SoccerBible met with Manchester United Assistant Manager Mike Phelan for a rare
and exclusive interview at The Red Devil's Carrington training facility. Earlier in the
day, Phelan gave a match analysis master-class to the three UK finalists of Nike's
The Chance competition.
Manchester United Assistant Manager Mike Phelan made over 100 appearances for
the Red Devils and is Sir Alex Ferguson’s right hand man at Old Trafford. In an incredible and unique experience, he took the three finalists through an hour
of detailed video analysis of previous United matches and moves.
What advice have you passed on to the three finalists who are going to
Barcelona for The Chance Global Final?
MP: With the finalists all being attacking players, we picked out footage
of some of the great players at Manchester United: Rooney, Chicharito and Paul
Scholes, who is an excellent midfield player. Then some examples of midfield
players who play in the wide areas and what the requirements are to play those
I showed them examples of how top players see things, hear things and try things
on the pitch. Sometimes, if you show this to a player, they'll go away and practice it
and perhaps learn from it.
Have there been any young players who left a lasting impression on you after
the first time you saw them play?
MP: I've seen many young players in my time. Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Gary
Neville, Nicky Butt and David Beckham were 16 or 17 when I was finishing my
career. You could see the development that was in them and where it got them in
What role does the Manchester United Academy play in developing a player's
MP: When a player enters the environment of Manchester United, they're here
because they are talented, no matter what age they come into it. But we also feel we
can enhance them and make them better. So we give them a lot of functional work, a lot of individual work and we can definitely make them better players and better
Are there any players in the Academy now that stand out to you as being
potential future stars?
MP: It's difficult to say that they're going to be the next Manchester United striker or
next Manchester United midfielder. Singling them out is difficult because it can put
extra pressure on them. Players come into this environment
to practice, to make mistakes and to learn. They have to learn to have the final
product. That's their journey from juniors to seniors.
One youngster who has arrived at Manchester United this summer is Nick
Powell (right). Can we expect to see much of him this season?
MP: He's joined the football school of Manchester United. He’s been at a very good
football school at Crewe Alexandra. We've seen potential in him. We think we could
take him all the way to the top. He's not the finished product, he's only
young. He's learning every day. He's got to get used to the environment at this football club because it’s a big difference from Crewe. He's got a great future and that's what we've invested in.
What are the attributes that you and Sir Alex look for when scouting a young player?
MP: We look at technique. How good are a player's feet? How good is he on the
ball? Is he receptive to information? Of course, we look at size and physique too.
But overall it is about ability. We want the best football
players at this football club.
As an ex-player who has gone into coaching, do you think there's a stage where
you can tell that a player has the natural ability to go in to coaching.
MP: That creeps up on you steadily. You get to those ripe old years, where you think
well what am I going to do now? You have an idea about the game. You've played
it since you left school and you have an opinion. You get to the point where you
think you can contribute something to other players.
What level you pitch in at is
up to you, whether its youth or senior level. You give it your best shot, you try and
reproduce those things you were doing as a player. You try and give your help to
young players or senior player. You find that as you get older and you become a
coach, not a lot of things are brand new. You've been there before or you've seen
them before. So you can pass on the benefit of your experience.
How has pre-season gone this year? Are United confident ahead of the
MP: Pre-season is a time where you concentrate on getting players fit. We need
to, and will, add to the squad. The main aim is making
sure that come the first game of the season, all of our players are fit and available
The next stop for The Chance UK finalists Ashleigh Artwell, Liam Baker, and Jose Figura is the
Global Final at Barcelona FC. Stay tuned for more updates on their progress. Join the conversation online, on Twitter and on Facebook.