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Credit Due to Phelan and Meulensteen

Continuing with our contributing writer section, Rich, of Penguin United takes his hat off to Phelan and Meulensteen.

When Carlos Queiroz left last season to take over the Portuguese national team, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the damage it might do to our prospects. I was certainly worried, given that the seasons in the past when Fergie didn’t have a proper assistant had hardly gone well. In 2001-02, after Steve McLaren left and before CQ arrived, we came a shocking 3rd in the Premiership and won no cups. In 2003-04, the season where CQ left to manage Real Madrid, we managed an FA Cup win against Millwall but were never in the hunt for the league (and we won’t mention Porto).

When we were doing poorly at the start of the season, I remember Mike Phelan coming in for vast amounts of criticism on various blogs (but never in the mainstream press). It seemed he was basically being held responsible for United’s slump in form. I wasn’t sure that this was entirely fair – we had a horrible run of injuries, and about half our team seemed to be playing whilst half-fit or clinically exhausted – but it did worry me too.

Fast forward to May, and we have won the League, the World Club Cup and the Carling Cup, with a Champions’ League final in the bank. The (entirely justified) plaudits ring out for Fergie, Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, Fletcher, Rio, Vida and the rest of the lads – but nowhere do I see any praise for Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen. Certainly nothing from any fans to say “we were a bit hasty in September, fair play to you”. But they were an integral part of the much-lauded squad, as this extract from the Sunday Times’ interview with Fergie shows:

He [Fergie] leaves the organising and supervising of the players’ work sessions at Carrington to his assistant manager, Mike Phelan, and his first-team coach, Rene Meulensteen, relishing the freedom a measure of detachment grants him to assess the progress being made. He values the input of Phelan and Meulensteen to discussions of team selection and tactics but, naturally, his judgment is decisive…“I’m not interested in how Mike and Rene plan the training,” he said. “I’m interested in what I see. I want to see quality, intensity, what players are bringing to it. What they do on the training ground comes out on the pitch and I want to see if there is improvement in them.”

So these guys have been solely responsible for planning the training of the best squad in the world? And have played a hand in keeping our golden oldies fresh and firing (including re-inventing Giggsy as a central midfielder), whilst integrated the next generation into our first team squad? And they don’t get a look in?

And as an dose of reality for those who thought that CQ’s departure would have catastrophic effects, there has been no sign of our Portuguese / South American contingent being unsettled – quite the reverse, with Rafael and Fabio settling in very well and the signing of another talented young Brazilian, Dodi, on the cards.

We should be taking our hats off to Mike and Rene – I know I am.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. daveob82 says:

    Well done lads..

    Scott…Is it not Dodo???

  2. Anon says:

    Dodi sounds good too! :P

  3. tom.jacob says:

    sorry to go off topic…. but this is from guardian… a daunting prospect

    “but by a quirkier statistic showing that the 36 titles shared by the two clubs, going back to 1901, have come in an order that suggests a sort of football version of the Fibonacci sequence.

    First Liverpool won two, then United won two. Then Liverpool won three, after which United won three. Liverpool’s sixth was followed by United’s sixth, and their seventh by United’s seventh. Then Liverpool won 11, followed by 11 for United. To maintain an elegant symmetry that has lasted more than a century, Liverpool must be the next to win the title – a thought that will not impress Ferguson.”

  4. King Eric says:

    And the Shite Phelan got from certain fans on here !

  5. luke says:

    fair play to them..i wasnt quite sure they’d be able to do the job but they’ve proved themselves..well done

    now maybe mike can start wearin long pants :)

  6. luke says:

    also credit to mike because i’m pretty sure he goes home bruised after every game what wit sitting nex to fergie and he’s grabbin onto anythin in sight when we’re about to score

  7. Stephen says:

    Well done to Phelan he is United through and through, what I admire is the fact he simply gets on with job, no fuss.

  8. timbo says:

    @ Tom Jacob.

    Yeah, I noted the sequences myself earlier this year when I was doing some research on United’s past record versus Liverpool. It’s kind of freaky the way United has always matched whatever Liverpool has done – in a sense it made it seem preordained that United would win the 18th championship this season.

