Having the right backroom staff is important to any manager’s success. When Manchester United sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last November, it seemed that Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna would remain at the club, so fans were left bemused by their respective exits.
Roy Keane has become as renowned for his rants on Sky Sports as he has for his stellar playing career in recent years, and the subject of United’s backroom staff has irked him more than most. He has previously claimed that since Carrick and McKenna had also been a part of Jose Mourinho’s United staff when he failed in his final season at Old Trafford, the aforementioned coaches should have been criticised more than they were.
Keane said back in November: “Some of the staff have to be held accountable. They weren’t just with Ole, they were with Mourinho before that. Are they going to stay on with the new manager? I get the impression at Man United the last few years that some of the backroom staff and people upstairs, there’s an element of ‘jobs for the boys’.
“Wink, wink, look after each other, know the right people. That’s why they are eighth in the league. We hope it’s not because you know somebody, or you’ve got a certain agent. We hope the right people come in and get the right people for the job. Not because somebody is a decent guy.
“If you want loyalty go and get yourself a dog. You’ve got to get yourself people who are good at their jobs. There’s a bit of a pals act going on at Man United, without a doubt.”
So it’s important that under Erik ten Hag, United get the backroom appointments right to help him implement his philosophy at the club. McKenna and Carrick weren’t the right assistant managers for Mourinho, but much of the success he enjoyed throughout his career came with Rui Faria alongside him.
Faria left United at the end of the 2017-18 – little more than six months later Mourinho was sacked. You could also contribute some of Ralf Rangnick’s failings during his interim spell to the fact that a number of key coaches departed and only Chris Armas was brought in.
United are currently looking to bring Mitchell van der Gaag, Ten Hag’s current assistant at Ajax, to Old Trafford. The Dutchman has been a key member of Ten Hag’s backroom staff this season after moving up to the senior side following his spell with Jong Ajax.
If Van der Gaag doesn’t follow Ten Hag to Old Trafford, it wouldn’t be a complete disaster but it also wouldn’t be ideal. The importance of solid backroom staff who can be trusted can’t be underestimated and the club need to make sure they make the right appointments moving forward.
Keane lambasted United’s ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality, but the truth is that every club needs people in the dugout who they know they can trust. Hopefully United can secure the services of Van der Gaag and given time he’ll be able to prove to United that he’s the right man for the job.