Benni and Erik ten Hag celebrated jubilantly when Man Utd won.
- Benni McCarthy recalls his astonishment at being recruited to Manchester United’s backroom staff after coaching AmaZulu.
- McCarthy is the forwards coach at United under manager Erik ten Hag.
- The Bafana Bafana legend’s coaching methods, focusing on consistency and competitive drills, has garnered praise.
Legendary Bafana Bafana striker Benni McCarthy admitted to feeling “a bit of a lump” in his throat when the opportunity to coach at Old Trafford came knocking.
In South Africa, McCarthy had led Cape Town City to an MTN8 trophy after taking over as coach from his former Bafana teammate Eric Tinkler, before guiding AmaZulu to their first-ever season in the CAF Champions League as head coach between 2020 and 2022.
What followed next was an unexpected journey: a deal with the Red Devils.
Recruited by then newly appointed Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, who replaced Ole Gunnar Solkjaer on 30 July, 2022, McCarthy assumed the role of the club’s forwards coach.
He was entrusted with unlocking the scoring prowess of the club’s attacking options.
During an interview on Marawa Sports Worldwide, McCarthy told the intriguing story of his remarkable transition to the illustrious club that has won 20 league titles.
“When Rob [Moore, McCarthy’s representative] told me that Erik ten Hag wanted to see me and speak to me, I got a bit of a lump in my throat,” McCarthy recalled.
“He [Ten Hag] asked me to come to a training session and assess the attacking options he had and said he wanted to bring someone on board who knows what they are doing.
“I worked with the reserve players and the players enjoyed the session and there were clear ideas for all the players involved in the attack.
“He loved that because that matched his philosophy and how he wanted to play. He said he would let me know, but he said the job is mine if I want it. I drove back up to Scotland and the whole way back I was trying to replay what happened.
“He took me into his office and we just spoke about football, about Dutch football, and he laid down his vision for the club and he believed that he can take the club back to the glory days, and he wanted me part of that project.”
The 45-year-old’s arrival at United was greeted with suspicion outside of South Africa. But then forward Marcus Rashford, in particular, started scoring goals more frequently.
“A lot of the players there already knew who I was and, of course, I had to prove to them that what I am bringing can add value to their game,” McCarthy, who is still South Africa’s leading goal scorer, said.
“A lot of pressure was on me and you have to know your story, so I just did things that I would have loved to have done as a player.
“For me, it’s all about working on consistency, simple drills that strikers would face in a game seven out of 10 times, and the more consistent you get at those, the better you will be.
“Even the defenders were coming to do finishing drills and we started making it into a mini competition and that’s how everyone became involved in what I was doing. We created a competitive culture through that.”
Manchester United, who have struggled to reach the heights achieved since the Alex Ferguson years, finished third in the Premier League this season.
During his playing career, McCarthy had stints in England with Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United, and also played in Europe at Porto, under then coach Jose Mourinho, and Ajax.