FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In late July, discussions between the New England Revolution and Michael Mancienne’s agent began. The veteran English defender, then on the books of Nottingham Forest, was on the outs at the Championship side, searching for a new opportunity.
“I have had other opportunities, but nothing I fancied much,” Mancienne said when reached by phone in the U.K. “It was becoming difficult at [Nottingham Forest] because they’ve spent a lot of money on attacking players and they want to cut down wages on defenders. It is what is it. It’s football.”
Fast forward to Aug. 3, and the Revs officially signed the 30-year-old via a free transfer by using Targeted Allocation Money. While Mancienne still awaits receipt of his P-1 Visa and can’t feature for New England until then, general manager Michael Burns said they’re trying to “expedite the process as quickly as possible.” He also said it was a “pleasant surprise” at how quickly the deal got done.
In the meantime, the question immediately becomes how Mancienne, a product of Chelsea’s youth system, fits into a Revs’ defense that has allowed 35 goals, fifth-fewest in the Eastern Conference. Mancienne, who comes with experience at Bundesliga side Hamburger SV, can play center back, outside back, or even at holding midfield.
Burns hinted at where their new defender could feature once stateside.
“He can play multiple positions, but we feel he’s best suited as a center back,” Burns said. “That position, along with how he’s 30 and has experience, was something we wanted to interject into the team. We felt he checked off a lot of boxes for us for the second half of the year and beyond.”
If that’s the case, Mancienne joins a crowded center back group in New England. There's Designated Player Claude Dielna, TAM player Antonio Delamea, MLS journeyman Jalil Anibaba and fourth-round pick Nicolas Samayoa.
The pairing, as of late, has been Anibaba and Delamea, though that could soon change. Head coach Brad Friedel, who played against Mancienne while he was on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers, stressed a starting spot won’t be handed to the Englishman. Still, certain characteristics are hard to ignore.
“Leadership qualities are ones we want at the club, and not just with the player wearing the captain’s armband,” Friedel said. “That has been lacking a bit and bringing a player of [Mancienne’s] stature will help in that regard.”
At Forest, Mancienne often served as captain, and he would welcome a similar role if it comes his way under Friedel.
“Brad said to me that with my experience, he’d want to be a leadership role as a center half,” Mancienne said. “That’s all that’s been discussed. I was there so short because I had to catch another flight back to England.”
As for broader impact, Burns and Friedel were tight-lipped on how this signing could impact playing time for Anibaba, Dielna, or Delamea. But Friedel did praise Mancienne’s athleticism and ability on the ball, plus how he fits into the club’s high-press system.
Winning a job in that system is a goal the 30-year-old can’t wait to tackle.
“I wanted a new challenge, a new experience because a footballer’s career is too short,” Mancienne said. “You only get enough time to do so many things. I want to look back on my career and think I made the most of it and I took chances when they were handed to me. I want to retire without any regrets, and I feel I’m at an age where I have a lot to give to New England.”