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Rene Meulensteen slams Manchester United chiefs for failing to prepare for Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement

Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen has accused the Old Trafford club of failing to prepare for the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. The legendary manager quit football at the end of the 2012/13 Premier League season which was also the last time United lifted the title with almost seven seasons passing since that day marked the end of an era.

Meulensteen was a member of Ferguson’s coaching staff, rising from the youth teams to the reserves, eventually joining the first team in 2007, six years after arriving at the Old Trafford club. Ferguson guided United to the clubs 20th league title in his last season, his 13th Premier League title, a record still today.

Since Ferguson left United, the club has stuttered to continue the feats the former manager delivered as if United were set to win things each and every season and falling out of the UEFA Champions League regularly with the club seeking this season to win a place in the group stages for the 2020/21 season, which is still possible at this moment in time.

Meulensteen has admitted that he never saw Ferguson’s retirement coming, stating that the day the announcement came was just as big as a shock to him as it was to everyone else. David Moyes replaced Ferguson and he himself was out of a job ten months later. Meulensteen holds the hierarchy of the club responsible for it’s decline, saying:

“I wasn’t aware of it [Ferguson’s retirement], like many others and then obviously the news broke.

“I still remember getting text messages from somebody saying ‘it’s true’ – and I still had no idea what he was on about.

“Then obviously we got pulled in the next day, think it was a Wednesday, and the manager told us that he’d made the decision to retire at the end of the season.

“Yeah it did come as a bit of a surprise, because not long before that we’d sat down with all the staff discussing the new pre-season. And I was fully focused on the day-to-day of the job.

“It was obviously a shame, but Sir Alex had all the right to announce his retirement when he wanted as he wasn’t getting any younger.

“But he was such an instrumental person within the club and what the club had built under his guidance over 26 years. That is very hard to replace. It was never going to be the same.

“And it’s easy to say in hindsight that things could have been done differently, but you would think, for a club the size of Manchester United, that they would have thought about it thoroughly to have a really good contingency plan in place.

“Could it have been done differently with phasing his resignation in over the period of one or two seasons? There were two ways to manage it from my perspective.

“One was to do it from within and make Sir Alex very much a part of his own departure and look inside the club that he thought could be brought to the fore over time.

“That would have meant you kept the same culture and used people who understand the philosophy, and keep the stability and continuity of the club. That was one track they could have gone for.

“The other track was bringing someone in from outside, which means change and almost certainly means it will have an effect on the club. It was obviously up to the powers-that-be at the club, who made that decision.”

Meulensteen was a good coach for United, which contributed in some of Ferguson’s achievements greatly and it was a shock to see Moyes come in and bring his own coaching team, which clearly did not help him during his turbulent period as United manager. In fact, not keeping Ferguson’s coaching team was the main thing that committed him to failure.

The Dutchman was part of the coaching staff which helped United win four Premier League titles, two League Cups, five FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup, so he has experienced it all. Moyes’ coaching staff just were not good enough for United with them not coaching top quality players before arriving.

Meulensteen is right about what he has said about the club not preparing for Ferguson returning. The legendary manager was not getting any younger and it was always going to happen sooner or later. When you look at the manager’s that could have been available if a plan was made, United could have had Jose Mourinho immediately or even Pep Guardiola, if a plan was in place. That might have changed everything?

Paul Pogba will put his fee behind him and show his true self next season – Meulensteen

Paul Pogba will be a different player next season according to former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen. The player who moved to United from Juventus last summer for a world record £89 million was dogged with criticism during the past season because he was either not scoring enough goals or not doing enough, despite actually doing a lot and finishing the season with consistency based on his four seasons in Serie A with Juventus, maintaining his statistics in his first season back at United. Pogba has plenty of class and his fee may very well have affected him during matches in the past season, something which has neither been admitted or denied. One thing is for sure that Pogba is now settled and will be raring to go next season after helping his side lift the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League last season.

