It has been nearly 18 months since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked by Manchester United in November 2021. The Norwegian gaffer spent three seasons with them before the pressure mounted on him and the Glazer Family to pull the trigger after a poor start to the 2021/22 season.
Solskjaer is now almost an afterthought at Old Trafford, with his long-term successor Erik ten Hag overseeing a pretty impressive debut campaign as United’s manager. The Red Devils have won the Carabao Cup under him, after enduring a lengthy trophy drought under Solskjaer, and are in the FA Cup final too.
While Ole is yet to properly recover from that sacking and has not accepted any managerial offer till now, his assistant coaches have flourished elsewhere. Michael Carrick, who was Ole’s assistant manager and an interim manager for a bit after he was sacked, is impressing as the Middlesbrough manager and influencing their push for Premier League promotion – with Boro set to play in the Championship playoffs.
However, another assistant coach under Ole, Kieran McKenna is also excelling at Ipswich Town. McKenna was among the youngest members of Solskjaer’s coaching staff at Old Trafford and was promoted to the team after impressing as part of United’s youth team coaching staff. having even helped the Red Devils’ U18 team win the U18 Premier League North Division title in the 2017/18 campaign.
He was promoted to the senior squad after that and worked as an assistant coach, often helping implement Solskjaer’s tactics in training sessions and improving the Red Devils’ attacking work.
But after Ole was sacked, McKenna walked out and took up the job of becoming the manager of League One side Ipswich Town in December 2021. One major critic of McKenna during the end of his tenure at Old Trafford was Mark Goldbridge, who slammed Solskjaer for hiring inexperienced coaches like him and claiming that McKenna belonged in the lower divisions in England.
McKenna guided Ipswich to finish 11th in his first season, saving them from a horrible start to the season and potential relegation. He oversaw a squad rebuild last summer, changed up Ipswich’s playing style and motivated his squad to launch a title charge in the 2022/23 season.
In doing so, McKenna helped Ipswich secure promotion to the Championship in his first full season in charge. Not just that, but Ipswich have played some brilliant attacking football under him – scoring 99 goals in 45 matches and only conceding 33 goals – the lowest in the league. His side have actually scored more goals than any other side in English football’s top-4 leagues.
The Englishman’s philosophy is to play quick, attacking football and he was responsible for a lot of the impressive performances for United during his stint at the club under Ole. McKenna has been able to silence his doubters, including Goldbridge, by inspiring Ipswich to be promoted to the Championship in such a dominant fashion.
Some United fans have slammed Goldbridge for trying to dissuade McKenna as a low-quality coach after the way he’s dominated League One with Ipswich. However, the United Stand TV host, as well as some of his fans, have replied by stating that he’s been proven right in stating that McKenna could only excel in the lower divisions rather than at the top level.
This is a kind of debate which is difficult to justify because both parties make points. McKenna has done a great job since leaving United and has proven his quality as a manager by helping Ipswich play such impressive football under him. He’s also done it in League One, the third division of the English football pyramid.
In McKenna’s defence, he is still only 36 – which is a very young age for a manager and only time will tell if the Englishman can replicate his heroics at the very top of English football in the near future.
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