“I know where the fans are coming from because I’ve been part of the Manchester United set-up for over twelve years so I knew what was required and what Sir Alex Ferguson demanded. Yes there was pressure to win and get results but the way we got those results was always very important as well.”
The Dutchman is not the first prominent figure from United’s recent trophy-laden past to speak out against his fellow countryman’s cautious philosophy. Meulensteen however believes Paul Scholes and company are entitled to voice their concerns.
“Everybody is entitled to opinions and you’re talking about legends of not United but the game. They have been a part of Manchester United’s success and they have every right to speak.”
“Scholes and Schmeichel and the others are saying these things for the right reasons and nothing else.”
The 52 year old is widely respect in the game having spent six successful years as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant in a dominant spell that secured a Champions League and four league titles for the club. Mention of his ex boss prompts a revealing take on how the famously no-nonsense Scot would have handled the present under-performing bunch.
If that’s how Fergie would have dealt with the under-achieving 2015/16 side, it’s equally as intriguing to imagine him chewing furiously on the touchline at some of the poor individual displays that has ultimately led to United missing out on a top four spot. Meulensteen stresses it is the management and squad who have all collectively failed to hit the heights this season but does offer an example.
“I don’t want to dig out any particular player but it’s disappointing if you bring in players for quite a bit of money, for instance Memphis Depay who came in for twenty odd million, and he’s not really brought what everybody expected. We keep coming back to it and asking why have they disappointed because there has been inconsistency through the season.”
“I know Depay obviously because he’s from Holland and I’m from Holland so I’ve followed his career. It was a big transition to make going from the Dutch league to the English league. Over there you can go away from home and win games playing at 60% of your capabilities. You can’t do that here. You can’t put in one good performance and then not turn up for three or four weeks after. It is a mental mind-set.”
The winning mind-set he refers to was exemplified by the famed Class of 92, whose hunger for glory and improvement brought silverware aplenty to Old Trafford. With United currently blooding a new batch of talented kids, Meulensteen hopes the likes of goal-machine Marcus Rashford can learn from those who went before him.
“The world is his oyster but he needs that mental strength that will carry him on to sustained success. One of the first things I learned at Manchester United in 2001 was how strong the commitment and drive and motivation was from Beckham, the Neville brothers, Giggs and Scholes, the heart of the class of 92. They trained every day to get better and did so for over ten years.”
“That is now ingrained in the academy. You don’t stop after having one good game. You carry on. I know Marcus and he’s very solid and down to earth so with experience he will only get better and better.”
Whether the Wythenshawe-born teen continues to impress under Louis van Gaal or his replacement remains to be seen. While newspapers talk up Mourinho as a likely successor for Meulensteen there is only one candidate worth considering.
“People say that Ryan Giggs has no managerial experience but the one thing they forget is that he might not be the finished article but he has more experience of Manchester United than many of the coaches that could come in. That is a big plus for him. He knows the identity of the club and has been part of a successful at the club for a long, long time. He would know what it takes to get United back to where they belong.”
That knowledge would surely include making the right signings this summer. Whilst missing out on Champions League only makes United’s job harder as they look to rebuild once again. Emphasising this point, Meulensteen rues the failure to land either Mats Hummels or Renato Sanches who have already been snapped up by Bayern Munich before he selects his dream summer target. Leicester fans it’s time to look away now.
“Drinkwater has a Manchester United history having come through the academy and look at how he’s established himself in the Premier League. Sometimes you don’t have to look further because those players know what playing in the Premier League is about. If you bring a foreign player in they might need time to adjust. Players like Danny Drinkwater who is now in the England squad would fit in nice and easily.”
RENE MEULENSTEEN’S QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS
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