ISL 2017 Manager Profile: René Meulensteen

Rene Meulensteen

René Meulensteen is in charge of Kerala Blasters, although, how long he decides to stay there is anyone’s guess. In all of the jobs he’s had, apart from his lengthy stay at United, he hasn’t really stuck around anywhere. I’m only looking at his time from Manchester United onwards as the rest of it is last millennium, with the exception of eighteen months.

Most recently he was appointed as Maccabi Haifa’s head coach at the beginning of last season, however, his tenure was short lived as he got given the chop in February of this year.

It could be argued that one of David Moyes’ (bear with me, I know this is about Meulensteen) biggest mistakes was dismissing René (told ya) when he took over the reins from Sir Alex Ferguson. The Dutchman was at Manchester United from 2001-2013 with the exception of about six months when he thought he’d give managing another go, this time at Brondby, however, he packed it in shortly after.

When he returned from Brondby in 2007 he was deployed as ‘First Team Coach’ after Carlos Queiroz went to manage his native Portugal and Mike Phelan was appointed assistant manager. With Meulensteen as first team coach United cleaned up on the trophy front, winning the Premier League and Champions League to name just two honours.

So, why, when Sir Alex Ferguson left would an incoming manager who had the job of replacing the greatest Manchester United manager ever (not up for debate; not today anyway) get rid of the first team coach who has won countless trophies and undoubtedly knows what makes the team click? I have no idea either, but that is David Moyes, ladies and gentlemen.

After his ridiculously successful spell at Old Trafford, Meulensteen has not really done much which is worth writing about. On the other hand, that’s the whole point of this article, so we’ll see what we can get out of his positions since departing the North West of England.

It didn’t take long at all for him to find another job after being turfed out of Old Trafford by Moyes’ henchmen (disclaimer: I don’t think Moyes has any henchmen, but I’m sure if he does, Meulensteen would have been treated with the utmost respect), in fact, it didn’t even take a week.

Now, I know North West England is known for being cold and miserable at times, however, his new role took him to somewhere much, much colder. Incidentally, it turned out to be much more miserable as well. Russia was René’s first stop as he joined Guus Hiddink at Anzhi Makhachkala as his assistant manager.

The reason why it was so miserable is after only TWO games of the Russian Premier League Hiddink decided he’d had enough of being able to see his own breath when he walked down the road and quit. However, opportunity presented itself to Meulensteen as he stepped up to fill Hiddink’s shoes. That lasted just over two weeks. Miserable.

Meulensteen’s journey to India:
• Qatar Youth
• Al-Gharafa
• Al-Sadd
• Manchester United Youth & Reserves
• Brondby
• Manchester United (First-Team Coach)
• Anzhi Makhachkala (Assistant and then manager)
• Fulham (Head Coach)
• Philadelphia Union (Strategic Advisor)
• Maccabi Haifa

Just five months after departing Man United he was back in the Premier League, this time with Fulham. He joined compatriot Martin Jol as his Head Coach at the Craven Cottage side in the November of 2013. However, the ‘Meulensteen curse’ that I have just made up, struck again as Jol was sacked three weeks after René joined; previous to that Jol had a relatively successful couple of seasons at Fulham, leading them to ninth and twelfth place finishes in the two full seasons he was there.

René took over from Jol with Fulham in 18th place and when he got the job I remember being one of those people who were saying:
“Yeah, Meulensteen is a good coach, he’ll keep Fulham up, no problem.” A few months later he was relieved of his duties, as the new Fulham owner did nothing to dispel his reputation as being trigger happy. Fulham were relegated at the end of that season and haven’t been seen since in the Premier League.

I’d still like to think I was right about him at Fulham, don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly unlikely he would have kept them up considering they were bottom when he was dismissed but in the end, they only went down by four points.

One thing I will maintain until my dying day, though, is that if Meulensteen was in charge in the Championship, he would have done a lot better than the job that Felix Magath (unsurprisingly sacked) and Kit Symons did. In Symons’ defence, they were bottom when he took over and they finished 17th, but regardless, they would have never of been in that position if Meulensteen was kept on. Ah well, Fulham’s loss was going to be someone else’s gain. Probably.

After he once again departed the Premier League, he took up a role as a strategic advisor at Philadelphia Union. You’re probably wondering what a strategic advisor is. So am I. If we go simple, I am guessing it is someone who advises on strategy. See what I did there? They weren’t really up to much in the MLS but they did finish as runner-up in successive years in the ‘Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup’ in 2014 & 2015, so it seems like he did have an impact.

Meulensteen had enough of the advisory role he had in America and wanted to give management another go, this time he was off to Israel (he gets about a bit) to manage Maccabi Haifa. Quite how he ended up there, I have no idea, maybe he remembered Maccabi beating Manchester United when he was a youth coach in Manchester and thought it would be just as easy. Wrong. The final nail in his Maccabi coffin was the 3-0 derby defeat to Hapoel Haifa, something that Meulensteen would not have been proud of; he lasted 24 games before he was dismissed.

So since he departed Old Trafford he has tried in England, Russia and Israel in management and to say he has been unsuccessful would be one of the understatements of the century. However, he has brought in some familiar faces at Kerala to ensure there is an improvement on his previous managerial postings. Ex-United players Paul Rachubka, Wes Brown and Dimitar Berbatov make up the core of his Blasters squad and he’ll be counting on them to hopefully give Meulensteen his first piece of managerial silverware in a long, long time.

This might seem harsh, but I’m only going off previous endeavours, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I would be backing someone different to be in charge of Kerala Blasters come the start of next season.

About the Author

Jake Flock
Football and writing are my two biggest passions, so seems right to combine the pair, don't you think?