Paul McShane, 35, returns to Manchester United as U23s player-coach

McShane is a Manchester United Academy graduate 

McShane is a Manchester United Academy graduate 

FORMER Republic of Ireland international Paul McShane has returned to Manchester United as a player-coach with their Under-23s.

The 35-year-old will “drive daily training standards, provide high-level competition for the Academy’s talented forward players and give various development opportunities to his fellow defenders,” United said.

Clubs are allowed to field three over-aged players in Premier League 2 and United’s decision to bring in McShane is reminiscent of that of Brighton, who signed 36-year-old Andrew Crofts to represent their U23s in July 2019. Crofts is now U23s lead at the club and Gary Dicker, 34, who made more than 150 appearances for Brighton earlier in his career, has come in as player-coach.

The club’s Technical Director, Dan Ashworth, explained the rationale behind Crofts' signing when he appeared on the Training Ground Guru Podcast.

“That’s one of the criticisms of the U23s - I hear a lot of people talk about back in the day when in the reserve team you could drop down a couple of senior players and help the young players,” he said. “I suppose it’s a hybrid version of that.”

McShane graduated from United’s Academy in 2006 and, although he did not make an appearance for the club, went on to play more than 400 senior games and win 33 caps for the Republic of Ireland.

He is an A Licence coach and last season spent time coaching United’s U16s. In his new role, the club said he would “provide a different perspective by coaching from within sessions and from an on-pitch perspective in fixtures when deemed appropriate.”

Neil Wood has been United's U23s coach since July 2019, but has not had an assistant since Quinton Fortune left to become first-team coach at Reading in September 2020. McShane will now help to fill that role.

Academy Manager Nick Cox said: “Across the Academy, we have always taken an innovative approach to ensure that we continue our proud tradition of producing world-class players capable of excelling in Manchester United’s first-team.

“This new role was carefully considered and adds yet another level of support for our players in helping them to play at the highest level possible.

“We believe that Paul is the perfect candidate. He arrives as an extremely highly recommended coach but also clearly still has a lot left to give on the pitch. This unique combination is invaluable for our U23s team and will further drive the professional standards of the group.

“As an Academy graduate, who has had an outstanding career, Paul knows the club inside out and can pass on this wealth of knowledge every day to our young players.

“Paul will now form part of a team of dedicated experts once again bringing the best external coaching talent to complement our existing group.”

McShane added: “I am extremely pleased to be rejoining a club that means so much to me. I have been working on my coaching badges for several years and the opportunity to work with young players, whilst also playing in certain games, is the perfect role.

“I have developed a great deal of knowledge over my career and I look forward to mentoring and supporting the next generation of Academy graduates by passing on all of my experience.

“It feels very special to be back to where I began my professional career and I can’t wait to get started in supporting these talented players to reach their immense potential.”

United have been busy signing up talented British and Irish coaches this summer. Justin Cochrane arrived from the Football Association, where he was U15s lead, to become Academy Head of Player Development and Coaching and Eric Ramsay from Chelsea as Individual Development and Set Pieces Coach with the first team.

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