It seems that coaches get no credit for a club’s success. This is especially the case in England, where praise is heaped on players and managers. A good set-up behind the scenes is imperative for triumphs. Backroom staff are only mentioned, especially by fans, when failure happens.
Take Newcastle United. Let’s ignore Graham Carr, a man who was credited for every single French gem and excluded from any Obertan-style flop. Other than Carr, no member of the Newcastle backroom staff was widely praised for the brilliant 2011/2012 season. It is even rarer for a person who is part of the coaching staff to be praised in football. With all of Newcastle’s injuries and poor performances last season, the coaching staff came under heavy flak.
René Meulensteen is the perfect example of a man who has never received praise, despite his obvious achievements. He originally joined Manchester United in May 2001, as the club’s skill development coach. In December 2005, he became the Reserve team manager, installing his impressive methods. He enjoyed success, winning the FA Premier Reserve League Shield, the Premier Reserve League North and the Manchester Senior Cup, in the 2005/06 season. He then left to manage Brøndby IF in July 2006.
The coach then rejoined Manchester United as a technical director on January 18th, 2007. When Carlos Queiroz left United to become the Portuguese national manager, Meulensteen was promoted to first team coach on August 13th, 2008.
Meulensteen’s impact on Manchester United helped their period of remarkable success and domestic dominance. Sir Alex Ferguson has gained pretty much all of the recognition for the successes, with the players gaining the rest. However, Meulensteen – in his first team coaching role – ran nearly every training session. Meulensteen was an integral part of the Manchester United set-up. Yet little tributes have been paid to Meulensteen’s contribution, to Manchester United.
One of the few to publicly thank Meulensteen was Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodworth: “I’d like to thank Rene for his contribution to the club, particularly since he returned to Old Trafford in 2007. He has been first-team coach for five years and in that time he has given great assistance to Alex and Mike Phelan in keeping the team at the top of the game, not only in this country but in Europe as well. On behalf of everyone at United, I wish him well for the future.”
Robin van Persie also praised his fellow countryman, providing an insight into Muelensteen’s methods: “The way he trains is exceptional. He is truly one of the best coaches in the world. I have had a lot of good trainers, but it’s the way he prepares our team for games. Every match is different, so every training session in the build-up to games is unique. We know exactly what to expect and he wins points for us through his training. We’ve won a lot of games by the odd goal and they are point winners, which we train for. For instance, against Chelsea I scored after a low cross from Antonio Valencia on the right. It might seem a fluke but the whole week before the game was spent working on that move. Another example is my goal against Wigan, when I cut the ball inside and shot with my right foot. Again this situation, we trained on. Training is really good. It’s a very pleasant environment to work in.”
Ryan Giggs and Ruud van Nistelrooy are also fans of Meulensteen’s methods. “When it comes to coaching technical skills, the Dutchman is a Jedi master,” is the way the popular monthly Football magazine, FourFourTwo, describes Meulensteen.
David Moyes, this time next year, might regret letting Meulensteen go. While it is important that Moyes feels comfortable with the staff he knows and trusts, Moyes needs to be careful that he doesn’t change things too quickly. If the change is too quick, Moyes risks ruining the good atmosphere at Manchester United and alienating players. Some have cited Meulensteen’s departure as Moyes’ way of telling the world that he is not Ferguson’s puppet.
With Meulensteen moving to Anzhi Makhachkala, taking up an assistant’s role, he will bring a lot more to Anzhi. Meulensteen possesses one outstanding quality, and that is his ability to work with youngsters. This is shown by the fact that Moyes offered Meulensteen a youth coaching role, similar to the one Meulensteen had from 2001-2005. Future first-teamers, including Darren Fletcher, Giuseppe Rossi and John O’Shea, were all managed by Meulensteen at youth level…
At Anzhi, the Dutch coach will be able to nurture the young potential. He will try and take talented starlets, such as Arseny Logashov or Mehdi Carcela-González, to the next level. Meulensteen will also be able to help Guus Hiddink, his fellow countryman, by providing advice and taking sessions. He is a more than adequate replacement for Roberto Carlos, who left to manage Turkish side Sivasspor in June.
One issue that Meulensteen might encounter is adapting to Russian football and Russian life. His family were settled in the North-West of England. Hiddink will certainly have a big role in helping Meulensteen adapt, with the pair both speaking the same native tongue. The family will need to participate in Russian lessons. Meulensteen will also need to show a willingness to learn Russian as this will, vitally, enable him to closely communicate with all of the players at Anzhi.
As long as Anzhi make sure Meulensteen settles into Russia, the Dutchman will be a great success. He might just help Hiddink lead the Dagestan based club to their first ever Russian Premier League title. Certainly, it is interesting that Anzhi can attract a top European coach. The move should be regarded as a coup considering Meulensteen’s skills. Undoubtedly, money was a factor in the move, but the Russian Premier League’s European profile is definitely growing.
Apologies for the recent lack of articles, I was on holiday