Man Utd’s under-23 coach Neil Wood leaves after eight years as Salford City appoint him at their fifth permanent manager in four years.
Stretford-born Wood, a former youth-team player and reserves captain at United, comes in despite speculation that Michael Appleton would be the man to take the job.
After a playing career that took in spells at Blackpool, Oldham and Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, Wood went on to coach at Aston Villa before returning to United in September 2014.
— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) May 19, 2022
As stated by Training Ground Guru, he was working for the U15s side before taking up a job with the U18s and then, from July 2019, the U23s.
In his first season in the latter role, Wood achieved promotion back to Division One of the Premier League 2, before recording eighth and sixth-place finishes in the subsequent two seasons.
Wood also oversaw United’s run to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League this season, where they were beaten on penalties by Borussia Dortmund.
Now the 39-year-old is to get his first job in senior management, taking experience of worked closely with Salford co-owner Nicky Butt, who was the club’s Academy Manager and Head of Development.
He replaces Gary Bowyer who was sacked after 14 months in charge following the club’s failure to reach the League Two playoffs.
The 50-year-old ex-Blackburn and Bradford boss was initially brought in on a short-term basis in March 2021 but went on to agree a full-time role on a two-year deal that May but could only guide the Ammies to a 10th-placed finish this term, seven points off a playoff spot.
In 2020-21, Bowyer replaced Richie Wellens after his departure by mutual consent, and lead them to an 8th-placed finish, two points off a playoff place.
After previously being an under-23s manager at Derby County, working under boss Wayne Rooney, Bowyer had been expected to return to Pride Park but instead joined Salford on a permanent basis last summer.
But, Salford missed out on a playoff spot again after a mixed season, despite a stronger showing in the second half of the campaign.
BBC Radio Manchester’s Dominic Dietrich said: “Under Gary Bowyer, Salford City have had a measured approach, which they lacked last season, having appointed four managers across a single campaign.
“Injuries to key players like Ian Henderson and summer recruit Connor McAleny contributed to a tough first half of the season, managing only seven wins and 24 goals prior to January.
“Their chance to revive any hopes of a promotion push came in the January transfer window as they brought in statement signing striker Matt Smith from Millwall, which followed deals for midfielders Ryan Watson and Stephen Kelly. Once Bowyer had the tools, the results began to follow.
“The Ammies lost just three games after the window closed, drawing six and winning nine games and provided the club with hope of finishing in the top seven.
“But they just fell short after defeats against rivals in the League Two play-off picture.
“Despite missing out, it seemed like Bowyer had built a platform to build on for next season with little upheaval required, but now with his departure, whoever comes in will have their own ideas and it could be another summer of change at the Peninsula Stadium.”
— Salford City FC (@SalfordCityFC) May 20, 2022
Salford City Football Club can confirm the appointment of Neil Wood as Head Coach.
The 39-year-old joins us from Manchester Untied where he has progressed as a coach through the Academy where he once played.
In his playing days he was a midfielder and had loans at Burnley and Coventry City before moves to Blackpool and Oldham Athletic.
After working at Aston Villa, Wood re-joined United as a coach and progressed from the Under-13s through to the Under-23s. In his first season with the Under-23s they won promotion from PL2 Division 2, and he has also overseen the development of players like Di’Shon Bernard, Anthony Elanga, and James Garner amongst many others.
Taking on a senior job in the EFL for the first time, Wood is looking forward to the opportunity:
“I’m very excited for the challenge, I think it’s going to be really good going forward, it’s going to be a new challenge for me but one that I’m looking forward to.
“I’ve spent a lot of years coaching, I’ve been a head coach for the last three years at Manchester United and this was naturally my next progression so it’s an exciting time.
“I’ve had a great time [at Manchester United], some amazing players came through and it’s been a really proud time for me to see young players develop and improve, and go on to make their debut for the first team at Manchester United or move on and play in the leagues.
“Most people will say I like to attack, I think my type of team is attacking teams. I like to improve players, I like to improve the team, and I think they’ll say they’re organised and hard to beat so all the things that you’d want somebody to say about your team.
