Ryan: United look like they're on the march

Friday 16 February 2024 10:39

Jim Ryan is well positioned to preview Manchester United's first Premier League visit to Luton Town, given his association with both clubs.

Ryan not only played for the two teams but coached and managed them as well, famously stepping in to Sir Alex Ferguson's shoes for the game against Middlesbrough in 1998 and having a long and distinguished spell involved with the Reds' superb youth system.

He also managed Luton in the early 1990s, staving off relegation from the top flight, before switching to United.

Team news for Luton trip


Read the latest update from Erik ten Hag on four players, including Luke Shaw.

Erik ten Hag's team approach Sunday's 16:30 GMT kick-off in good heart after four successive wins in all competitions but will be tested by a Hatters outfit that have surprised a lot of people this term.

The Bedfordshire club are one place outside the relegation zone and striving to retain their status after so long rising up through the leagues again to reach the top division.

When asked if he had fond memories of the two clubs, Ryan replied: "Absolutely. Both times there were enjoyable.

"I definitely enjoyed the playing side more than the coaching. The coaching became something new to me, to see which players to try to improve and the kids coming up from beneath. So that was definitely enjoyable as well.

"Initially, first of all, I wasn't that interested in coaching kids but then the thing that happened was The FA asked me to do some coaching because I had a coaching badge. They said to go and do some coaching in Hitchin. So I used to drive through to Hitchin on Tuesdays and Thursdays and make up coaching sessions to help the players. That was really my first experience."

Beating the drop was the name of the game when Ryan took over as Town manager in 1990, much as it is this season for Rob Edwards, who is doing a terrific job.

"It was good when you could keep them up and stay up," added Ryan. "The nightmare was that they'd go down because they were young boys and only young players all put together.

"The current side look like they are doing well because they keep beating teams they're supposed to get beaten by.

"I think there is a reputation about Kenilworth Road that it's got among people in the game. Some players don't like the small stadiums, you know, and they're against it, but I don't know why because it's a lovely club and the atmosphere there is terrific."

Jim feels United are starting to play well but admits it is hard to predict the outcome at the weekend, something he would probably rather avoid given his connection to both sides!

"I can't be put on the spot like that!" he laughed. "Well, it really looks as though United are coming back into some kind of form. In the last three or four games, I have to say it looks as though they're on the march.

"But Luton have got that bit of strength of belief that they can do it. However, it does look a lot better now for United. Just in those last few games as, before that, it wasn't as good. To be fair, I know I'm biased, being an ex-player there and a coach there, but it looks like United have jumped over a hurdle and are heading in the right direction."