Pogba played against England in Paris earlier this week with France winning 2-1 and Pogba playing well, even embarrassing Chelsea defender Gary Cahill during the match also putting in some good passes and generally showing his ability on and off the ball. This is the player we all want to see at United next season, which with reinforcements and players of a better class coming to the club, Victor Lindelof has already been unveiled with Alvaro Morata, Ivan Perisic and to some extend Eric Dier seemingly targeted, Pogba could find himself being played to his own strengths next season which will see United in a much stronger position in a bid to challenge Chelsea for the Premier League title, among others. Meulensteen, speaking exclusively to 888sport, said:

“Paul Pogba has tremendous experience with Juventus and the French national team and while there are still a few flaws in his game that he needs to step up on he will be more settled next season. He is a very good footballer and a strong personality so I believe that he will better next season. A big summer transfer only lasts as long as a season and I don’t think a lot of people will be reminding him of the fee. It will no longer be a problem.”

Pogba is a player that any football supporter would love their team to have. Manchester City fans are quick to criticise but two years ago they were all buzzing because their club was linked with the Frenchman, even seeing some tweets from those supporters today makes me wonder why they continue to slate the player. If Pogba had played for City and had a similar season in which he had for United, the Citizens would be singing from the rooftops about the player they had, instead, they overly criticise a player they are merely jealous they don’t have at their club. I mean why would he even go there, it is not exactly a club that promotes youth, buying players instead of creating them.

Next season I am sure Pogba will be criticised by rival supporters with them secretly praising the player and probably having him in their fantasy football squads or on their season of FIFA 18 when it comes out at the end of September. Meulensteen is right though, Pogba’s fee last summer will no longer be a big deal, especially if the transfer record is broken again this summer with Kylian Mbappe linked to Real Madrid amongst other clubs, so the baton could be handed over to another player to face that pressure, whilst Pogba does what he can on the pitch earning his plaudits in his own right, which probably won’t be the case. Pundits will also find a reason to criticise United players whether they are the best in the world or not. It would seem that talking about Manchester United propels you into the limelight, which is something some pundits do to keep themselves relevant.

Read the full 888sport interview with Rene Meulensteen, including his thoughts on how Morata should be Mourinho’s top target this summer.

Meulensteen: Sir Alex Ferguson should have been replaced from within

Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen believes that the Old Trafford club should have promoted from within after Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season. David Moyes was considered good enough to manage the club, and he got rid of the coaching staff and ensure he himself would be gone in around nine months with Ryan Giggs taking charge of the club for the final four matches of the season. At the time Ferguson retired, Giggs was still playing, becoming a player/coach under Moyes. Meulensteen has not named who he would have liked to have seen installed as manager, but surely Giggs could have been an option.

The Dutchman stated that Sir Alex could have taken a secondary role behind whoever was chosen to replace him, making the transition smoother and perhaps United may not have fallen so far, failing to secure UEFA Champions League football twice in four seasons. Whether Meulensteen was alluding to the fact he could have replaced Ferguson, we may never know. It could have been Mike Phelan or even someone like Warren Joyce. With hindsight and the fact Meulensteen, Phelan, and even Joyce have all failed at other clubs, the Dutchman more than once, it might have been better with United taking the road those had chosen with Moyes, Giggs, Louis van Gaal and then Jose Mourinho, who seems to have got the club back on the right track. Meulensteen, speaking exclusively to 888sport, said:

“Everybody knew that from the moment Six Alex Ferguson decided to retire from Manchester United that it would be very difficult because obviously, his are very big boots to fill. I always said there was only two ways of managing that situation. Promote from within with Sir Alex bringing though someone from the organisation and he could have played a big role in that because he’s still in the background. Or the other scenario was to bring in somebody from outside. That happened and it obviously didn’t work and that’s because in his twenty-six years Sir Alex created an awful lot of stability within the club. When that disappeared it became difficult and that’s why they’re struggling.”

