Mike Phelan has been involved with Manchester United for over 30 years.
He was a legendary player, boss Sir Alex Ferguson signed in 1989 and was his deputy manager when he retired in 2013.
Phelan, from Lancashire, had a short stint as Hull City manager in 2016, but failed to replicate the success he had as an assistant, where he chaired the sessions of praised workout with Rene Meulensteen and Carlos Quieroz who laid the groundwork for United’s dominant run from the mid to late 2000s.
As Ferguson’s right-hand man, United have proven to be one of the best teams in European football, scoring three Premier League wins, a Club World Cup, two League Cups and two appearances in the final. ‘UEFA Champions League.
Much to Ferguson’s disappointment, David Moyes left Phelan’s services in 2013 and had not been involved with the club until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer requested his help in December 2018 as coach of the first team. In May 2019, Phelan was appointed United assistant manager, a full journey for the United legend.
And Phelan reflected on the day Solskjaer first got in touch and asked him to come back to Carrington, a day of great fun for United fans all over the planet.
“I was coaching the students when at one o’clock someone told me that Jose Mourinho had lost his job,” he told The Mail on Sunday.
“There was another coaching session in the afternoon. When I got back to my car at four, I turned on my phone and ‘beep, beep, beep’. Ole wants to talk to you; so and so wants talk to you, Sir Alex wouldn’t object to a phone call.
“It came out of nowhere. I took the calls for a few hours sitting in the university parking lot, deciding to return to United to help Ole before I even spoke to my wife. It was remarkable. .
“Ole learned even as a player. I had worked with him when he was coach of the reserve team. And it got to a point where United found themselves needing someone who knew the club and was part of the story.
“They had gotten out of this after Sir Alex and I think the powers that be looked at each other a bit, wondered how they were doing it. That’s what it seemed.”
Phelan joined a United squad as a player who had not won a trophy for more than four years. Despite a good team and an excellent manager, the Red Devils were in a period of transition, similar to the one Solksjaer took over in 2019.
However, he can feel the trend reversal with the successful signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.
“I can see and feel some similarities,” added Phelan.
“The difference is at my age; I want it to happen quickly. We have achieved a lot under Ole but not quite, and every season the expectation is amplified.
“We have done a lot of good things. There is certainly better harmony around the club, but the Premier League is a monster, massively competitive.
“I remember my time before I won anything. People would say, ‘You’re not as good as this George Best team.’ It’s amazing how quickly it dispersed once that we started to win.
“Beating Crystal Palace in the FA Cup gave us a big boost. When we won the league there were tears from the supporters, from the guys in the street, in the boardroom. It was amazing.
“There are similarities to where we are now. I think Man United can win something. When? I’m not a fortune teller.”