Dwight Yorke is enthusiastic about his first managerial job, as head coach of Australian side Macarthur FC, and keen to take this big next step in his career.
The ex-Trinidad & Tobago international, who was top scorer when Manchester United won the Treble in 1998/99, is perfectly placed to discuss United's time Down Under as part of Tour 2022, and the upcoming game with A-League team Melbourne Victory, in addition to his own ambitions as he taps into the knowledge of the likes of Gareth Southgate, Pep Guardiola and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Check out our full Q&A with the former Reds striker...
Dwight, the first question is an obvious one: how are you finding life with Macarthur FC?
"Great. I mean it's something that I very much expressed, of being where I wanted to be. I was having to go back and dot some i's and cross some t's in between, I finally got over the line in terms of getting my first job. So first, to begin with, I'm very pleased and privileged to be given such a great opportunity to fulfil my dream, from a player now to transition into a head-coach position. I've been working towards it and I'm very excited. I liked the project and met with the owners and everyone and it's something very exciting for me. Australia is also a place I know extremely well."
We know how much effort you put into the coaching badges and how patient you have had to be. Did the work at United help you out in this respect?
"Massively. I'm indebted to Manchester United for all those years and having the privilege of being one of the global ambassadors and having access to the football club, people like Woody [former coach Neil Wood] with the Under-23s, [head of Academy] Nick Cox and [football director] John Murtough. Those people have always been very welcoming and make me feel part of the club. So that was enormous in me getting over the line and getting my coaching badges. I'll always be grateful to United, it's a different level. When we speak about Manchester United, it's a really special club and I am very lucky to be part of it."
We're looking forward to seeing how your team plays - you always had style and flair so is that something you'll be keen to replicate as a coach?
"I don't think any coach, in all the interviews I've seen over 20+ years when I've been a player or an analyst working in TV and stuff, I've never seen a manager come out and say they are playing defensive football. I'm not going to be the first - of course everyone wants to see a very attractive style of football in the way we play and, for me, it's something I'd like to obviously add to the playing philosophy. But it doesn't always guarantee success. It's all down to the type of players I'm working with and certainly getting them to believe in what I'm trying to do. If I can do that, it could be pretty much the biggest challenge of it all, if the players buy into the process of how I want them to particularly play."
Is it important to have good people around you? Russell Latapy is coming in to assist you and are you able to contact people from United on the other end of a telephone for support and advice?
"Absolutely. Well, the course I just finished tells you to surround yourself with good people. Have people around you who are positive that you can trust. It's no secret Russell and I go back a number of years and he's one of my closest friends. He's a person who is knowledgeable in the game and also played at the top level in Portugal, Scotland and he even had a little spell in England. He's been an international manager so his profile really fits what I'm looking at. He's a fully qualified coach and I know people say he's my best friend but he's a football man through and through as well. I'm delighted to have him next to me to bring enormous experience, as well as his technical brains. From my playing days, Russell is one of the best, if not the best, player I played alongside. To have him next to me certainly gives me that comfort, and his guidance will be essential for me. I'm also very lucky to have been in the company of Gareth Southgate and Pep Guardiola in the last weeks or so. I spent some time with him playing golf and managed to tap into his brains. Also having the big boss there, Sir Alex [Ferguson]. I can always pick up the phone if I need a piece of advice or two. I'm very lucky I've got people I'm surrounded with who have that kind of knowledge in the game and expertise. There is also somebody who I consider to be my mentor in coaching, Neil Bailey, another part of the fabric of the Manchester United family. To have those people surrounding me, I think it means I'm in a really good position. I've been preparing for this and feel like I'm ready and prepared as well as I could. But it's easy when you're on the outside, now I'm on the inside and will see what the challenge is that lies ahead."
That is some accolade to say Russell is the best player you played with because the competition is pretty intense..!
"Yes, it's just how it is. With me, I say it how it is and try to be honest with my words. Russell is, for me, from a tactical point of view, one of the best players in world football that I played alongside. Maybe he came from my country so did not get the sort of recognition he deserves. Everyone who knows him knows what he brings to the table. I'm delighted to have him with me as a partner."
You played in the inaugural A-League - do you think the standard of it is better than it was back then?
