The frustration for most Manchester United fans as the club enters the midpoint of the January transfer window is that the Reds are yet to invest in the playing squad. In over a year of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rebuild, only three players have been signed, and even they were seen to be overly long and drawn out.
Solskjaer and those behind the scenes will continue to toe the line that only the right types will be brought in and that it is incredibly hard to bring in new talent to the club in the month of January. However, it might be an easier task to acquire the right new first team coaches for the manager to work with. Solskjaer is still learning on the job and has a squad not currently able to perform consistently, so could new ideas on the training ground lead to a sustained upturn in form?
After David De Gea’s mistakes against Everton and Watford in December, United drafted in Craig Mawson from Burnley as a new assistant first team goalkeeping coach just before the new year. De Gea’s form in the past 12 months has been questionable but a turnaround in fortune in 2020 for the Spaniard could be the example to form a new focus on recruitment for the club.
The likes of Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna have been part of Solskjaer’s team since he arrived, although there were rumours that Phelan was to take over the role of technical director in the summer. Since their appointments full time, fans are yet to see a substantial style of play emerging and as ever these days, managers and coaches are quick to be compared, especially with those at rival clubs. After watching Leeds United at Arsenal in the FA Cup, many wondered how Marcelo Bielsa and his staff could make a Championship team so comfortable in possession.
The truth is simply that United’s coaching staff don’t have the experience yet. In particularly Carrick, who only retired from football in May 2018 and McKenna, who prior to Jose Mourinho’s final season in charge, had only managed United and Tottenham Hotspur’s under 18’s. Although Carrick and McKenna have received backing from players, when results aren’t forthcoming, inevitably most will start to doubt their ideas.
On the other hand, a decade ago Phelan was part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s backroom staff that won three titles in five seasons and reached two Champions League finals before his departure in 2013. Since then however, he has endured a disastrous spell as manager at Hull City. There’s no doubt that Phelan was and still could be a good coach, but it’s questionable whether or not he is still in touch with the modern footballer and the game’s tactics.
Shortly after Phelan was sacked at Hull, it was revealed that the average Premier League manager lasts 91 games, with a win percentage of 30%. Solskjaer currently is on 61 matches as United manager, although currently has a better win percentage of 49%. Concerningly, this has decreased significantly ever since he was appointed permanently and could well reach the average by the end of the season. When Solskjaer came in originally, his ideas were fresh and it breathed new life into the squad who had clearly became tired of Mourinho’s approach.
To survive at United, Solskjaer will need to borrow some ideas from the great Sir Alex Ferguson, who consistently changed his coaches every few seasons to keep all aspects of training innovative. Ferguson moved from Steve McClaren to Carlos Queiroz and then onto Phelan almost seamlessly with continued success, while his changes in coaching staff often signified the dawning of a new team. From what we hear, Solskjaer isn’t going anywhere and Ed Woodward has total faith in him. For Solskjaer to be afforded the time to build his own teams however, he may have to constantly rebuild his own backroom staff.
Written by Alex Metcalfe