Manchester United players were ‘unhappy’ with me – now I’m on the brink of proving them wrong

Not since April 2002 have Manchester United made the long trip to Portman Road to face Ipswich Town.

That could all change next season with the Tractor Boys on the cusp of ending their 22-year-exile from the Premier League. The Suffolk club will be promoted this lunchtime if they avoid defeat at home to Huddersfield Town, who are already all but relegated.

Ipswich took a giant stride towards promotion in midweek, beating Coventry City 2-1. Victory nudged them three points clear of Leeds United with one game left to play.

Should they get the job done, they will become the first club to jump from League One to the Premier League in successive seasons since Southampton in 2012. You might ask how have they managed it. The answer is very simple: Kieran McKenna.

The former United first-team coach stepped into the cut-throat business of management for the first time in December 2021, answering Ipswich’s call. He had been tracked for 18 months by the club’s chief executive Mark Ashton who knew within instantly upon meeting McKenna that he was the right man for the job. “We approached him and when I met Kieran I knew within 30 seconds, honestly,” said Ashton.

McKenna had spent five years on the coaching staff at Old Trafford, working alongside the likes of Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and very briefly Ralf Rangnick. However, he knew he was ready to test himself as a manager when Ipswich came knocking.

“It was the right time for me to take the step, it’s the right profile of club I was looking for and I’m grateful for them giving me this opportunity,” said McKenna, explaining why he exited Old Trafford. “I’m confident I’ll be able to repay that faith in the future.”

If Ipswich get themselves over the line, the Northern Irishman will have done more than repay the faith; he will have etched his name in Ipswich folklore. After achieving an 11th-placed finish in his first season in charge at Portman Road the goal for 2022-23 was clear: win promotion from League One.

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