Meet Kieran McKenna – Man Utd rookie coach tasked with teaching football’s biggest names

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As those familiar with McKenna point out, it was not a job that someone in their position was going to realistically turn down, although there is also an acceptance that “as the learning curves progress, it was as steep as possible ”. While Rodgers, for example, was removed from the pressure of the first team at Chelsea and continued his training as a coach at Watford, Reading and Swansea, far from the relentless shine of a ‘super club’, before dropping out The post at Liverpool, McKenna was – as a source put it – “thrown in, head first, basically without armbands for support in the form of a hands-on manager or experienced coach to operate and to feed “.

The narrative around United which appears to be poorly trained has hardened this season in the face of deteriorating results and performances and this is indicative of their predicament which, ahead of Saturday’s derby against Manchester City at Old Trafford, neither a repeat of the 5-0 surrender to Liverpool or another success against champions Pep Guardiola would shock supporters. Still, should the tough questions really be directed to McKenna’s credentials or to United for their continued trust in a manager who, despite approaching his third birthday in charge, has yet to impose a discernible form of identity. to the team, and Solskjaer’s own decisions regarding personnel, selection and tactics?

In the midst of the maelstrom of another eventful fall, Raphael Varane’s praise for McKenna’s “very detailed” workouts has been largely ignored. Having played under Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez, Zinedine Zidane, Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari at Real Madrid ahead of his summer transfer to United, the French defender has set the standard.

Those who have observed McKenna’s work closely speak of a good variety of his sessions and a thorough, detailed approach, but also suggested that he seemed “more comfortable working with younger players because that’s where his experience has been ”. There have been accusations of “favoritism” towards people like Greenwood and Scott McTominay, but these are shot down by people familiar with McKenna. His flow and tone of voice, however, took some work, and there were occasional grunts about a ‘schoolteacher’ approach. “The way he delivered things was maybe more abrupt as he was used to dealing with 16, 17 and 18 year olds and you don’t necessarily speak the same way to seasoned professionals,” said a source.

Some have suggested that McKenna looked more at ease once demanding figures such as Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez left United in the summer of 2019 for Inter Milan – Sanchez initially on loan – and Harry Maguire, Aaron. Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James have arrived. In recent times, Old Trafford has again seen the arrival of more experienced chefs – Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Varane – and perhaps these kinds of individuals are more difficult for an inexperienced coach to convince.

Still, United sources pointed out that there were players who did not have Louis van Gaal and Mourinho, both European Cup coaches and series title winners, and that McKenna did not. afraid of getting hard. “He has very high standards technically, physically and tactically so he will definitely get a boost if they don’t deliver what he wants,” said one.

McKenna is assisted more closely on a daily basis by Michael Carrick, the former United midfielder who joined Mourinho’s side after his retirement and with whom he has forged a strong relationship. Although neither are extroverts, McKenna, who is five years younger than Carrick at 35, is a bit more outgoing of the pair.


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