“We have to create a culture of everyone pulling in the right direction, I think that’s one of the main things for the Club, the staff, the players, and the fans play such an important role in that as well. We want to create a team, a Club, that they’re proud of, that they want to come and watch, and we want to create a team that’s entertaining for them to come and watch.”
Sporting Director Chris Casper commented:
“Neil has great potential, he’s someone that the owners have worked with previously and he ticks a lot of boxes for the way that the Club wants to progress. As a Head Coach he will be able to work on an intrinsic level with the players and work to improve and get the best out of the squad.
“He has an excellent reputation for developing young players which is an ambition that the owners set out when they arrived at the Club in 2014, and we believe that he will give us a fantastic chance to realise those ambitions.
“Things have happened really quickly since Tuesday, and we’re thankful to Manchester United for giving us the opportunity to speak to Neil and their speed in allowing us to bring him in.”
Co-owner Nicky Butt, who worked with Wood at Manchester United, added:
“It’s really exciting to have Neil join us at Salford City, I’ve known him for a long time since I was a player at United with him and more recently as a coach.
“He’s an exceptionally talented coach, very tactical and technical, and someone that everyone will really enjoy working with so it’s exciting times for us having him here.
“I’m really happy that he’s joining us, and I’m looking forward to the future with Neil.”
Twitter users reacted with Salford City set to appoint a fifth permanent manager in four years…
@UtdSid06: Why tf every Academy coach is leaving, he’s been so good for our u23s 😭 So now both Neil Ryan & Neil Wood have left, we need someone too good to be able to match they 2 did for our academy
@strettie3104: Back by Christmas once Nev has fired him
@Booty787: Be back in 6months when Neville sacks him cos they are only 10 points clear at the top!
@DeanConstantino: Another manager for @GNev2 to take a hypercritical approach with and eventually sack. But god forbid we sack Moyes, LVG, Jose or Ole 🙃
@Jamesstretford: Very good lad. Wish him the best, he’ll need it Andy with the way things have been going down at Salford.
@DAF_MUFC: He’ll be back in a year or so then
@Strettyupper: Sacked by January.
@CornedbeefstRed: Looking at Co92’s record of sacking managers at Salford, it would be nice if United kept his job vacant for 6 months. It’s not as much a new job for Wood as a secondment.
@LMPycroftJ4: With how Salford sack managers , he’ll be back at Man U before pre-season… Salford and its owners are an embarrassment with regards sacking their managers, second only to Watford. Keep his position open, he’ll be back with a few months 😉😛😤
@markytheoz: Can hire him back in six months after ‘man of the people’ Gary Neville sacks him.
@hg1fcum: Can’t understand why anyone in a decent job would want to go there.
@Utd_TJJ: Was Ole not good enough for you? @GNev2
@T145Alex: Gone by Christmas
@BristolOli: Only 3 more Salford managers until Christmas 🎄 Gaz
@saunders_gaz: Neil Wood be lucky to last pre season with Gary give a Ole time Neville 🤣
@J_Schofield4: “joins us from Manchester united” 🤣. Coached kids in a pampered environment and listing players who haven’t even made it on the CV. Can’t wait for him to adapt to league 2 football and what it actually takes to win games at this level. It’s not the checkatrade trophy
@Cr7goesSiu: Enjoy your 6 months pal
@dpjp89: You think he’ll be the longest serving manager in the clubs history 😂
@Dan_England85: He’s got pre season to save his job.
@danielboyle10: until @GNev2 has enough of him by October
@Chandler5152: Geez – any link to Utd. They’ll recruit the chap that collects the corners flags in at the end of the game at Man Utd as the next Manager.
Going forward ✅
Like my teams to attack✅
Technical coach ✅
Rusk Clone ✅
@ParkhouseIan1: October 2022. Gary Neville thanks Neil Wood for the outstanding work that he’s carried out over the last 2.5 months. Neil leaves under mutual consent and regrets the day he left United.