Exclusive: Michael Clegg discusses retiring from football at 26
Michael Clegg seemed destined for Manchester United success after breaking into the first team in the late 90s.
As a FA Youth Cup winner in 1995, he was one of the players who United hoped would follow the Class of ’92 into becoming a club legend.
One moment Clegg was featuring for United in a Champions League quarter-final in 1998, and six years later he was retired.
In the second of a three part interview, Clegg spoke candidly to United In Focus about the end of his United spell, and his career.
Despite a good showing in the 1998 quarter-final against Monaco, Clegg found chances hard to come by.
The standard at United was almost impossibly high and a lack of regular game time hurt him.
In the following seasons he made only a handful of appearances and in 2002 his United career was over.
He said: “It was the saddest day of my career. I went into the office and spoke to Sir Alex. He said, ‘We are going to let you go to Oldham’.
“I only had six months left on my deal. All those years of fighting for the first team, being as professional as I could, it had come to an end.
“I knew I had to leave, but I didn’t know what I was leaving to.”
A local team, Oldham seemed like a good step down, but Clegg couldn’t make it work.
He said: “I feel like I let myself down, my family, the manager who I have loads of respect for – Mick Wandsworth, and ultimately the Oldham fans and the team.
“I think I was suffering depression, although I didn’t realise it at the time.”
In 1999 Clegg suffered a family tragedy, with the sudden death of a cousin, David. It him him hard.
“People say ‘why did you retire?’. Well I got out of that depression when I got out of football.
“I started training other people and I got a massive buzz when I actually could help people to become healthier and happier. I had returned back to what I believe is my calling – helping people.”
Clegg grew up training as a weightlifter, and his dad Mick Clegg worked with United’s first team as power conditioning coach.
Since retirement in 2004 he worked for Sunderland when Roy Keane took him in to help in his objective of getting the club back in the Premier League.
Michel stayed with Sunderland as the head of strength and conditioning for the following 12 seasons.
He is now on his next career transition from player to strength and conditioning coach and he is now working in the private and charitable sector and has a wide range of business interests.
He said: “My true passion was back at the gym. I had an amazing 11 years at United from 15 to 26.
“When I retired and went into the gym, I felt like the same day I put the United top on for the first time.”
What is Michael up to now?
Michael is the founder and online training coach for Seed of Speed, a specialist programme designed to help and train elite athletes around the world.
He is also is an accredited coach at the Elite Performance Institute where he will be running a series of seminars from April.
Michael is also launching his own YouTube channel which you can subscribe to here.