Who is Manchester United’s new first team coach, Kieran McKenna?

Kieran McKenna has just won the Premier League North with Manchester United’s U18s. After just two seasons of managing United’s youngsters, the Fermanagh man has been rewarded by being appointed head coach of the first team.

McKenna will be the man responsible for running and organising first team training sessions for Jose Mourinho. With the departure of assistant coach Rui Faria, Mourinho is about to begin a philosophical change at Old Trafford. Rather than bringing in an actual assistant, Mourinho is bringing in coaches who will manage certain areas within the squad.

After coaching promising youngsters such as Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong, McKenna will coach United’s big names such as Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba. Mourinho has the philosophy where he does not like to work with experienced coaches who are external to him. The Portuguese boss likes to shape his backroom staff’s ideology so that they will have similar input to himself.


When McKenna was 15-years-old, he left his home in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland to join Tottenham Hotspur’s academy. During his time in North London, he was perceived as a promising prospect. His dedication, attitude, and talent consequentially lead to him being named reserve team captain at 21-years-old.

Unfortunately for McKenna, a chronic hip injury ended his playing career prematurely. Still in love with the game of football, McKenna used his passion and drive to complete a degree in sports science at the University of Loughborough. Additionally, the Fermanagh man started working as head analyst at Tottenham’s Youth Academy.

McKenna was then granted the position of head coach of Tottenham’s U18s. In 2015 he guided the Spurs youngsters to an FA Youth Cup semi-final. Due to his success at Tottenham, Manchester United showed admiration for the young coach.

Just in time for the 2016/2017 season, McKenna was appointed head coach of Manchester United’s U18s. In his first season, United u18s finished second place in the Premier League North. With the lack of players in United’s U23 squad due to departures, first team call-ups and loans, u18 players were chosen to play at U23 level. Obviously, this affected the results of the U18s but it is important to remember youth football isn’t about success it’s about development.

This season just gone, Kieran McKenna guided United’s stars of the future to the U18 Premier League North title. Success has declined for United’s U23s in recent years however, McKenna has coached a crop of players that have shown hope for United’s youth system. Consequentially, Kieran McKenna’s work has been admired by Jose Mourinho.

Style of Football

McKenna is a boyhood United fan, he has grown up watching and supporting the teams that were coached by Sir Alex Ferguson. His own teams play attacking football themselves, this may come as joy to many United fans. After two spells by managers who play pragmatic football, a coach who plays offensive football, is now controlling first team training.

After getting the best out of promising youngsters with attacking flair, United fans will be eager to see him do the same with the like of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Alexis Sanchez. The 32-year-old may also bridge the gap between the U18s and the first team. Highly rated youngster Angel Gomes is coming to an age where he may feel he is entitled to a chance of first team football. Having McKenna coaching the first team is the perfect way to try and bed the player into the squad correctly.

Mourinho’s Men

Joining McKenna will be Michael Carrick and Stefano Rapetti. Carrick who has just recently retired has enjoyed a close relationship with Mourinho. Mourinho has even name-checked him about possibly becoming his assistant in the future. Previously players have mentioned Carrick’s influence in the United dressing room. Furthermore, he seems to be a good addition to a squad that can be short on morale at times.

Likewise, to McKenna, Rapetti was discovered by Mourinho whilst he was working with a club’s youth team. At Inter Milan, Mourinho was impressed with Rapetti’s work with the club’s U19s. The Italian was brought into Mourinho’s first team staff at Inter in 2009. That season was arguably Mourinho’s finest moment as a coach as Inter won the treble. Mourinho will be hoping that Rapetti will have a similar influence on his United squad.

Going in to his third season in the North West, Mourinho will have a refreshed coaching team. All adding their own qualities, United fans will hope it works out. Although Carrick and Rapetti have big expectations as coaches at Old Trafford, it is McKenna who will intrigue the United faithful the most. A change of style at Old Trafford is needed to change United’s critics tune. The appointment of McKenna just may be Jose Mourinho’s way of answering those critics.

Written by Shane Purcell

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