The past four years post-Ferguson have been nothing short of a disaster when you look into the money spent, not only on transfers but on wages too. United were the champions of England under Moyes and United ended that season in seventh place with Giggs having to take charge for the final four matches. Under Louis van Gaal, United improved a little, earning a fourth-placed finish in his first season, bringing back UEFA Champions League football with United missing out during that season. A fifth-placed finish in his second season saw Van Gaal’s side miss out on the elite European competition on goal difference, but he won the Emirates FA Cup, which suggested the season was not all that bad with United back on the trophy trail.

The Dutchman was sacked days later with Jose Mourinho being installed as the new manager, signing the likes of Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and now Victor Lindelof, also winning three trophies, two of them major; the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League – putting the club back into the Champions League once again. United may well have been in much better hands is Meulensteen’s plans were put into place with Ferguson guiding whoever was at the helm if he wanted to do that of course. It would have been just as much a gamble but there were no guarantees that it would work well or not. Saying that I feel United are in a much better position now, putting the nightmarish

Read the full 888sport interview with Rene Meulensteen, including his thoughts on how Morata should be Mourinho’s top target this summer.

Meulensteen: Rooney is ambitious and will seek a new challenge

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney seems to have fallen from grace over the last few seasons, breaking the goalscoring record set by Sir Bobby Charlton for both club and country over the past year, the player’s achievements seem to outweigh his ability on the pitch for his club right now. Rooney is a player who is just not doing what he used to do for the club. He has lost his instinct for a goal, the fire in his belly and the ability to see that he is no longer a player who offers as much as he used to. Rooney’s achievements at United are written in stone, winning nearly every major honour he could with the club, apart from the UEFA Super Cup, which shows how good both he and the club once were.

Over the past season, United won the FA Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League, lifting the Emirates FA Cup during the previous season, the most successful period after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Rooney was more of a passenger for much of the season, scoring the odd goal, his last in the 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur – the last ever game played at White Hart Lane as we know it. That is a big fall from grace for the English forward. The fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic proved to be a much better option, despite him being around five years older than Rooney was fitting.

The speculation linking Rooney with an Old Trafford exit this summer has been rife with Everton and Stoke City linked to the player also with possible moves to China or the MLS in the United States of America, there could be a new challenge coming his way. Rene Meulensteen, a former coach for United has stated that Rooney will need to decide what is best for him and his family as it will only become much clearer that he is a player that will be frozen out of first team action even more in the coming season. Meulensteen says Rooney is ambitious, which may be true, but his last few seasons don’t suggest ambition to me. Speaking exclusively to 888sport, Meulensteen said:

“Wayne Rooney has to decide what his best for him and his family and what they will be happy with. Whether that is accepting he is not first choice for Mourinho – will that make him content? I don’t think it will because Wayne is still a very ambitious guy. So, therefore, I think he will look at other options. Then he has to decide if he wants to stay in the Premier League and what sort of clubs play in a style that will suit him. Or does he go abroad and start a new adventure? Again it comes down to the family and what they’re happy with because he’s got Colleen and the kids. If that is the case it could be a good move for him because he will have a completely new environment, a new league, and could enjoy his football again. I think he might move. I think he’s looked at the picture and thought ‘let’s try something different’.”

Rooney needs a new adventure in his career. He should walk away from United this summer with his head held high knowing that he has won nearly every major honour aiming to do the same at a new club, in possibly a new league in a new country. That might be the best option for him, otherwise, he faces a big fight to get back into the swing of things at United. The club do not rely on Rooney now, there are more players who offer much more than the 31-year-old and instead of fading away at a club that pays him well, he should possible think in football first, be happy to play for any club who wants him, not using money as a motivational factor, which seems to be the case with rumours suggesting the player would expect United to pay his contract up if he was to leave, which would be like paying a £26 million transfer fee and getting nothing in return, which may actually be the same thing which could be on offer if Rooney stayed at Old Trafford until the end of his contract in the summer of 2019!

