Once again, the name Rene Meulensteen has resurfaced. Kevin Kinkead, one of the best Union journalists, has reported Rene will be the next manager:
Though many fans initially called for an international manager search when Hack was fired, Jim Curtin has obviously done a fantastic job with this team. I’d expect this appointment to split the fanbase. Personally, I am incredibly excited by this move, and I think Rene will be a fantastic addition to this team. That being said, let’s look once again at Rene Meulensteen as a manager candidate and the pros and cons of his potential appointment.
- Meulensteen is a big believer in youth development: Rene spent a good amount of time working with the youth teams at Man U. While he is popularly credited with helping to develop Ronaldo*, he still has players like Tom Cleverly and Danny Welbeck under his belt. While the two have been the laughing-stocks of Man U, they are both quality premier league players. In his short stint at Fulham, Rene began the work of replacing the old, complacent players with young prospects. He clearly has a strong belief in incorporating young players.
What does this mean for the Union? We are obviously a team that invested heavily in our youth infrastructure. A great article posted recently by O When the Yanks covered the deep talent we have in our academy. Someone like Sebastian Elney, Darius Madison, Michael Swift, or Mohammad Conde will need to play a role in coming years as Casey is worked out of the starting XI.
A manager with a serious focus on developing youth will be a huge benefit for our team and academy. The fans should no longer have to chant “We want Pfeffer” in order for him to actually play. Hell, maybe one of these prospects can be our Diego Fagundez, Andy Najar, or Gyasi Zardes. I trust Rene far more than most coaching options to get the best our of our prospects.
* I think contributing Ronaldo to Rene is exaggeration. He obviously played a big hand in his development, but Ronaldo isn’t Ronaldo simply because of Rene.
- Meulensteen is one of the best technical coaches in the world: Rene emphasizes developing technical skills in his players. He wants to look at the best coaches to replicate what they are doing in their game. Let’s have Rene explain his views himself:
There are a number of videos online of Rene explaining his youth development strategy and technical development online.
For the Union, this will have an obvious impact with the youth. American players are often derided for being athletes without a soccer brain or without technical ability. The skills Rene emphasizes will offer us a clear advantage in developing talent.
As far as the Union now, I think Danny Cruz and Andrew Wenger would benefit the most. Danny is someone who likes to try the audacious and the bold. Half the time he can produce something brilliant. Half the time he trips over himself or the ball. Rene should be able to tighten up his game and hopefully increase his success rate of his adventurous attacks. Wenger is someone who is big and strong, but he lacks the technique of a typical winger. Anything Rene can offer him should help his game out wide.
- Meulensteen will be a great mentor for Curtin: In his career, Jim has worked with such illustrious names as Bob Bradley, Preki, Piotr Nowak, and John Hackworth. Bradley is the only one with much of a resume to his name. If we do hire Rene, Jim gets a seriously talented mind to work under. This is assuming he meant what he said about being back with the Union no matter what. Jim will be able to pick the brain of one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s top assistants. I am critical of Jim not working in the younger players. It’s a trait he picked up from Hack. Hopefully, Jim will pick up some better ideas of youth development and technical training while working with Rene.
- What about Curtin?: Early into his interim gig, Jim stated that he will stick with the Union no matter what. I hope this is the case. After his success with this team, teams that need a manager would have to be insane to not give him a ring. He clearly has a bright future in this league. For now, I will take him for his word and assume he stays. That being said, all reports suggest Jim was active in helping Nick with the manager search. By now, there should be an understanding between Rene and Jim of their roles and how they will work together.
- Meulensteen is unfamiliar with MLS: This is a very fair concern. While some foreign coaches have had success, the majority have shown the inability to adapt to the eccentricities (salary cap, draft, trades, etc.) of this league. A foreign manager needs real support from people who get this league. With Nick and Jim here, I think they will do a fantastic job orienting Rene to the league. Nick has been a part of this league for over a decade and clearly knows the ins and outs of MLS. Jim played his entire career here and now has management experience under his belt. I think Rene will have a smoother transition than most foreign managers.
- Meulensteen has never had success as a manager: Rene is a career coach who has never had much in the way of success in his managerial gigs. I’ll ignore Anzhi since it was a weird situation where he was fired after two weeks because the owner went broke.
His time at Brondby marked the beginning a decline for the once Danish giants. Considering the team hasn’t won a title since, I am willing to chalk some of the problems up to ownership. You can’t exactly blame him for what’s happening now. Remember, Bill Belichick was a laughing-stock of the NFL after failing in Cleveland. People can learn from their mistakes. His animal story is obviously ridiculous and worrisome, but it happened 8 years ago. Besides, this was a player’s autobiography and likely exaggerated to an extent.
Fulham was an all around weird situation. Previous manager Martin Jol had constructed a really bad, old, overpaid, and lazy team. Tony Pulis maybe the only person alive who could have kept them from being relegated. Rene began the hard job of phasing out the old players for their younger, hungrier counterparts. Rene was fired before he had a chance to get his project off the ground. I’m willing to blame Jol and their owner, Shahid Khan, more than Rene for Fulham’s relegation.
Looking at this history, it seems really unfortunate and unlucky. Brondy was the only experience where he failed due to his own mistakes. I think MLS is a good league for him if he wants a fresh start. This league is much less of an uphill battle compared to signing for a relegation candidate team or taking over for a legendary manager (Michael Laudrup) for a giant of a mid-table league.
What do you think? Is Rene the right man for the job, or should we be sticking with Jim? Who is the best man to take this team forward?