Manchester United are happy again with club favourites Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mike Phelan ‘at the wheel’ but where did the latter go in 2013?
Manchester United have gone through some fairly turbulent times in recent years we think it is fair to say. More staff have come and gone in the space of six years than some fans have seen in their lifetime, with the likes of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho each bring with them a force of new recruits. None of whom spent enough time at the club to establish a following among the Old Trafford faithful quite like Mike Phelan.
The 56-year-old kicked around the bricked Old Trafford dugout for the final days of the Red Devils dominance over English football, like a Roman towards the end of their great empire – lucky enough to escape the impending doom and gloom of a new look Manchester United. Alongside legend figure Sir Alex Ferguson who had assisted for 268 games over a period of five years, Phelan helped United accumulate a hoard of trophies including three Premier League titles, a Champions League, two League Cup medals and a single FIFA Club World Cup.
Phelan was an important part of the Manchester United furniture and someone we fully expected to stay on at Old Trafford when Fergie left to ease the club’s passage into their next chapter. But we, and probably everyone else remotely involved in the club, were wrong. The ‘chosen one’ David Moyes sacked Phelan the moment he arrived, much to the displeasure of Ferguson who later accused his successor of needlessly trying to prove his manhood.
“I’m sure there are things that David would do differently if he had the opportunity to relive his time at Old Trafford,” Ferguson writes in his book Leading (via The Guardian). “Such as keeping Mick Phelan who would have been the invaluable guide to the many layers of the club.
“There is no point suddenly changing routines that players are comfortable with. It is counterproductive, saps morale and immediately provokes players to question the new man’s motives. A leader who arrives in a new setting, or inherits a big role, needs to curb the impulse to display his manhood.”
Mike Phelan left to become an assistant to Neil Adam and Alex Neil at Norwich City before joining up with former Manchester United player Steve Bruce at Hull City. After two seasons in the role, Phelan found himself at the helm of a Premier League side for the first time in his career, taking over from the sacked Bruce. Phelan, who had learned his trade under one of the greatest managers to ever live, channelled his former employer and led the Tigers to two victories in the opening three matches of the season. Enough to claim the prestigious Manager of the Month award. Unfortunately, however, the dream did not last long, and he found himself out of a job just 24 games in with a points per game ratio of 1.04 (as per Transfermarkt).
When Phelan joined A-League side Central Coast as a Sporting Director, he probably did not imagine in his wildest thoughts that he would be getting a call from Manchester United to revive his job as an assistant under the newly formed United coaching team.
And there he remains – back where he belongs under the lights of Old Trafford.
United fans, what are some of your favourite Phelan memories? Join the discussion by commenting below…