Mike Phelan spent decades as an assistant at Manchester United. Originally, Phelan was part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s title-dominating regime at Old Trafford. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjær brought Phelan back. He served as an assistant to both Solskjær and Ralf Rangnick, who succeeded the Norwegian.
Phelan is not a part of Erik ten Hag’s coaching staff in the current edition of Manchester United. However, few have the insight of Phelan, who watched the club surge to the top of the world. Then, he was on the staff that saw United struggle mightily in recent seasons.
The former assistant sat down with Sky Sports to discuss the changing landscape at Manchester United. He offered his insight into several topics. For example, Phelan commented on working with Solskjær and Rangnick. Also, he discussed Harry Maguire, who continues to be a major talking point at Old Trafford.
Yet, two of the topics that stood out most pertained to Cristiano Ronaldo and Erik ten Hag. Last season, ten Hag famously ousted Ronaldo from Manchester United. The Portuguese sensation moved to Saudi Arabia, where he started a trend of world-class talents accepting major money to play in the Middle East.
Mike Phelan says United mentality changed under SAF, Ronaldo and ten Hag
Ronaldo provided a big personality. Such is the star’s character. However, his standards, as Phelan put it, were remarkably high.
“The first time, the challenging part was that Cristiano came to Manchester United knowing in his own mind that he was going to be the best in the world,” Phelan said. “He had one ball under his hand and the team had another.”
“His work ethic and practice was fantastic and it rubbed off on the players. They knew there was someone special there. In that environment, with the standards so high, the players knew this guy could take them where they needed to go and to go again. He did that brilliantly.”
However, when Ronaldo came back under Solskjær, the club’s standards had dropped. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho changed the atmosphere at the club.
“The second time round, he came in a lot older and a lot more opinionated, strong-willed,” Phelan added. “He still had massively high standards and was terrific to work with. But I’d probably say a tougher mindset. I remember certain times when he pushed and pushed hard, and he didn’t get much reaction or much response. And there was frustration.”
Erik ten Hag working to get standards back up
In the decade following Ferguson’s departure, United needed a new identity. Now, Erik ten Hag is working on that. He, according to Phelan, is trying to raise the standards again.
“Him and his coaching staff have made a difference, from what was left. They are changing lot of things and changing them quickly. There is a definite difference in standards, you can see that.
“There has been great success, or relatively great success in one year and I’m sure he wants to push on. It’s been a little bit up and down at the start of the season but that happens. I think they can progress and make bigger strides.”
The manager is under constant pressure at United. Dips in form draw consistent ire from fans who demand success.
“It’s Manchester United – you lose one game, you can call it a blip. You lose two or three in a row? It’s probably a crisis. Having lived it, I understand what he’s going through. There is a story about Manchester United every day, all different mediums now to find a story. There’s a lot of work to do but he’s trying, he’s finding ways to find his feet still. But they need results.”
PHOTO: IMAGO & PA Images
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