"To be honest, when I went, it was new and obviously the opening of the A-League. There was a lot of hype surrounding it. We managed to fulfil that and go on to win that A-League in itself and I was the Player of the Year and all of that. I was very lucky to get that. I left there and know they have tried to bring in other marquee players in the past, but things haven't quite materialised like probably they imagined they would. Of course, we've had the pandemic happening and there was really a decline in sports in terms of nobody was allowed into the country. Just recently, they've opened up again so football took a downward spiral for a few years but they are looking to try to bring it back up to the level, not where it's in the top four leagues in the world, but getting football recognised in the country, maybe pretty much to the level of MLS in terms of what they are doing in America right now."
How vital was it that Australia qualified for the World Cup because that is going to be huge for the country?
"Yeah, I think that was crucial for us. It's important, not just for the A-League but Australian football needed to qualify. They'd gone down a very difficult route but somehow managed to get their noses ahead and qualify so it's a good time for football in Australia. The challenge is if we can get it onto the front page and back page of the newspapers. The other sports - cricket, rugby and Aussie rules - are getting big headlines so it's important the Socceroos, as they call themselves, do well in the World Cup and get the hype. With myself and maybe one or two marquee players coming down there this season, it should shine the spotlight on the A-League a little bit more and get the recognition that part of the world deserves. I'm not trying to say it will take over other sports on the back page but it should be justified as football is the people's sport, the biggest sport in the world, and it's important it gets the recognition it deserves in Australia as well."
I'm sure it will be front-page news when United are in town to play Melbourne Victory, first of all, so what sort of challenge will they provide? Will it be competitive?
"Well, it will be. They don't get to see the likes of the Premier League coming into town being so far away in Australia and Manchester United are a huge draw, wherever they go. The players have maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play against a talented United team. So I expect a very competitive game. The players will be up for it, the crowd will come out. The Premier League is huge, even in Australia, and these fans have the opportunity to see the players close up so I don't think they will miss that. Melbourne is really a sports city, people love their sports there, and if Manchester United come into town, you can guarantee it'll be popular."
You know all about tours Down Under after the one in 1999 - when Sir Alex Ferguson wasn't on the trip...
"It was great. I'm sure the manager heard all the stories. We were on such a high, coming back off the Treble-winning year, the most historical moment in Manchester history, with what we achieved. To come off that, it was a great experience there. People who have been to Australia will know it has a way of leaving a certain image on you when you visit the country. They are real sports enthusiasts and it was a great experience. If you ask anybody who travelled in 1999, they will tell you it was a fantastic trip and fantastic experience."
Steve McClaren took charge then and it's funny how things work out that he's now back at the club working as one of Erik ten Hag's assistants...
"I always remember Steve came in and really embraced the challenge of being one of the major coaches at United. He let training flow and was very clever with that. He's a very experienced manager who has been around the block at all levels. He's gone out of the country and trained and done coaching in Holland as well. He knows the club very well and I'm not surprised he is back there at the moment."
Do you feel it was a clever appointment by Erik, to get somebody who knows the club so well?
"Yeah, sure. You could see Erik thought about it and knows Steve. On the flipside, Steve was his boss and now Erik is the boss so it will be interesting to see how that works. Steve has the knowledge of Manchester United. I've spent some time there recently and Steve will want to get the culture back - we know things were not quite where they used to be, largely because the results on the pitch did not help matters. Hopefully, with Steve's experience and Erik's new ideas and philosophy, they can get the team back to where they belong."
You speak to a lot of people at United - do you sense it's time for a clean slate now under the new manager?
"I think there has to be a clean slate. Let's just be frank about it, United were not in a good place in terms of results on the pitch and finished too far behind Manchester City. So we need to get back and I think, if I was a new manager in Erik ten Hag's position, I would want to make a clean slate and hope the players would acknowledge that. Certainly, the club was not where it was supposed to be and so I would think that would be part of his address to the team. I would think the players have come back hungry enough to try to rectify what has gone on at the football club. The challenge is a big one but hopefully they can at least close the gap."
It feels an exciting time to be part of everything going on in Australia, how much are you looking forward to it?
"Sydney is one of the best cities in the world. It's got a bit of everything and is a multicultural society. I'm certainly excited to be back in football as well, it's something I am very passionate about, and was vocal about as well, to have that opportunity. Like I've said, I went back and dotted the i's and crossed the t's and got my qualifications. I'm ready to come in and am quite confident to show what I can do. I am very lucky to be surrounded by good people. It stands me in good stead. It's a very exciting time for me. Watch out! Dwight Yorke is back! Hopefully I can produce some of the things I feel like I am capable of doing and getting the team playing some good football but, most importantly, winning football matches on a regular basis."