How Benni McCarthy has helped Manchester United’s forwards flourish
He's no longer flying under the radar as an unsung hero of the first-team, he's a being recognised as the hugely influential presence that he is.
Manchester United finally picked up their first piece of silverware in over half a decade with their League Cup win last month and, more importantly, both the players and the fans seem much happier with how the club is performing as one of the most in-form teams in Europe right now.
Moreover, while most Reds are understandably quick to assign most of the credit to Erik ten Hag who has revolutionised the playstyle and overall culture around the club, it’s becoming more and more evident that another figure among the backroom staff has also had a significant impact: Benni McCarthy.
The former Premier League striker joined United’s coaching setup back in July last year, boasting bags of goals for the likes of Ajax, Celta Vigo and Blackburn, not to mention Jose Mourinho’s Champions League-winning Porto side that beat United. Safe to say, his CV speaks for itself.
Explaining his role on the club’s website, ten Hag said that his objective is pretty clear: he is the “scoring trainer… He is offensive [minded] as he is a former striker and that is also a really specific job task in the team.” And so far, it not only seems like he’s fulfilling that role but people are starting to take notice.
Recognising that he himself never played up front, the Dutchman said he feels “lucky to have someone in [his] staff who played there” and an individual to add balance throughout the coaching staff.
Ultimately, “Football is about scoring”, says ten Hag, but he noted that McCarthy has also been tasked with “working on the togetherness and he is doing a great job on that.” In fact, the Mail reported that the 45-year-old has become a “larger-than-life character” and immensely popular with the players.”
You only have to hear it from the boys themselves; Anthony Martial said that the South African gives “a lot of advice… both on and off the training ground”, and as for current star man Marcus Rashford, he remarked: “He’s definitely helped me a lot… to have them attack-minded coaches is good for us in the squad, he’s always there speaking to us about these things.”
McCarthy might not be keen to take the credit — insisting in a recent video that he “didn’t have to do anything” as Rashford “already had everything” in his locker to hit his current heights — but even the fans are now gathering outside Old Trafford to grab his autograph and thank him for his work.
Part of having Rashford “in the right place” has clearly been about not only helping him regain the confidence to get back to what he does best, but McCarthy is also widely reported to have put the 25-year-old through regular one-on-one heading sessions to improve his aerial game.
Furthermore, the stats seem to suggest that these drills are working, as not only has he already surpassed his best-ever tally for goals in a season (now on 25 in all competitions) but, more specifically, he has always scored more headers (4) this season than any other in his career.
And it isn’t just Rashford, of course; Antony looks to be gradually simplifying his game too. It feels unlikely he’d be able to score that curled finish he favours so much on the volley against Barcelona without first wanting to take a touch had McCarthy goalscoring advice’s not been there.
The same can be argued for Alejandro Garnacho as well, who has become seriously direct and clinical in the past few months, especially at such a young age. Again, wide forward or not, he’s playing with a striker’s instinct and not trying to overcomplicate things — he’s listening to his coaches and seeing the results.
- Mason Greenwood’s Manchester United return said to be ‘firmly under consideration’
- LIV Golf mocks PGA Tour revamp despite ‘hilariously bad’ viewing figures
- Pep Guardiola heaps praise on back-in-form Phil Foden following brace against Bristol
When it comes to cases like Weghorst, it’s already been widely publicised that he was brought in more for his pressing stats and work rate than his goalscoring record, but the big man has still shown the ability to play as a false nine, holding the ball up and allowing others to run off him into dangerous areas.
Once again, it’s hard to say how much McCarthy has played a part in all that but the signs seem to point towards his impact reaching far beyond Rashford. In the same report by the Mail, it also said that Jadon Sancho made it clear he also wanted personal time with the striking coach after his own private training programme and look how well he has returned to the squad.
As a lifelong United fan, Benni McCarthy’s connection with the club looked to have been almost immediate; he is even said to have not even asked about his salary before accepting the job — he just wanted to take the opportunity, even despite the reaction from some supporters around the time of his appointment.
There have been a lot of important signings that have helped transform Manchester United since Erik ten Hag arrived, but there is a very strong case to be made that Benni McCarthy is among the best of them.
For all the latest news, events and goings on in Greater Manchester, subscribe to The Manc newsletter HERE.
Featured Image — Manchester United/Marcus Rashford (via Twitter)