May 14, 2021

Man Utd


Manchester United’s backroom staff that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t do without

7 min read

Manchester United are on course to clinch another top-four finish in the Premier League this season and are chasing glory in the Europa League.

But who are the men helping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s bid for success at Old Trafford?

Here we give you the lowdown on the key members of staff who play an integral role for the club in terms of coaching, fitness and analytics.

Mike Phelan

Mike Phelan is a well-known face at United, where he played more than 100 games for the club both as a midfielder and a right-back.

More recently he worked for several years under Sir Alex Ferguson as first-team coach and assistant manager.

When Solskjaer was appointed caretaker manager in 2019, Phelan was his first new appointment to the coaching staff as assistant manager.

The United boss admitted after he arrived at Old Trafford how he needed the help of United great Sir Alex Ferguson’s help to bring him to the club.

“I was trying to get hold of Mick Phelan because I knew I needed Mick with me,” he said.

“He was apparently doing a coaching session at a college up in Burnley and I couldn’t get hold of him. From the moment I got the call, I rang him, I rang him and I rang him.

“I rang the gaffer [Sir Alex] first by the way and said ‘I have been offered this and what do you think?’. He said ‘yeah you will be fine’. I knew I needed Mick. I finally got hold him and he said yes. He had about 150 missed calls. The gaffer rang him as well and said ‘you need to speak to Ole’.”

Michael Carrick

United veteran Michael Carrick’s exploits on the pitch are well known, winning five Premier League titles as well as the Champions League in 2008.

Since retiring in 2018, Carrick has worked as a first-team coach for United.

Solskjaer kept Carrick as a member of his backroom staff with the Norwegian ideally wanting his staff to have strong links to the club.

Speaking about the former United midfielder’s influence on the training ground back in September 2019, Solskjaer said: “Michael has a great knowledge of football and gives me some great insight.

“We have our disagreements. Not all the time because we share the same view of the game in many ways but he will definitely tell me when he thinks I am wrong, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am not asking for yes men.”

Kieran McKenna

McKenna started his coaching career at Tottenham where his playing days were cut short at the age of 23 due to a persistent hip injury.

He helped develop players such as Kyle Walker-Peters, Josh Onomah and Marcus Edwards in Tottenham’s academy and it was not long before United moved into recruit him.

In 2016, he joined as their U18s coach to succeed the departed Paul McGuinness.

He said at the time: “I learned a lot and Tottenham have had a lot of success with the academy and I’m sure they will continue to do so now.

“To go to Manchester United, there is no bigger move you can make, it’s another fantastic academy and it’s a dream come true really.

“I was a massive United fan, my dad brought me over to my first game in the 1994 season to see them lift the Premier League trophy.”

His work was so impressive at United that he was elevated to the first-team staff by former boss Jose Mourinho following the departure of Rui Faria.

Has remained there ever since and is a hugely popular member of the backroom staff, working as a first-team coach.

On Solskjaer, McKenna said: “”I think any of the staff or players who work under him would say that he is a great guy to work for, a good human being, he treats people well, he supports people in their roles and he allows people to be the best they can be.”

Martyn Pert

Pert had previous spells at Watford, Fulham, Coventry, and Cardiff, where Solskjaer first came across him in January 2014.

United brought Pert in from Major League Soccer outfit Vancouver Whitecaps, where he was assistant manager.

As first-team coach, last year was widely credited as the reason for Fred’s improved performances in the heart of midfield.

“He [Fred] struggled with the language last season, and to be honest I would not have expected that to be a problem when he came in because Jose was the manager, so he probably communicated with him really well,” said Solskjaer back in March 2020.

“One of our coaches, Martyn Pert, has come in from Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS and he is fluent in Portuguese, so it’s easier for Fred to communicate with us all now.”

Darren Fletcher

The former United midfielder, who made close to 350 appearances for the club, was originally brought back as first-team coach in January this year.

“Fletch has been very important for this club for many years,” Solskjaer said at the time.

“I’ve known him since he was a young boy coming through as a 16-year-old and [former assistant] Mark Dempsey, he’s moved down to the Academy helping out there more.

“We had an opening, an open spot and with Darren having been away for a few years I thought it was important that we brought him in, because he’s got very many good opinions and ideas about football and I thought he’s been in with the [Under-]16s, starting his coaching.

“We felt it was right bringing him in now.”

Fletcher is United's technical director
Fletcher is United’s technical director

But in March he was subsequently appointed as United’s technical director and his focus is on “a coordinated and long-term approach to player and squad development”.

He said: “It is great to be back with the club and I am delighted to be taking on this new role.

“We are moving in the right direction and I am looking forward to continuing to work with Ole and his coaching team, and now with John (Murtough) as the Football Director, to help bring young players through and further develop the football side of the club.

“It’s fantastic to see that all the staff here are driving Manchester United forward towards a new era of success.”

Richard Hartis

Richard Hartis worked for United as head goalkeeping coach for 10 years between 2000 and 2010.

He then left to join Solskjaer at Molde before following him to Cardiff.

Since then, he has had stints at Leeds United and at the FA as a national goalkeeping coach. Hartis was a member of the England U17 that won the World Cup in 2017.

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Solskjaer then appointed him as senior goalkeeping coach in June 2019 and said: “Richard is a fantastic goalkeeping coach and has a proven track record of developing goalkeepers for winning teams.

“The depth in goalkeeping talent at Manchester United is exceptional and I know that Richard can help to take them to the next level. Richard’s coaching abilities will really complement our current coaches and everyone is looking forward to working with him.”

Richard Hawkins

Former deputy head of Sports Science with the FA, Richard Hawkins joined United in 2008.

He has returned to prominence under Solskjaer, helping to keep the players at peak physical condition as head of performance.

Ed Leng

Leng joined United as lead sports scientist from Melbourne City having previously worked at Tottenham’s academy.

“A big part of my role is to collect data,” Leng explains. “We try not to be on top of players, hassling them with data – we are really streamlined on it – but we want to collect data to find out what are their strengths, their weaknesses and then build individual programmes off the back of that.”

“Essentially, we are trying to take them to the next level of performance. Yes, we’re collecting objective data all the time but the other side of that is the subjective side so it might be as simple as talking to the player every morning – how are they feeling? They will have a big say in their programme as well.”

Michael Clegg

Following in his father Mick Clegg’s footsteps, Michael Clegg re-joined United in Jul 2019 to work as their strength and conditioning coach.

Previously, Clegg had been a trainee player at United, making 15 starts at the club, before working at Sunderland under Roy Keane.

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