    As the article pointed out though, the sequences would seem to suggest that this recent win will be United’s last for the meantime while Liverpool embark on another run of their own. But hey, do you think I wanted to mention that on one of these forums???? Better that we just put it down to a peculiar statistical anomaly and that United will bury the whole sequence thing by winning again next year!

  9. Gudjohnsen says:

    Little off topic – I was wondering about the top scorers in the Premier League. Both Anelka and Ronaldo have 18 goals, Stevie Me has 16. I doubt Ronaldo will play against Hull, but what happens if Anelka and Ronaldo finish even? Do away goals count more?

  10. wazza says:

    well done to Mike & Rene.the portuguese speaking players must be definitely missing Carlos Quieroz.
    tom.jacob : United are the firsts.they will break that sequence next year.

  11. gotta hate tiny tears says:

    the golden boot can be shared but i wouldnt be too shocked if ron has a bit of a game against hull

  12. bossdem says:

    im pleased for him and everyone at the club. i dont think some people realise how much focus or undue fuss would have been made about phelan had we not been so successful this season.
    he was a mental scapegoat for some before he,d even had time to settle into the role.

  13. vaud says:

    Well done to all the coaching staff.

    For most of the season when we finished 2nd to Chelsea our CM was Giggsy & O’Shea – just shows how good Giggsy is!

  14. corea says:

    Well done. Sometimes not getting under smb’s feet is beneficial. Quiet work but the job done.

  15. costas says:

    Well done to the coaching stuff.I have been one of their harshest critics.Even now i believe that they have been using the platform that CQ set up for them, but nonetheless,they are here and they deserve the credit.After a season like this,i think it would be a step back to bring CQ back to the club.

  16. wazza says:

    @gotta hate tiny tears :if there is any chance then i hope Fergie puts Ron on the bench and not start him against Hull.otherwise he will behave like he did against Shitty.

  17. Jake says:

    couple of issues with the article…1. It’s pretty well-known that United have kept most of Queiroz’s training regimes etc.. and just simply carried on using them, and 2. Ferguson’s words ‘I’m not interested in how Mike and Rene plan the training’ actually suggests their jobs are less, not more important Rich

  18. n667 says:

    one of the first to rant bout phelan’s appointment was SCOTT himself! or was it the red ranter, guess t was u!

  19. Scott the Red says:

    n667 – I didn’t rant about his appointment. When it was revealed Mancini had been approached for the job I said there was a big difference between someone like Mancini or Queiroz… and Mike Phelan. It wasn’t a slight on Phelan, just me preferring to have someone with European experience as our number 2. I think Phelan is a valuable member of the backroom staff, but I really wanted the man who was going to replace Fergie to come in and replace CQ, or at the very least, someone who had decent managerial experience.

  20. Red Ranter says:

    Spot on, Penguin. There has been too much drivel victimising Phelan. However I have to disagree on certain points:

    First among them is about the Portuguese speaking contingent. Not all of them have been used as much as, say if Queiroz had been at United. Nani would have got far more games than he has. He can have the decision making of a lamp post, but he wasn’t given a fair run by Fergie. Anderson has been hampered a little by injury, but even he’s been under utilised and has only come into his own in the second half of the season.

    Finally, the presence of Phelan, however, has seen a United side that’s been a shadow of itself in the attacking third. We have been far from our free flowing self. We’ve been amazingly machine like, and we might win the CL too, but whether it’s integrating Berbatov or Ronaldo’s injury, we have had very few games where we blew teams apart. This is not to accuse Phelan for it, but it is something we must keep in mind while taking stock of the season.

    At the end it doesn’t necessarily matter how we win it, but it helps to look back on how we can improve moving on.

  21. Red Ranter says:


    It certainly wasn’t me.

  22. King Eric says:

    Got to say Scott lad you were pretty harsh towards Phelan earlier in the season. Remarks like he has no class and looks out of his depth. Just thought I would remind you mate.


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