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Liverpool have given Manchester United academy ultimate compliment with shock transfer decision

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Liverpool have given Manchester United academy ultimate compliment with shock transfer decision
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Manchester United were hesitant to announce the signing of Paul McShane last summer. United were yet to finalise the signing of centre-back Raphael Varane and they were conscious an announcement about the signing of McShane could be mocked.

Liverpool have given Manchester United academy ultimate compliment with shock transfer decision

Jurgen Klopp

United needed a centre-back last summer, but McShane obviously wasn’t being signed to play for the first team. McShane’s contract at relegated Rochdale had just expired and he was ready to hang up his boots after a career spanning 20 years.

McShane had come through United’s academy before playing for West Brom, Sunderland, Hull, Reading and Rochdale, making just under 400 senior appearances in the Football League during that period. The re-signing of McShane initially raised eyebrows.

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However, the transfer immediately made sense with context. McShane, then aged 35, was joining United in an innovative coaching appointment, which would see him take up a player-coach role in the Under-23s. It was one of the first roles of its kind.

The decision to bring McShane back to the club proved to be a masterstroke. He was used in training sessions to replicate the physicality of first-team defenders and his role also allowed him to give real-time feedback to youngsters in academy matches.

“When I first came in, it was only me and Bjorn because Teden was with the first team in pre-season and at the start of the last season, so I played in the EFL Trophy games. I missed one of them through Covid,” McShane told the MEN back in March.

“Recently, there’s been Fishy and Bjorn to play, so I’ve just taken the role of being needed, if possible. I’ve played in a couple of games behind closed doors. Training is my main role, I’ve been floating up and down the age groups.

He was respected as a member of the coaching staff and respected for his unique yet limited role in the playing squad. Sources at the club described McShane’s on-pitch coaching role as ‘invaluable’ for the development of the players in the academy.

It was announced last month that McShane had decided to retire from playing for good. Such was his contribution, he will now continue his work as a coach at the academy in the Professional Development Phase, which is Under-18 to Under-23.

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The time McShane spent in his role was a resounding success and other clubs, namely Liverpool, have clearly taken notice. That’s because Jay Spearing is making a surprise return to Liverpool in a player-coach role following his release from Tranmere Rovers.

Spearing came through Liverpool’s academy and he’ll help coach the Reds’ Under-18s side and younger age groups, while also being available for selection exclusively for the club’s Under-21s side as an overage player, just like McShane was.

United’s first team might be inferior to Liverpool’s, but they’re actually superior at academy level.

Unite’s academy continues to be world-class.

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