shrill. He warmed up during the interval with Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard and Diogo Dalot and the second-half had barely restarted when Ronaldo was briefed by the goalkeeping coach Richard Hartis. He embarked on his second warm-up more stridently.

Ironically, scoring without Ronaldo possibly prevented United from winning. Ronaldo was being readied to enter around the hour mark with the game goalless in an identical strategy to Villarreal, only Jorginho was blinded by the floodlights and Sancho sped off at such speed smoke could have emitted from his boots.

It is unclear why Sancho was removed but what was clear was Ronaldo was preparing to emerge early in the second-half. He has not started in three United games this season and they have not won any of them.

Ronaldo was swiftly followed down the tunnel by Rashford
Ronaldo was swiftly followed down the tunnel by Rashford

United's two attempts on target on Sunday were both from passes by a Chelsea player. They carried next to no threat with or without Ronaldo, but his form this season evinces they are more threatening with him involved from the start.

Ronaldo's six goals in five Champions League matches are responsible for the 10 points United have accrued and their status as Group F winners. He has scored in all three of their league wins since rejoining - two of them winners and the other an equaliser.

There was no strategy to signing Ronaldo other than preventing him from signing for Manchester City, yet consider United's other goalscorers: Edinson Cavani has missed 11 out of 19 games, Anthony Martial is on borrowed time and Mason Greenwood has gone cold in Ronaldo's shadow. Between them, the trio has six goals.

Rangnick, particularly popular with football's pseuds, has to make it work with Ronaldo. He has had two coaching spells in the last decade and never coached at a professional level outside Germany. He does not have half the global profile of some of the coaches Ronaldo has seen off at Real Madrid, Juventus and, most recently, United.

It is unlikely United would have hired Rangnick if he intended on phasing out Ronaldo when they are still so dependent on him. Rangnick's response to a daft question when he was RB Leipzig coach in 2015 on whether he would sign Ronaldo or Lionel Messi ("They're too old") is irrelevant. As if Ronaldo would ever settle for anyone in the Bundesliga monopoly other than Bayern Munich.

Tuchel triumphed with Chelsea in the Champions League without a dependable centre forward and in the summer he was backed with the £97.5million arrival of Romelu Lukaku. Watching Timo Werner, unearthed by Rangnick, punt the ball towards the Thames only reinforced Lukaku's importance. The striker's role suits him.

As it does Ronaldo.