Managers are often a representative of their club's achievements; they will get credit when their teams do well and get criticised equally when they don't. One part of the club's ecosystem that gets away with most of the praise and criticism is the coaching staff with the assistant manager being amongst the most important.
Manchester United have seen several assistant managers come and go in the last two decades, which has been one of their most successful periods. Sir Alex Ferguson's time at the club as a manager came to an end with Mike Phelan as the assistant manager. He also left the club along with Ferguson. Now working as a pundit, he has stated that he would like to become a manager since he sees this as a natural progression.
"With the way things have gone, my first thoughts are to be the boss, yeah. It’s the progression for me now.
"That’s what I’ve been doing for the last five years, albeit with the title of assistant boss.
"He [Ferguson] didn’t get to where he’s got through not being a big decision maker but he’ll be the first to admit that a lot of people played their part in that.
"We all were undercover in that respect. We weren’t the face of what was going on but that was our job.
"There’s no problem with that from my point of view. The blinkers are off now because I’m outside of all that."
It will be interesting to see Ferguson's response to these statements. During the last five years, Phelan managed to be part of the United team that won three league titles, one Club World Cup title, and two League Cups. There was also the Champions League final appearance on two occasions, but both ended in a defeat to Barcelona.
At United, Phelan was assisted by current Fulham head coach, René Meulensteen. It is widely expected that he will take over from Martin Jol if results do not improve. Phelan has also spoken about his interest to enter into football management by quitting his role as a pundit on Setanta Sports.
Phelan may have been good, but is he right to claim that he was the main man (albeit undercover) at United?