Martyn Pert: How languages helped land Man Utd job
Written by Simon Austin — September 10, 2021
MANCHESTER UNITED first-team coach Martyn Pert says languages have been “the number one thing" that have helped him in his career during the last decade.
Pert was a left-field appointment when he joined United in the summer of 2019. His previous role had been as assistant at Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS for four years and he had also worked in a variety of fitness and coaching roles for teams including Cardiff City and Bahrain.
However, the native of Norwich, who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, told the Norwich Community Sports Foundation about how his opportunity to work with United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had come about.
“I did my Pro Licence with Ole in 2010 and we just hit it off and stayed in touch, though not close buddies by any stretch of the imagination,” Pert told NCSF's webinar.
“He was looking for a coach that spoke languages and he knew me and trusted me, so I was lucky enough to get an opportunity. I would go so far as to say that the number one thing that’s helped me in my career in the last 10 years is the languages. Not in the initial stage, but in the last 10 years languages have really helped me.”
Being multilingual has enabled Pert to speak to United's big new signing, Cristiano Ronaldo, in his mother tongue this week.
“He’s only been in for two or three days, but I communicate with him in Portuguese, just the same as with Fred and Bruno (Fernandes), and Edinson (Cavani) in Spanish,” Pert said.
The Pro Licence coach, who also has a Masters in sport science, admitted he had been lucky to get his opportunity at United - but that he had earned it both before and since arriving at the club.
“The opportunity came through Ole, but you don’t stay at Man United for two-and-a-half years without being able to deliver the work,” he said. “I’m very fortunate that Ole was able to bring me in and work for the best club in the world.
"And what do you learn? That you need to practice and work and prepare for this opportunity, but, when you turn up and you’ve got Pogba, Maguire etc in your first training session, you have to show belief.
“All that back from when I was doing the Academy football has helped, in that you can go and perform and deliver the training for the first team at Man United, and it doesn’t just happen in one week, it’s taken 20-odd years to get here, that I’m able to have the skillset now that you’re able to go and deliver and produce the quality of work that enables you to stay there."
As TGG has previously outlined, Pert went to extraordinary lengths early on in his career to visit both clubs and coaches that he admired. He also spent his time out of work learning languages.
"Another thing that had struck a chord was my tutor from my A Licence saying, ‘learn a language; not many English coaches speak a language'," Pert said in a 2017 interview. "So I flew into Roatan in Honduras, travelled a bit, and then did three months learning Spanish in Guatemala."
Prior to this he had gone on a 16-week road trip around Europe, visiting Brondby, Ajax, Heerenveen, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and AC Milan in the day, while sleeping in a tent at night.
He also went to see Marcelo Bielsa at his home in Rosario, Argentina, and spent time with NBA team the Miami Heat. During the NCSF webinar, Pert spoke about three particular coaches who had had a big impact on him, despite them all being very different.
“I’m fairly close with Marcelo Bielsa, in that I’ve been to his house in Argentina and spent a number of weeks visiting with him and watching his training sessions and speaking with him over the last eight years,” he said.
“Tite is the Brazil Head Coach. His daughter was studying in Vancouver and my wife, being Brazilian, we were introduced and stayed in touch and were able to provide some kind of comfort blanket for him for a period of time and we’ve become quite good friends.
“The third person is Professor (Oscar) Ortega, who’s assistant with Diego Simeone at Atletico. They are three people I look up to, in terms of their philosophy and approach, but all completely different.
“Marcelo you have this man-to-man marking system. The training is very different to anything I’ve seen before, where it’s very individual work, no possessions, very few small-sided games and a lot of technical emphasis.
“Tite is a lot of 11 v 11 and tactical work and Professor Ortega, a number of the drills they do (at Atletico) you won’t see in any textbooks in terms of physical conditioning, because the volume and intensity is so high and it’s an incredible amount of workload they put into their players and you think what is their outcome and how are they trying to improve that energy system with that kind of work.
“It goes back to there is not one true way to approach any of this. So long as you progressively overload and consider individual differences, anything is up for grabs really. The key is to convince the players your approach is the right way.”