Northern Irish coach Kieran McKenna’s role at Manchester United is a “particular concern” for a section of the squad, according to a report.
anager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position is coming under increased scrutiny due to the manner of Sunday’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of old enemy Liverpool.
It is even thought that the club hierarchy, who handed the current boss a new contract during the summer, are considering make a change before Saturday evening’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur.
The Times has reported that Solskjaer is losing the support of some members of the playing staff, who are concerned that the 48-year-old “lacks the tactical acumen” to turn around the form that has seen United win just three of their last nine outings in all competitions.
The same report suggests that a section of the squad has a “particular concern” over the role of Fermanagh man McKenna and has been left “uninspired” by his training sessions.
The 35-year-old is known to be highly respected amongst the club hierarchy and just earlier this month was reported to be in talks over an extension to his current contract.
In fact, he was given the seal of approval by former United midfielder and ex head of first team development Nicky Butt.
“Kieran was a breath of fresh air (when he arrived at the club), a very good coach,” Butt told the Athletic. “He’s on it. He didn’t get to the top of football (as a player) so his next thing was, ‘I’m going to be the very best coach I can be.’ He’s very, very, very good.
“I saw him coaching at Tottenham during a training weekend. We’d take players there pre-season, join in training with Spurs, mix the teams up. I knew he would leave Tottenham. I think it’s important to bring outside people in, but it’s also very important to keep the people who know the club and know the history of the club.”
McKenna, whose playing career was ended by a chronic hip injury aged just 22, was brought to Old Trafford from Tottenham in 2016 to take charge of the Under 18s, the same role he had held at Spurs. He was promoted to the first team staff by Jose Mourinho two years later and has been kept on as first-team coach, alongside Michael Carrick, by Solskjaer.
The 35-year-old is often seen in discussions with the boss in the dug-out during matches.
However, in the aftermath of Sunday’s heavy defeat to Liverpool, in which Mo Salah had wrapped up his hat-trick and the scoring by the 50th minute, Reds legend Jamie Carragher name-checked McKenna, from Coa, as he outlined his concerns over the blend of United’s coaching staff.
“We have seen a team versus individuals and that is the huge difference,” Carragher said after the game on Sky Sports. “This Liverpool team is a team and a lot of people saw the team-sheet and were fancying Man Utd. What is happening on the training pitch? The organisation is just not there.
“When we talk about Manchester United as a team, I don’t feel too bad in saying Manchester United need a better manager.
“To have someone to go to the next level to take them to a Champions League or a title, unfortunately, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will never be as good as Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel. It’s staring you in the face.
“We have seen Gary Neville on Sky Sports saying Manchester United should have the best in class as their manager and if you are going to have Ole, you have someone like Carlos Queiroz as a coach.
“You can’t have people learning on a job, who have never been at a club like this in their lives. Michael Carrick, Kieran McKenna… they’ve never coached before in their lives. They need someone who has been there before.”
As Carragher also noted, the visitors looked like they could have racked up a larger score if they’d been so inclined over the final 40 minutes at Old Trafford, with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp even admitting they weren’t entirely fussed on adding to the five goals they had amassed, preferring instead to try and protect their players from any risk of injury.
So it’s little surprise to fans that the nature of such a collapse leaves Solskjaer facing increasing pressure.
venE his former team-mate and club legend Gary Neville reckons he and his staff must take the blame for the ease with which Liverpool romped to victory.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will get that chance to change it I believe, but there will be untold pressure from every source,” Neville said. “The manager will get an absolute battering and there will be calls for his head like you would not believe in this next 24 hours. The thing that stands out in my mind is the organisation around the press, pressing aimlessly without a real trigger, Liverpool just pulling them apart – so many other things.
“He and his coaching team have got to take the blame for the way the team press. Whatever happened at Leicester has been repeated today, I can’t believe the tactics of pressing – they are not capable, they haven’t got it in them – Rashford, Greenwood, Ronaldo, you are not going to win the ball back with those three, you have to play on the counter-attack.
“Solskjaer has played for three years deep and on the counter attack, I have no idea why he has tried to press here. This Man Utd team are incapable of pressing.”