Read the full 888sport interview with Rene Meulensteen, including his thoughts on how Morata should be Mourinho’s top target this summer.

Mourinho is more calculating than Ferguson, says Meulensteen

Jose Mourinho became Manchester United manager over a year ago now, bringing success back, in a way, to the Old Trafford club. In his first season, a sixth-placed finish in the Premier League was not deemed good enough, but United lifted two major trophies; the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League, also lifting the FA Community Shield at the start of the season. Mourinho was the most successful manager in the top flight in England lifting two major honours with Chelsea and Arsenal lifting one each; the Premier League and the Emirates FA Cup respectively. This summer is going to be another big transfer window for United, as they all have been post-Sir Alex Ferguson. Mourinho will be expected to string together a team capable of taking on the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Liverpool and even Arsenal to return back to the pinnacle of football in England.Rene Meulensteen, speaking exclusively to 888sport

Former United coach Rene Meulensteen has spoken about the Portuguese manager and compared him to the legend that is Ferguson. The Dutchman has stated that despite Mourinho knowing that his team will need to find a balance of competing to win matches but also play expansive football, which was Ferguson’s forte. Meulensteen has stated that he does not think the Portuguese manager is as expansive as Fergie was, suggesting he is more calculated, meaning he wants the same results, but is a completely different manager. In my mind, comparisons like this are good to a point, but they seem to get people comparing like for like and at this moment in time, there is no manager like Ferguson – he is a one off at this moment in time but Mourinho is a good enough manager to take the helm at United, achieving things on his own style, which is good. Meulensteen, speaking exclusively to 888sport, said:

“The style of football next season depends on what kind of players he brings in to bolster the squad. Mourinho said he had a lot of games last season but so did we and that’s what you want but having said that he did have a lot of injuries to deal with. He knew the squad wasn’t the finished article so he went about things the right way to ensure they made it to the Europa League final and to win that trophy. Now he will be looking to bolster the squad and he will know that Manchester United fans expect not only to compete to win games but also to play an expansive brand of football. I don’t think he will ever be as expansive as Sir Alex Ferguson was because that’s not in his DNA. He is more calculating and weighs things up to win and if that means a brand of unexciting football he would still happily pick up the points. He is not after the plaudits for having fantastic style. Fans will be happy if they’re winning and challenging for the title but they will always want more and again it depends who comes in because if they sign attack-minded players by definition that will result in a more expansive style.”

Mourinho is not after praise from pundits, former players and supporters for having this great and exciting style of football. He wants the plaudits for achieving things in the game and winning, no matter how you win, is worth just as much as ripping teams apart 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0, despite things maybe being a lot closer during the matches. United had problems in their attacking strength last season, but with the likes of Ivan Perisic and Alvaro Morata linked to the club right now, they would both improve United’s attacking ability, which may see United play much more attacking football, going back to the United way, which is what many have been calling for over the last few seasons. Mourinho may not be as expansive as Ferguson was at this moment in time, but this coming season, things could have changed which could see that being brought back into the squad.

Read the full 888sport interview with Rene Meulensteen, including his thoughts on how Morata should be Mourinho’s top target this summer.

Manchester United were a stepping stone for Cristiano Ronaldo says Meulensteen

Manchester United was a mere stepping stone for Cristian Ronaldo says former coach Rene Meulensteen. United signed the Portuguese winger as a replacement for the recently departed David Beckham in the summer of 2003. Beckham left after a spat with Sir Alex Ferguson, arriving at Real Madrid for a £25 million fee. Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford later that summer for just £12.24 million as an 18-year-old player who was expected to become a world class player in the future and that prediction was not wrong. During his first season, a season where he was showboating excessively before being told not to by Ferguson, Ronaldo made 40 appearances, scoring six goals and lifting his first trophy with United winning the FA Cup in Cardiff. His second season saw him make 50 appearances, scoring nine goals with United winning nothing.

