Tuesday 17 July 2018

Irish coach in line for promotion to first team at Manchester United

Kieran McKenna
Kieran McKenna

Steven Beacom

Manchester United's Enniskillen born under-18 coach Kieran McKenna is being lined up to join Jose Mourinho's first team staff at Old Trafford.

Fermanagh man McKenna has made a positive impact coaching United's youngsters since arriving from a similar role at Tottenham two years ago and his work has not gone unnoticed by Red Devils boss Mourinho.

With Mourinho's assistant of 14 years Rui Faria leaving Manchester United after Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea, Mourinho is keen to freshen up the senior side's coaching set-up and is considering promoting McKenna from his current role.

The 32-year-old former Enniskillen Town and Ballinamallard Youth midfielder has impressed onlookers with his man-management style and tactical brain earning rave reviews in Manchester for the exciting, attacking brand of football his youth teams play, which has rarely been the way for United's first team under Mourinho.

Following Sunday's 1-0 victory over Watford in United's final Premier League game of the season, Mourinho revealed that he would not have a new number two as such but suggested a new structure would be put in place which could give McKenna his chance in the big time.

Mourinho has never been afraid to bring young coaches into the fold. Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers can testify to that.

When the self styled 'Special One' was in charge of Chelsea first time around he brought the then 30-year-old Rodgers up from the youth ranks to work with him at first team level.

Like Rodgers, McKenna had to retire from playing early due to injury.

Growing up in Enniskillen, McKenna was viewed as one of the county's brightest young talents. He also had natural leadership qualities and captained Fermanagh's Milk Cup junior side.

In 2002 he joined Spurs on a scholarship and a year later he turned professional at White Hart Lane. His career was progressing well at club and international level as he played for under 19, under 20 and under 21 Northern Ireland sides, but a persistent hip injury led to injury nightmares for two years before he called time on his playing career in 2009.

Rather than quit football altogether McKenna opted to do his coaching badges which led to him taking up the role of Tottenham youth team boss.

In 2016 Manchester United came calling and he couldn't resist the chance to work for the club he had supported as a boy.

At the time McKenna said: "To go to Manchester United there is no bigger move you can make. It's a dream come true really."

In McKenna's first season as boss of the under-18s he took them to runners-up spot in Premier League North. This season he inspired the side to top the table before they lost to Chelsea in the national final.

United fans have been encouraged by the entertainment on show in the youth ranks this season under the man from Northern Ireland who would relish the opportunity to learn from and work with Mourinho at close quarters.

Belfast Telegraph

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