Veteran defender Paul McShane is making a surprise return to Manchester United, 15 years after leaving the club.
The 35-year-old centre back, who won the 2003 FA Youth Cup with United, is a free agent after his contract ended at League Two Rochdale last month and he is returning to Old Trafford to help out with the club’s U23 squad, as a ‘playing coach’ and mentor.
McShane left United for West Brom in 2006 as part of a deal that saw Tomasz Kuszczak go the other way. He has gone on to play for nine different clubs and amassed 400 appearances including an FA Cup final with Hull City.
Paul McShane, who most recently played for Rochdale, is returning to Manchester United after 15 years to work with the club’s under-23 squad
The Irish defender (right) plays for United in a pre-season tour match against Celtic in 2004
United want to tap into that experience, utilising the Republic of Ireland international to educate and toughen up their youngsters ahead of making the next step up.
He will continue to play in some games, solely representing United’s U23s as one of three permitted over-age outfield players in Premier League Two, and will be involved in coaching and mentoring.
United view the role as an innovative step with McShane not only passing on what he has learned off the pitch but effectively making the younger stars more streetwise, offering a more physical challenge in training for the forwards and giving first hand advice.
McShane has talked openly about taking on board the ‘tough love’ he endured playing alongside former United captain Roy Keane when he first broke into their first team squad and was quick to seize the opportunity to take his coaching badges while still a young professional.
Now United want him to apply his knowledge to their up and coming players to help underline the standards and work ethic required on and off the pitch plus the potential pitfalls.
A club statement said: ‘Manchester United are delighted to announce another innovative coaching appointment. Paul McShane re-joins the academy as playing coach having left United as graduate in 2006.
‘The experienced defender and A-licence coach will combine his talents to provide a different coaching perspective by coaching from within sessions and from an on-pitch perspective in fixtures when deemed appropriate.
‘McShane will also drive daily training standards from within sessions, providing high-level competition for the academy’s talented forward players and giving various development opportunities to his fellow defenders.
‘The defender, who has recently spent time coaching United’s U16s, will work as a coach across the U15s to U23s teams.’
McShane made 33 appearances for the Republic of Ireland during his playing career
Nick Cox, Manchester United Head of Academy, 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.’
United want McShane to impart his vast experience to their academy players
McShane added: ‘I am extremely pleased to be re-joining 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.’
McShane opened up about his experience with Roy Keane to UTD podcast earlier this year,saying: ‘I was going on tour with Manchester United. It was a really great experience. I ended up playing a game, I think it was in Chicago maybe. We played Bayern Munich. [Roque] Santa Cruz was up front and stuff.
‘The three at the back was me on the right-hand side, Roy Keane in the middle and Jonathan Spector on the left.
‘It was a 0-0 draw and I think we lost on penalties but it was brilliant. It was great to be with the first team every day and see how they acted and all that.
McShane (centre) revealed how Roy Keane’s ‘tough love’ shocked him when a United player
‘Roy was my biggest hero growing up,’ McShane added. ‘I did okay in the games, but didn’t do well in training. He used to hammer me in training. ”You’re in the Premier League now!”
‘I remember there was one training session out in America. I gave the ball away in the possession game – probably more than once to be honest – and he hammered me. He absolutely slaughtered me and I was so shocked.
‘I was running away from the ball then. I didn’t want to touch the ball from then on in. Afterwards he was like ”it’s tough love, you’ve got to learn. You can’t be the young lad forever. You’ve got to learn.”
‘Something that I took away from that was ”yeah, I suppose you can’t be the young lad forever.” I’ve been to clubs where people still think they’re young when they’re 24.
‘They don’t really crack on, they don’t take responsibility as a professional, a senior player. It was a good tip from Roy but it was tough love.
‘I was terrified in training then but, in the game, I played all right and he gave me a bit of praise afterwards.’