In total at United, Ronaldo made a total of 292 appearances, scoring 118 goals, which is nothing compared to what he has scored at Real Madrid since 2009. Ronaldo had a successful period at United, winning the Premier League three times, lifting the FA Cup once, the League Cup twice, one FA Community Shield, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup. That, though, is just the tip of the iceberg to what he has achieved at Real Madrid though, winning two La Liga trophies, two Copa del Rey trophies, one Supercopa de España, three UEFA Champions League trophies, one UEFA Super Cup and two FIFA Club World Cup trophies. Ronaldo did win the Ballon d’Or at United, winning three more since signing for Real Madrid.

In eight seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ronald has made a total of 394 appearances, scoring 406 goals, which is a tremendous achievement for a player in his 30’s, just older than United striker Wayne Rooney, who is the polar opposite to his Portuguese former teammate. Meulensteen thinks that United were a mere stepping stone for Ronaldo with United selling the forward for a once world record £80 million fee in the summer of 2009, just after United made it to the UEFA Champions League final for the second time in two seasons, being schooled by Barcelona in Rome. Meulensteen, speaking exclusively to 888sport, said:

“I knew he would reach such heights from the very moment that I first met him. You saw a tremendously talented young boy but you also saw a very committed boy who knew exactly what he wanted. Exactly. He knew that he wanted to win as many trophies as he could. He knew that he wanted to play for Real Madrid at some point and that United were a fantastic station to help him on the way to form him and shape him under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson. He has never stopped and always got better year in, year out. I’ve got the utmost admiration for him and I’m proud that Manchester United helped him get where he is. He is an unbelievable professional and a fantastic human being.”

Ronaldo will be one of those players that every Manchester United supporter will have wished the club kept hold of, but he seemed to have had playing for Real Madrid high on his list of priorities, promising his father he would play for los blancos one day, which became a reality for the Portuguese winger who has become one of the best players in world football. Ronaldo was a great player for United, but it does make you sit and wonder what he may have achieved for and with United had he have stayed at the Theatre of Dreams. The player looks set to remain at Real Madrid for the remainder of his career with many still wanting to see what the player had to offer for United, being that he is still at the top of his game. I don’t think that will ever happen in reality, but when FIFA 18 comes out later in the year, I am sure it will be a possibility, in a virtual world at least.

Read the full 888sport interview with Rene Meulensteen, including his thoughts on how Morata should be Mourinho’s top target this summer.

Meulensteen on summer targets Lindelof, Perisic, Morata and the effects on Rashford

Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen has spoken about his former club’s summer transfer targets, amongst other things in a recent interview. The Dutchman who after leaving the Old Trafford club after David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson after he retired, became the assistant manager, then the manager of Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, before managing Championship side Fulham, then Israeli side Maccabi Haifa. Last week United confirmed they had agreed on a fee for Benfica’s Swedish defender Victor Lindelof, a player who arrived at the club’s AON Training Complex in Carrington this morning to undergo his medical ahead of his move. Meulensteen speaking exclusively to 888sport spoke about United’s summer targets, saying:

“They have already signed Lindelof from Benfica and obviously that was an area they needed to address. They’re still looking for a full-back and Fabinho from Monaco has been mentioned. A lot depends on whether they can keep De Gea because he is a very, very good goalkeeper and if they don’t do they sign a back up to Romero or a new number one? Michael Carrick has signed an extension which is important for Mourinho because he can be a great stabiliser in many games still. On top of that he needs more attacking threat and power, players who are clinical because for all their struggles last season the word that springs to my mind is wasteful. They created some really good chances but didn’t take enough of them. That is definitely an area they need to improve.”

