Former Manchester United assistant Mike Phelan has expressed a measure of doubt over Jose Mourinho’s decision to not appoint a direct replacement for Rui Faria next season.
The Portuguese’s No.2, with whom he has worked since 2003, announced on Saturday that he would leave his post after the FA Cup final to spend more time with his family.
Michael Carrick, Rene Meulensteen and Under 18s coach Kieran McKenna were all cited as potential replacements, but Mourinho noted after Man United’s 1-0 win over Watford that he would not be announcing a new assistant manager for the 2018/19 campaign.
“I will organise my staff in a system where an assistant manager doesn’t exist,” he said. “I will have specific coaches, analysts and no assistant manager. I think it will be Michael Carrick in the future when he has his badges.”
But Phelan, who worked as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant from 2008 up until his retirement in 2013, has voiced concerns over the decision.
“It’s a gamble for him – he’s saying he hasn’t got anybody in that group already to replace Faria, whether he goes looking outside who knows? But it is a difficult role, you need somebody to talk to because you can’t bounce things off people if they’re not there.”
Those inside the club have claimed that Faria, despite his occasionally mad demeanour on the touchline, was a popular figure in the dressing room, playing the good cop role in symbiosis with Mourinho’s occasional frostiness.
But he was also, as the boss himself put it, Mourinho’s “methodology right arm” – a man who understood his methods and how to enforce them better than anyone. Nobody would have had a bigger say on Mourinho’s decisions than him.
And now, with no such role present and Michael Carrick there to serve as a bridge between players and staff, Mourinho has a chance to engender a management culture which accommodates a wider range of inputs next season.
He will need to be daring, giving others more power over decisions than normal. But that, after all, is the crux of what it takes to prolong success at the highest level: taking risks.