First-team coach Rene Meulensteen sat down with Inside United recently...
How would you describe your principle goal as a first-team coach at United?
It’s to help prepare the team as a squad and as individuals to guarantee the best possible chance for success in every game. That’s my challenge.
How far ahead are you and Mike Phelan planning as coaches? Days, weeks or longer?
We look at things in the shorter term when it comes to training, but of course we keep a close eye on the big challenges coming up. The most recent challenge was having Sunderland away on the Saturday and the FA Cup replay with Chelsea 48 hours later after the international break – that was a challenge in itself because you prepare for Sunderland then you’re straight into Chelsea. We always work hard before every game on each opponent and we also needed to look at our players and see how they were after the internationals and what recovery they needed. Of course, you’re always looking ahead, but my focus in the short-term is to work on making sure the everyday training routines are well planned and well executed.
How do you see football and coaching at the top level developing in the future?
Too many people are looking for an answer that is right in front of them. You can look back at how football has changed, and it has in terms of the environment being more professional nowadays and having fitter players. I think everyone’s executed all the systems out there, whether it be 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or whatever, but that’s not what makes the difference. The one factor that stands out through the years, going from Di Stefano, Puskas, Cruyff, Beckenbauer and Maradona through to Ronaldo and Messi and those types of players, is the fact that these are the ones who have that level of skill to make the difference. You then want to combine that with one and two-touch football similar to the way Barcelona play and their philosophy of high pressing and getting the ball forward quickly. So, to develop the players of the future you need to help them master the skills of the players mentioned and combine them with one and two-touch football. It’s then about using those skills at the right time in the right place.
Are you proud to see youngsters such as Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley putting into practice what you’ve been teaching them for years now?
Absolutely. As a club we can develop players who can be world class. That’s the level we operate on. The fact that Danny and Tom have come through the ranks and become England internationals is something to be