Manchester United’s Tom Huddlestone appeared on Soccer AM on the weekend to discuss his role at the club.
Filling the player-coach role for the u21s, the former England international already has two appearances for United’s u21s after replacing Paul McShane in the role after the Irishman moved into a permanent coaching role.
Huddlestone revealed it was actually McShane, a former teammate at Hull City, who recommended him for the position.
Huddlestone said “It was quite random to be fair. Paul McShane, who I played with at Hull, did the role last year before retiring. He then put my name forward and it was midway through pre-season when I got the phone call (offering me the job).”
The 35 year old expanded on how he is adapting to the role exclaiming “the hardest part is mindset-wise, remembering that you’re not fighting to stay in the team. You want to do as well as you can but you know your main job is to try and develop the players around you rather than try and stay in the team for the next game.”
Speaking on his role Huddlestone said “I train 90 per cent of the time with the players. Beforehand I’m planning the session with the coaches and if there’s sessions in four segments I’ll take one of them as a coach.”
Despite his inexperience on the coaching side, he isn’t worried about expressing his authority, explaining that “because it’s younger players and there’s a 15-year age discrepancy then it’s not too bad. I think if it was a player-coach role in a first team environment then that would be more difficult.”
The experienced midfielder further joked about the age discrepancy saying “the lads might be slightly too young to remember me in my peak!”
“So it’s about re-proving yourself in training so they know they can listen to you because you’ve still got a bit. But equally you’re trying to develop them to have professional careers.”
Huddlestone also revealed some insight into Erik ten Hag’s involvement and vision for the academy.
With the idea to replicate the first team’s playing style in the academy he said “I think he (Ten Hag) had meetings with the staff prior to me coming into the club. He sort of set out his blueprint with four or five fundamentals (he wants) in and out of possession.”
“The under-21s and under-18s are trying to implement those ideas alongside their own. I think that will be the process going forward, definitely with the under-21s the aim is to play in a similar mould to the first team.”
With the promotion of Alejandro Garnacho and Zidane Iqbal into the first team and several of the other academy players regularly training with the first team, it looks like Ten Hag has already taken a keen interest in the future of the club’s famed academy.
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