Meulensteen also singled out Lindelof suggesting that the Swede will need to achieve success at his new club, which may not be a problem. Meulensteen, fully knowing what he is talking about stated that Jose Mourinho will need to have his central defenders to be solid when the defence is in danger, also needing to be comfortable on the ball and to play out from the back, which is an obsession of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Lindelof will almost certainly partner Eric Bailly, the player who became the best defender at the club last season, only arriving for £30 million last summer. If Lindelof has a similar season as the Ivorian, he will be a great buy with United spending just over £60 million on two central defenders, with some teams willing to spend that on one. Meulensteen said:

“To be one of the two Manchester United centre-backs you need to be solid and deal with any danger when it comes your way but on the other hand, you also have to be comfortable on the ball, to play out from the back. I’m sure that Mourinho has done his homework on Lindelof and those are the qualities that he will need.”

Ivan Perisic is rumoured to be another target for Mourinho this summer with a bid thought to have been placed for the Croatian, which had been rejected with Inter Milan holding out for €55 million for the player. Meulensteen spoke about the winger and stated that the 28-year-old would give United another dimension in terms of goal threat, which is something the club needed to improve on this summer with goals becoming a problem last season, amongst other things. Meulensteen praised Perisic by saying:

“Ivan Perisic is comfortable on the ball and he’s a creator. He can beat a man and has a fantastic pass. It’s important that United have a man who can open up defences with one pass and he has that. He can offer them another level of a goal threat.”

Alvaro Morata is reported to be close to securing a move to United this summer if reports are correct and Meulensteen spoke about the Spanish striker. United were linked to Everton’s Romelu Lukaku ahead of the summer transfer window opening, but the former United coach does not feel the Belgian has the United DNA. Meulensteen feels that Morata is the striker United need the most. The Dutchman said:

“Obviously, Romelu Lukaku knows the Premier League and has played in the Premier League for many years. He has plenty of power but I’m not too sure he has the kind of DNA that we’d like to see at Manchester United. Morata is a good striker but he’s in a situation where he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. I like him though: he is mobile, agile, and creates chances. The same can be said of Belotti but both would be coming from abroad and would have to adapt to the Premier League which we all know is difficult. If Belotti comes in it’s important that he scores early and get the monkey off his back. Then he could be a good fit. For me, though it would be Morata. We haven’t seen enough of him lately but then again it is extremely hard to get into that Real team.”

One concern to Meulensteen is tat he hopes Marcus Rashford does not become a victim after Mourinho’s plans to rebuild his United side this summer. The Dutch coach has worked with the teenager since he was a seven-year-old at the Cliff, United’s former training ground before moving to Carrington. Rashford had a great rise to fame with United, scoring twice in both his UEFA Europa League and Premier League debuts. Over the past season, Rashford has grown even more as a player, predominantly playing out of position, but still entertaining, which would suggest he will be some player when he reaches his peak, providing he is continuously given chances to succeed. Morata will most likely become the first-choice striker, but if Mourinho changes his formation utilising two strikers in some matches, not all, the pairing of the duo could be devastating. Meulensteen said:

“I like Marcus Rashford and I’ve worked with him when he was a little kid coming in to the Cliff at seven years of age. He came in with a smile and left with a smile. He couldn’t wait to start training and training was always short for him. There was only one level of energy that he would bring. I bumped into him recently at Michael Carrick’s testimonial and we had a chat. He’s still got those things and that’s important because as a professional you get exposed to a lot and you need stability in your life.”

“I’m so happy that he has already got so many games and he’s only going to get better the more that he plays and the more things that he gets exposed to. A lot depends on what type of striker Mourinho brings in. If they spend a great deal of money on someone there might be a chance that Marcus is again shifted out to the left or right. He can play there for sure but his best position is up front. I really hope that any new signings don’t sideline Marcus completely because that would be a real shame.”

Read the full 888sport interview with Rene Meulensteen, including his thoughts on how Morata should be Mourinho’s top target this summer.

copyright: JW