How Ercolani spent his time on the sidelines
Manchester United Under-23s defender Luca Ercolani has revealed how the club has encouraged him to get his coaching badges as the young Reds look forward to Sunday's live MUTV game against Manchester City.
The 21-year-old has always admired some famous Italian tacticians of the past and is taking the first moves towards a possible future career on the touchline, while continuing his playing education with Neil Wood's side.
Ahead of Sunday's derby game at Leigh Sports Village (13:00 GMT kick-off), Luca explained he took on the challenge after advice from Kieran McKenna and assistance from Chris McCready, from Academy player care, while recovering from the injury that kept him out for a long period last season.
"As soon as I started my rehab, one of my first thoughts was to think about anything that could keep me motivated and busy throughout the day," he explained to us. "I was doing my rehab in the morning, until the early hours of the afternoon, but then soon came back home and didn't have anything to do in the first couple of weeks.
“My focus was to get back playing as soon as possible but I realised I needed to do something to stay motivated. I spoke to the staff, to Chris McCready, and decided to work on my personal development and complete my coaching badges.
“It was something I didn't know about but, as soon as I started to review our sessions - we can watch our training sessions - I found it very interesting, watching the team back and myself as an individual. In the past, in the 2017/18 season, I was with Kieran McKenna and he always told me he thought I had a special instinct for maybe a future in coaching, after my playing career. I listened to him and said why not? The Academy is offering for me to do it and it was just a big pleasure for me.
“Kieran helped me at the start. He encouraged me to start it but I also met Michael [Carrick] and Lee Grant when doing it last year. I watched a couple of Lee's sessions at the pitches and Michael helped me with a bit of my session, with Neil Bailey, the PFA instructor for coaching. So I had good people around to help me.
"As soon as I got back from injury, it was interesting," he added. "You see a few things differently and ask fewer questions about why we're coaching this. You start to realise you've answered yourself and I noticed a lot of team-mates would sometimes ask me: 'Why is the coach setting us this drill and what do you think the purpose is? We've done this yesterday and the day before.' But, sometimes, you need this repetition. It's interesting as I've also watched many, many sessions from the laptop of the Under-23s when I was doing rehab and I've watched loads again this year so, when I started training again, I almost know every set-up and every drill.
“In the matches, I feel that I have a better understanding of the tactics which is something I was always interested in anyway. I can see the patterns of play and read the game better. I am feeling the benefits every time I am on the pitch; I am more confident and ready to help my team-mates wherever I can.
“It seems like every good coach in Italy wants to invent the new tactical system. The 3-5-2 started with the national team in Italy - Antonio Conte is very creative and I think that's a talent most of the Italian coaches have. I think it's very important if, for example, a player like me but also a coach from Italy, what we can bring to this foreign country. It creates a nice mixture. I think it's coming into the UK with many foreign managers and it benefits the league. At the end of the day, it's the show for the fans and, if it brings something new, that's important for the Premier League."
United are looking to continue a good run of form in Premier League 2, following a 3-1 victory over Southampton last time out. City are top of the table, and defeated Liverpool 7-2 recently, as Sunday's clash pits the two top-scoring sides in the division against each other.
"We are in good form right now," added Ercolani. "Under-18s and Under-19s, I feel it's like a mixture of players who can play up and down. Against Brighton, every outfield player, apart from me, was 19 or under. It shows you the flexibility we have in the Academy and the belief that the coaches have in the young players. Many of the first-team squad can still play in the Under-23s but there is the trust in the Under-18s so why not show even a young group can perform?"
United v Manchester City in Premier League 2 is live on MUTV.