Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from Manchester United has left a huge hole for David Moyes to fill but it is only the tip of the iceberg in a summer where massive changes have already begun.
The club has confirmed the departure of assistant manager Mike Phelan and goalkeeping coach Eric Steele and the future of first team coach Rene Meulensteen is currently up in the air.
Although Phelan’s departure was expected, Steele’s was a surprise. His work with De Gea transformed the youngster from a slippery fingered Spaniard into the Premier League’s best goalkeeper within two years. Steele had even reportedly started to learn Spanish and he will be sorely missed at the club (read this excellent tribute to Steele Scott from The Republik of Mancunia).
In Phelan, we had an able assistant manager but I never felt he had a real influence on the team (tactically and mentally) in the same fashion that Carlos Queiroz did before he left in 2008. I think he is replaceable and there is a stand-out candidate for me – Meulensteen.
‘The way he (Meulensteen) trains is exceptional. He is truly one of the best coaches in the world. I have had a lot of good trainers, but it’s the way he prepares our team for games. Every match is different, so every training session in the build-up to games is unique. We know exactly what to expect and he wins points for us through his training.” Robin van Persie
The Dutchman has been first-team coach since 2008 but he has been at the club 2001 (except for a one year stint with Brondby) and he was in charge of both the Youth and Reserve teams before taking up his current role. His knowledge of everything about the club is what makes it such an attracting proposition to have him as assistant manager.
Van Persie heaped praise on Meulensteen for helping him hit the ground running at Old Trafford and his relationship with the players is always one that has created a mutual respect.
‘The way he (Meulensteen) trains is exceptional,” van Persie said.
“He is truly one of the best coaches in the world. I have had a lot of good trainers, but it’s the way he prepares our team for games.
“Every match is different, so every training session in the build-up to games is unique. We know exactly what to expect and he wins points for us through his training.”
“We’ve won a lot of games by the odd goal and they are point winners, which we train for. For instance, against Chelsea I scored after a low cross from Antonio Valencia on the right. It might seem a fluke but the whole week before the game was spent working on that move.
“Another example is my goal against Wigan, when I cut the ball inside and shot with my right foot. Again this situation, we trained on. Training is really good. It’s a very pleasant environment to work in.”
Moyes would benefit if his right-hand man could tell him the strengths/weaknesses of every player and given that he has personally the team for years, I can’t see anybody else more qualified to take up the role then Meulensteen. And if Giggs, Scholes and Butt take up their coaching roles as expected, it would give Moyes the sort of support he needs to settle in at Old Trafford.
Rumours have surfaced of Dutch outfit FC Twente wanting to appoint Meulensteen as manager and United may well struggle to keep hold of him if he gets offered a job he can’t refuse.
But we need to keep as many experienced heads at the club because of the major changes that have happened and keeping Meulensteen should be of paramount importance to the board at United, so long as Moyes wants him.
Photo: Daily Mirror