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Manchester United first-team coach Benni McCarthy singled out Leeds United for their standard of goalkeeping while in the Premier League. The South African’s sneaky dig slipped out while discussing the importance of working the man between the sticks, which he tries to drill into his players in training.
McCarthy was an accomplished frontman in his own right, winning the Champions League with FC Porto in 2003/04 before heading for the Premier League. He made an immediate impression with Blackburn Rovers, notching 18 goals in his debut season and spending three-and-a-half years at Ewood Park.
Since last summer, the 45-year-old has been an essential part of Erik ten Hag’s backroom staff at Old Trafford. McCarthy’s main role is to eke every last drop out of United’s forward players, which he does by putting on a range of feel-good training exercises.
“A lot of pressure was on me [at the start] because I’m working with world class players [at United],” he told South African radio station 947.
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“You’ve got to know your story. I just put on things that I would have loved when I was a player. They’re not the most complicated drills, but simple ones strikers face in the game seven out of ten times.
“The more consistent you become, the easier it becomes in the game. We just created that culture where the finishing drills were about competitiveness, repetition and making the goalkeeper work.”
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McCarthy went on to explain that testing the keeper is particularly important when coming up against a side with someone less dependable behind the back-four, with Leeds mentioned specifically.
“Our goalkeepers are some of the best in the league, but when you play against a Nottingham Forest or a Leeds United, their goalkeepers maybe aren’t of the same quality that we have,” he said.
At the time of McCarthy’s dig earlier this year, David de Gea was still United’s starting goalkeeper, and the Spaniard went on to win the Premier League Golden Glove at the end of the season.
With De Gea’s future hanging in the balance as he approached the end of his United contract, McCarthy threw his weight behind the Spaniard by calling him an ‘unbelievable’ character and asserting that it would be a ‘crime’ to move him on.
Ten Hag didn’t listen, as De Gea was ultimately allowed to leave Old Trafford as a free agent. Big money was subsequently spent on new goalkeeper Andre Onana, who has publicly taken responsibility for his shaky start with the Red Devils.
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