From Playing Futsal to Managing, Eric Ramsay’s Journey to Minnesota

Minnesota United Head Coach Eric Ramsay and Chief Soccer Officer and Sporting Director Khaled El-Ahmad at an MNUFC press event on Wednesday, March 13, 2024 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

Last Wednesday, March 14, Minnesota United finally introduced Eric Ramsey as the second manager in the team’s MLS history — and fourth overall in franchise history. Ramsay’s arrival finally gives the club stability at manager after a short offseason that saw two interim managers take the place of Adrian Heath, fired in October of 2023.

Sean McAuley, who led the team through the end of last season and the start of the offseason transition, resigned from all duties in January and was named head coach of USL Championship side Indy Eleven shortly thereafter. He was replaced by then-MNUFC2 head coach Cameron Knowles who, with his staff, had 40 days to help the squad regroup before the 2024 season. Knowles ended a three match interim head coach term undefeated, with victories in Austin and Orlando bookending the home opener draw with Columbus. Knowles’ efforts and his rapport with the squad were rewarded when Ramsay selected him to be his first assistant.

Eric Ramsay made his head coach debut this past Saturday, the match against LAFC that resulted in the first home win (and first home ‘Wonderwall’) since October 7, 2023. At 32, Ramsay is the youngest manager in MLS, just over 10 years after graduating from university.

As a player Ramsay played with both Shrewsbury Town and The New Saints in his youth and made 14 appearances with Welshpool Town in the Cymru Premier. However, it was in the five-a-side indoor game of futsal where he excelled. Ramsay played on the Loughborough University futsal team from 2010/11 through 2012/13 making at least 17 appearances and scoring at least 10 goals for the team.

“The Welsh national team started with their senior men’s team at that point, so the stars aligned a little bit and I was able to play for them in the European Championships and have some really nice experiences,” Ramsay told NSJ last week. “I think futsal is typically seen as a game that is all flair and creativity but in actual fact, it’s a very tactical, detailed game. So I took a lot from a coaching perspective there. And it also meant that I stopped playing eleven-a-side very early to focus on coaching. So I was sort of able to continue to do something competitively for a couple of years. So it was brilliant.”

In addition to playing during university, Ramsay captained the Welsh national futsal team during qualifying for the UEFA Futsal Euro 2013. His Welsh side went 0–3 during qualifying falling to Greece, Bulgaria, and Armenia, though the Dragons were only outscored 10–4 during the three match qualifying group stage. Following his graduation, Ramsay went on to coach Swansea City U18s through 2017. From 2017-19 he was the academy manager for Shrewsbury Town before moving on to coach Chelsea’s U23s that year. Later in 2019 he became the youngest Brit to obtain a UEFA Pro License. Then in 2021 he moved on again to Manchester United, where he stayed as an assistant and set-piece coach until taking the job in Minnesota.

Minnesota United head coach Eric Ramsay looks on while Minnesota United and Los Angeles Football Club play in an MLS match at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Saturday, March 16 2023 (Tim McLaughlin)

This is an uncommonly quick trajectory for a coach, as evidenced by Ramsay’s age in comparison to others in the EPL and MLS (his own assistants, Knowles and the recently named Dennis Lawrence, are 40 and 49 respectively) but with that comes a fresh perspective to the interactions between coaches and players.

“It’s fundamental, and I appreciate that I’m in the honeymoon period and generally the players are going to be responsive to me. There’s going to be a good energy, there’s going to be a good feel to the place. It’s my responsibility to make sure that continues, that the players really feel connected to the way the team plays,” Ramsay explained.

“That they feel as though what they’re doing as part of our group is going to move them forward and that’s what brings a good culture. Everyone wants to come in and everyone wants to get better. They feel that the environment that me and the staff create is one in which they can do that. I felt like this weekend we’ve got to make sure that continues.”