He doesn’t officially take charge of Manchester United until July 1, but already David Moyes is showing he intends to be his own man at Old Trafford, having axed Mike Phelan and Eric Steele from the coaching staff last week and on Monday offering a different role at the club to first-team coach Rene Meulensteen.
Phelan, a 12-year veteran at United with five years’ experience as former manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant, and Steele, the goalkeeping coach, were released by the club on Friday with Moyes saying he would be looking to appoint his own coaching staff “at some point in the future.” (Guardian)
They are likely to be followed out the door by Meulensteen, who has been offered a role as head of the youth setup—a post he filled prior to being promoted by Ferguson in 2007.
But the 49-year-old Dutchman is already being lined up to take over as FC Twente manager, and while the two sides continue to haggle over contract issues (Daily Mail) it seems likely he’ll return to his homeland rather than accept a demotion at United.
His loss could end up being felt even more severely than either Phelan’s or Steele’s, as his job description under Ferguson was almost a hybrid of developmental and strategic training—the result of his experience in the youth ranks followed by a transplant into the first team.
“I think everyone’s executed all the systems out there, whether it be 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or whatever, but that’s not what makes the difference,” he explained to ManUtd.com in a recent interview. “You then want to combine that with the one and two-touch football similar to the way Barcelona play and their philosophy of high pressing and getting the ball forward quickly.”
He added: “It’s then about using those skills at the right time in the right place.”
Steve Round, a former Derby County defender and Moyes’ assistant at Everton, as well as retiring Toffees’ skipper Phil Neville, will likely replace Phelan and Meulensteen, and while Round, in particular, is already highly thought of he will arrive at Old Trafford with big boots to fill.
Of course, the same could be said for Moyes and would have been said of any manager attempting to succeed the legendary Ferguson.
And while retaining some of Ferguson’s key coaches might have served the purpose of sustainability in the short term, it would also have sent a message that the 71-year-old retained an inappropriate level of influence.
In that light, and in an effort to bring his own sense of comfort and trust to his new surroundings, Moyes can hardly be criticized for bringing in his own people. Yes, Meulensteen might have been an individual of some significance under Ferguson, but it was Ferguson who aided in the progression of his career, and it goes without saying Moyes should be afforded the same luxury of developing his own coaches.
Ferguson, himself, probably expected the coaching cull.
After all, one of the first things he did after accepting the Manchester United job way back in 1986 was telephone Archie Knox, who had assisted him at Aberdeen and would sit alongside him in the Old Trafford dugout until 1991.
Ferguson, in his coaching appointments and eradication of an out-of-hand drinking culture, also proved to be very much his own man at United, and one of the reasons he endorsed Moyes to succeed him was because he saw those same qualities of character in his fellow Scot.