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Association football manager (b. 1986)

Kieran McKenna (born 14 May 1986) is a Northern Irish professional football manager and former player, who is currently the manager of EFL Championship side Ipswich Town.

McKenna began his footballing career as a youth team player at Northern Irish sides Enniskillen Town United and Ballinamallard United. He joined Tottenham Hotspur as a youth player in 2002, signing a scholarship contract. McKenna also represented the Northern Ireland national team at under-19 and under-21 level.

In 2009, at the age of 22, McKenna retired from playing due to an ongoing hip injury which prevented McKenna from making a senior first-team appearance for Tottenham. Following retirement, McKenna began coaching within the Tottenham Hotspur academy, progressing to become the club’s under-18s manager in 2015. In 2016, he departed Tottenham for the under-18s manager position at Manchester United.

Prior to the 2018–19 season, McKenna was promoted to the first-team coaching staff at Manchester United to become assistant manager under José Mourinho. He worked with the first-team coaching staff at Manchester United until December 2021, when he left to become manager of Ipswich Town. In his first full season at Ipswich Town, McKenna achieved promotion to the EFL Championship.

Playing career[edit]

McKenna was a youth footballer at Tottenham Hotspur, before ending his playing career in 2009 due to a hip injury. McKenna went through two years of rehabilitation and had two operations before confirming his decision to retire.[2][3]

Prior to joining Tottenham, McKenna played for Enniskillen Town United and Ballinamallard United.[1]

He also represented Northern Ireland at both under-19 and under-21 level, of which McKenna represented his country in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifiers.

Coaching career[edit]

Tottenham Hotspur[edit]

After retiring from playing, McKenna started a career in coaching whilst studying a degree in Sports Science at Loughborough University. During his time studying, McKenna spent time as a youth coach at Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest.

McKenna also spent two months with the Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada as a guest coach at the end of his first academic year. Upon graduating from Loughborough University, McKenna was hired as the Head of Academy Performance Analysis at Tottenham Hotspur.[4]

McKenna has since revealed that he almost joined the academy coaching staff at Liverpool, of which he would have succeeded Alex Inglethorpe, who was promoted from Academy Coach to Academy Director, however McKenna decided to stay at Tottenham.[3] Following a period of coaching a variety of age groups within the Tottenham Academy set-up, McKenna was placed in charge of Tottenham Hotspur’s under-18s side.[5]

During his tenure at Tottenham, McKenna guided the under-18s to the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup in 2015.[3] He departed a year after his appointment as under-18s manager at Tottenham, having accepted the opportunity to serve the same role for Tottenham’s Premier League rivals Manchester United.[6]

Manchester United[edit]

On 29 August 2016, it was confirmed that McKenna was to leave his role at Tottenham to join the academy set-up at Manchester United, becoming the club’s under-18s manager. In his second season in charge of the under-18s, McKenna guided Manchester United to the Premier League Northern Division title.[3]

On 1 July 2018, along with former United player Michael Carrick, McKenna was promoted to the first-team coaching staff and replaced Rui Faria as José Mourinho’s assistant manager, ahead of the 2018–19 Premier League season.[7][8]

Following a poor start to the 2018–19 season, Mourinho left United on 18 December 2018, and was replaced the next day by former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who was appointed as caretaker manager.[9][10] Despite reports suggesting that the managerial change would result in the recruitment of a new coaching team, both McKenna and Carrick retained their positions under Solskjær.[10] Following Solskjær’s departure in November 2021, McKenna retained his position as first-team coach under new interim manager Ralf Rangnick.[4]

Managerial career[edit]

Ipswich Town[edit]

On 16 December 2021, McKenna was appointed as manager of Ipswich Town, signing a three-and-a-half year contract. He officially took charge on 20 December, alongside his assistant Martyn Pert.[11]

McKenna’s first game in charge of Ipswich saw his side win 1–0 against Wycombe Wanderers at Portman Road.[12] McKenna’s first away game in charge was a 4–0 win against Gillingham.[13]

McKenna’s arrival saw a quick upturn in Ipswich’s form, with the team’s results and performances much improved. Ipswich won seven of McKenna’s first 10 games in charge, keeping seven clean sheets in the process. Under McKenna, Ipswich went 11 matches unbeaten through February and March, including setting a new club record for not conceding a goal, surpassing the previous record of 547 minutes.[14]

Despite the improvement in form, Ipswich were unable to make up the ground required to reach the League One play-offs, eventually finishing in 11th place in League One. Ipswich ended the 2021–22 season with a 4–0 home win against Charlton Athletic on 30 April.[15]

During the 2022–23 season, McKenna was awarded the EFL League One Manager of the Month award for March 2023 as his side maintained their automatic promotion push.[16] On 29 April 2023, Ipswich secured promotion to the EFL Championship after beating Exeter City 6–0 at home.[17] He was later awarded the Manager of the Month award for April.[18] Ipswich finished the season in 2nd place in League One to gain automatic promotion to the EFL Championship, following a 19 game unbeaten run.[19] At the end of the 2022–23 season, McKenna signed a new four-year contract, extending his stay at Portman Road until 2027.[20]


Following McKenna’s arrival as Manchester United’s under-18s manager, Indy Boonen, who was a teenage player for United at the time, praised McKenna by stating, “He changed everything. The way we trained was how the opponent played on the Saturday. If you played against West Brom, you trained how they are and focused on their weaknesses.”[3]

Jim Magilton, the Irish Football Association’s elite performance director, agreed with Boonen’s appraisal of McKenna commenting, “He is a meticulous planner yet every session is spontaneous. Nothing is set in stone. He adjusts the session to how the players are and gets what he wants out of the session. Everything is linked and game related. Nothing is for show – it has to be about the game.”[3]

Personal life[edit]

McKenna was born in London but was raised in the Northern Irish county of County Fermanagh.

Since his childhood, McKenna has been a supporter of Manchester United, with reports claiming that his love for the club persuaded his decision to leave Tottenham Hotspur for the Red Devils in 2016.[3]

McKenna also played underage Gaelic football for the Enniskillen Gaels club.[21]

He is married with two children.[22]

Managerial statistics[edit]

As of match played 9 August 2023 [23]
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team From To Record
P W D L Win %
Ipswich Town 20 December 2021 Present 81 46 23 12 056.8
Total 81 46 23 12 056.8



Manchester United U18

Ipswich Town



External links[edit]