It was negligence for Phelan to be handed a new deal when Solskajer's position was under such immense pressure. Phelan had also come under pressure, with the club not providing comment on what his role actually was. Solskjaer was asked just that in a press conference and he avoided the question. Solskjaer was a master of speaking without actually saying anything.
Solskjaer avoiding the question only increased the pressure on Phelan. He wasn't coaching at Carrington but he was on the touchline at Old Trafford. It seemed like Phelan was exaggerating his involvement to justify his existence at United on matchdays.
He was often animated, but that changed following Solskjaer's dismissal in November. Michael Carrick, Kieran McKenna and Martyn Pert would all go on to leave United yet Phelan remained. Some United fans were baffled that he was still at the club.
Ralf Rangnick was appointed interim manager and Phelan's involvement became less than it already had been. Rangnick sought to clarify what Phelan did and he confirmed fans' suspicions. “Mike Phelan is not watching the training sessions,” Rangnick said.
“He also didnt do that when Ole was in charge But hes also part of the training group of the staff. But he is never on the pitch when we train. Hes not out there and he didnt do that when Ole was in charge, as I said.”
It was reported in January that Phelan's role had evolved into 'smoothing the edges of a squad containing unhappy players' and then he admitted that he doesn't coach as much as he once did. Rangnick had already confirmed what Phelan revealed.
The decision to give Phelan a new contract was beyond dubious and now is the perfect time for an amicable exit from the club following Erik ten Hag's appointment. Phelan has been an excellent servant at United, winning multiple major trophies during his time on the club's first-team staff, but his second stint has been a romantic experiment that hasn't worked out and that needs to end.
Ten Hag needs a fresh start for the rebuild he is tasked with and that means the most prominent backroom staff members from the last few years need to leave. Solskajer, Carrick, McKenna and Pert already have and it's time for Phelan to join them.
The Manchester Evening News understands Phelan is set to leave the club this summer and that assistant coach Chris Armas, analyst Ewan Sharp and sports psychologist Sascha Lense will all also depart after six-month spells on Rangnick's backroom staff.
Those three exits are arguably more important than Phelan's. Rangnick was underqualified for United and so were his backroom staff. There was genuine shock and interest from America when the German appointed Amas as his assistant coach. Amas had just been sacked at Toronto after suffering the largest loss of the club's history and he had also been sacked at the New York Red Bulls.
United's dressing room is responsible for this trainwreck of a season, but they wouldn't have found much motivation at Carrington under Rangnick and his coaching staff. They were hopelessly underqualified and fighting a losing battle from the first day.
Ten Hag has brought his own assistant coaches to United and it's time for the club to draw a line under this season.