Minnesota United’s Eric Ramsay ‘ready to go’ in first head-coaching job

Eric Ramsay has traded Manchester United red for Minnesota United blue.

During his introductory news conference Wednesday, the Loons’ new head coach wore a hooded sweatshirt in that newly obtained shade and listened as MNUFC Chief Soccer Officer Khaled El-Ahmad shared how, in his previous leadership role at Barnsley, he interviewed Ramsay to be that English club’s head coach approximately two years ago.

That hiring would have kept red the primary color in Ramsay’s wardrobe. But Ramsay said he wasn’t ready for any sort of change at that time, even if he felt a connection to El-Ahmad.

Ramsay wanted to work for then-new Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag. Now roughly 18 months later, Ramsay believes he is ready for his first head coaching job of a first team.

Ramsay, who was hired Feb. 26, conducted his first training session with the Loons on Tuesday and will debut on the sideline against Los Angeles FC on Saturday night at Allianz Field.

“I’m grateful that sort of fate has led me to the 18 months there (with ten Hag at Manchester United) and the chance to come here with Khaled,” Ramsay said Wednesday. “It’s really the perfect blend of circumstances for me.”

Ramsay, 32, will be the youngest head coach in MLS, but he feels like he checks all the boxes necessary to be ready for this stage.

“I wouldn’t be putting myself in this position if I didn’t feel I wasn’t prepared to carry that out to a high level,” Ramsay said. “I was never in a mad rush to become a head coach. I never had a fixed point in mind to which I wanted to be a head coach. I wanted it to be the right circumstances and when I felt ready.”

Ramsay’s tenure at Manchester United spanned three head coaches, starting in 2021. Born in England and raised in Wales, he was an assistant with the Wales men’s national team as well as Chelsea’s Under-23 squad and had stints at Swansea City’s academy and as interim head coach at Shrewsbury Town.

“I feel like if you could design a checklist of things to do before you become a head coach I wouldn’t be far off completing those,” Ramsay said. “… I feel like I’ve done the work that is due before hitting this point. I wanted to come into a structure where I felt like I would be supported. There would be clarity and I could do what I’m largely good at.”

Ramsay acknowledged there will be unfamiliar elements to his new job.

“Obviously what I haven’t had up until this point is real hard-hitting decision-making part and leadership responsibility,” Ramsay said. “As an assistant coach largely you are working, from a technical perspective, your parameters are sort of defined by the manager that you work under and the club you work for. I’m now going to be much more responsible for those decisions and difficult conversations and defining those parameters to an extent.

“I’m ready for that,” Ramsay continued. “That is why I am in this position, so I’m not second guessing myself really in that sense. I don’t have too many reservations of if I’m going to be capable of doing that or not because I feel like I’ve got a really strong base to rest on in that sense.”

Ramsay will rely on newly named assistant coach Dennis Lawrence, 49, who comes to MNUFC after stints leading the Trinidad and Tobago men’s national team. He has been an assistant coach at Coventry City in the English second division and will need a work visa before coming to the U.S.

Lawrence, a former player at Swansea City in Wales, and Ramsay were involved in the coaching education pathway in Wales and worked on a couple of UEFA courses together as mentors for other aspiring coaches.

“When you meet him, you will get a feel for the type of guy he is, full of energy, really sort of loyal, principled guy, excellent coaching background,” Ramsay said.

Ramsay will also look to previous Loons interim head coach turned permanent assistant coach in Cameron Knowles for MLS experience and understanding of the current team. And, of course, he will look to El-Ahmad.

“I’m not lacking in humility enough to say that I’m not going to need a nudge in the right direction from time to time,” Ramsay said. “But I’m reliant in the sense that the raw skills that I’ve built up until this point is what is going to take me forward.”

Ramsay might have been earmarked as El-Ahmad’s candidate at MNUFC, too, but Ramsay went through the rigorous coaching search just like the dozens of other candidates for the job.

“Eric went through the process,” El-Ahmad said. “We were all aligned that he was No. 1 decision. Him being here represents the whole club. Not just the new sporting director.”

Ramsay said he didn’t have a “fixed destination” for his first head coaching job, but he was drawn to MNUFC, Allianz Field, MLS and the U.S. As a multilingual speaker, Ramsay sought a diverse locker room, and MLS provides that melting pot.

“I could probably speak for 10 minutes about the various angles that sit behind my decision,” Ramsay said. “But if you look at this club, in particular, everything you would want as a first-time head coach in terms of stability in ownership and sporting director that I have a very good relationship and definitely clicked from how we see the team and how we see the vision of the club in general.”

But there remains the unknown.

“The rest is left to people’s imagination and my imagination to an extent,” Ramsay said. “But I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel I was ready to go.”

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