Dubai: They are riding high in the English Premier League, have won this season’s League Cup, are in the FA Cup quarter-finals and are progressing nicely in the Europa League too. All in all it is shaping up to be a very good season for Manchester United, but it is what former star Mikael Silvestre was used to during his playing days with the Red Devils.
He spent nine seasons at Old Trafford under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson where he won five Premier League titles, the UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Club Cup, FA Cup, League Cup, two Community Shields as well as two FIFA Confederations Cups.
But when Ferguson retired in 2013, the success dried up. Several managers since the iconic Scot tried and failed to get the club fighting for titles - but under current coach Erik Ten Hag, the future looks bright.
“Being a fan, it’s great to see the team’s improvement,” he said during the opening of the Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. The event celebrated the debut of the brand’s first resort in the UAE and the 50th property in Dubai within the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio of which Premier League giants Manchester United is an official global partner.
“What’s notable, is there is more consistency and much better team play,” added Silvestre who also made over 40 appearances for France.
There have been a few bumps in the road for United – the 7-0 thrashing by Liverpool at Anfield caught everyone by surprise. But they got back to winning ways in their next match in Europe against Real Betis with Marcus Rashford once again amongst the goals. They won the round of 16 first leg clash 4-1 and head to Spain for Thursday’s second leg where they are favourites to make the last eight of the competition.
Silvestre, who played 249 games for the club scoring 6 times, feels positive about the future. “I think it is possible the team will definitely finish within the top four in the table and win more trophies. I think it’s more than possible, it’s a reality. The team’s momentum is really strong right now.”
Silvestre, who also had a spell with current league leaders Arsenal, is now part of the Manchester United Soccer School and loves every minute of it.
“It’s fun,” said the 2001 and 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup winner. “This is genuinely the first word that comes to mind – and I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with the school for the last few years. As a former player going back to grassroots, it’s good and really interesting – especially as the coaches are always coming up with new and challenging exercises and drills. I enjoy it.”
Messi and Ronaldo
With the popularity of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo it is no surprise that every kid wants to be a striker. But Silvestre just might get a few to play in defence like he did during his illustrious career. The versatile star was capable of playing both as a left-sided full-back and as a centre-back and was known for his pace and distribution. He was comfortable on the ball too and it is these skills that he is now hoping to pass on as a coach to the younger generation.
“I’m really looking forward to it. There are 64 kids to coach and we are splitting them into four groups of 16, so they will all get lots of attention and be able to not only learn new skills, but also enjoy themselves.”
With such an influential figure passing on his experience and knowledge of the game to the next generation, Manchester United could well unearth a new star at the back to sure up the defence, just as Silvestre did.