Manchester United have announced Paul McShane has rejoined the club in an innovative player-coaching role.
A former academy graduate, McShane spent four years at United before leaving the club in 2006, having never made a first team debut.
Most recently plying his trade for Rochdale in League One, the 35 year old will be combining coaching roles in the academy with playing for the club’s u23s.
Upon the signing, Nick Cox, the head of academy said “across the Academy, we have always taken an innovative approach to ensure that we continue our proud tradition of producing world-class players capable of excelling in Manchester United’s first-team.”
He further added “we believe that Paul is the perfect candidate. He arrives as an extremely highly recommended coach but also clearly still has a lot left to give on the pitch. This unique combination is invaluable for our Under-23s team and will further drive the professional standards of the group.”
Speaking on his return, McShane expressed his delight exclaiming “I am extremely pleased to be rejoining a club that means so much to me. I have been working on my coaching badges for several years and the opportunity to work with young players, whilst also playing in certain games, is the perfect role.”
McShane has been transitioning into a coaching role for some time now, having picked up his UEFA A licence back in May 2017 through the Football Association of Ireland.
Having recently spent some time coaching with the u16s, the Irishman has impressed the club hierarchy with his coaching expertise leading to the new expanded role where he will operate as a coach across the age groups from u15s through to u23s.
Uniquely, the club are combining McShane’s coaching role with that of a playing position in the u23s squad.
This is a move which will come in handy after Will Fish joined Stockport County on loan. With Di’Shon Bernard and Teden Mengi also expected to leave on loan again, the u23s will be left light at the back with only Bjorn Hardley as a recognised centre-back.
With the experienced former Irish international stepping into a playing role, the young players such as the aforementioned Hardley, will seek to learn from playing alongside such an experienced player.
The backline will no doubt benefit from being coached through matches on the pitch by McShane, who has made over 400 senior appearances.
The midfield and attackers will also benefit from the control and composure McShane will radiate from the back.
The former academy graduate’s presence won’t just be felt during matches either, as on the training pitch forwards such as Joe Hugill and Charlie McNeill will be put through their paces earning vital experience on how to deal with a physical and experienced centre back.
The innovative idea is not totally new though, as Brighton’s u23s have been utilising a similar role for the past few years.
Coincidentally, Will Fish’s new manager at Stockport, Simon Rusk, was previously the manager of Brighton’s u23s and brought in experienced Andrew Crofts as a player-coach for his side.