Soccer

Manchester United finally are constructing a competent backroom, how will this translate on the pitch?

Since the Glazer family’s controversial takeover of Manchester United in 2005, the club has been embroiled in a tumultuous saga of backroom mismanagement, marked by a litany of failures in almost all aspects of its operations. From consistent transfer flops to a failure to upgrade training facilities and an inability to command respectable fees for player sales, the Glazers’ tenure has left a bitter taste in the mouths of United faithful worldwide.

The club’s transfer policy is one of the most glaring deficiencies under the Glazers’ stewardship. Despite Manchester United’s stature as one of the wealthiest clubs in the world, their recruitment strategy has often been characterized by wasteful spending on overpriced and underperforming players. From the ill-fated signings of the likes of Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez to the inability to secure key targets in crucial positions, the Glazers’ regime has presided over a string of transfer failures that have hindered the team’s progress on the pitch.

Moreover, the lack of a coherent long-term strategy in the transfer market has resulted in a revolving door of managers, each with their own vision and preferences, leading to disjointed squad building and a lack of continuity in playing style and personnel.

(Photo by Chloe Knott-Danehouse/Getty Images)

In an era where state-of-the-art training facilities and modern stadiums are essential components of a club’s infrastructure, Manchester United has fallen behind its rivals under the Glazers’ ownership. While clubs like Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have invested heavily in world-class training complexes, United’s Carrington training ground has remained largely unchanged, failing to keep pace with the evolving demands of modern football.

Similarly, the iconic Old Trafford stadium, once the crown jewel of English football, has seen minimal upgrades and refurbishments in recent years, with the Glazers prioritizing commercial interests over the on-field success and fan experience. As a result, United’s facilities have become outdated and inadequate, further hampering the club’s ability to attract top talent and compete at the highest level.

Whilst still a classic stadium, it is deteriorating and is lightyears away from the top stadiums in the country (Photo by James Gill-Danehouse/Getty Images)

Another area of concern during the Glazers’ tenure has been Manchester United’s handling of player sales. Despite boasting a squad brimming with talent, the club has often struggled to offload surplus players at fair market value, resulting in significant financial losses and missed opportunities to reinvest in the squad.

Whether it’s the protracted sagas of players like Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard or the cut-price departures of promising youngsters like Adnan Januzaj, United’s failure to negotiate favourable deals has cost the club dearly, both in terms of revenue and squad depth. Moreover, the lack of a coherent transfer strategy and effective player recruitment has exacerbated the problem, leaving Manchester United mired in a cycle of mediocrity and underachievement.

(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

As Manchester United grapples with the legacy of backroom mismanagement under the Glazers’ ownership, fans have been increasingly disillusioned with the club’s direction. With mounting debts, dwindling on-field success, and a widening gap with their rivals, the need for meaningful change had never been more urgent. And it seems that the change finally has arrived.

Jim Ratcliffe’s 25% ownership in the club was ratified only last week and immediate changes have been made to reform the backroom structure of the club. Ratcliffe and INEOS, his company, will take charge of the football operations at United, with INEOS’ CEO Jean-Claude Blanc and Director of Sport Sir David Brailsford joining United’s board.

The first appointment was Omar Berrada, named as the new CEO and the successor to Richard Arnold. Poached from noisy neighbors Manchester City, Berrada was their Chief Football Operations Officer and oversaw years of impressive success as well as the introductions of some of the world’s greatest players.

United then moved to sign Southampton’s Director of Football, Jason Wilcox, to have him high up in the club’s newly structured footballing hierarchy. Wilcox previously was the head of the academy at Manchester City where he oversaw the development of talents like Phil Foden, Rico Lewis, Cole Palmer, and United’s Jadon Sancho.

He would report to a sporting director, a role that United hasn’t previously filled but are now looking to make a vital part of their footballing ecosystem. They have approached Dan Ashworth, a man considered one of the finest in the world at his role who is currently the football director at Newcastle. His finest work was at Brighton where in his two-and-a-half years at the Amex Stadium, he ensured that the Seagulls established themselves as a top-flight club and as one of the best-run clubs in the Premier League. They qualified for Europe for the first time and made some incredibly shrewd business, seemingly spawning new-found talents each week. His amazing work caught the eye of the newly forming administration at Newcastle in 2022 and he became their director of football.

His oversight of signings and footballing decisions saw Newcastle go from relegation scrappers to Champions League qualifiers and Carabao Cup Finalists within a year. Astute signings like Kieran Trippier, Bruno Guimarães, and Sven Botman saw Newcastle’s side revolutionised and they became one of the league’s most feared teams.

Now, Ashworth is taking up a new assignment at United. Poached away from Newcastle, he’ll have to undergo a period of gardening leave before his Mancunian project can really get underway. You’d expect no more Antony-esque signings now. You’d expect some development of the training ground and stadium. You’d expect no more extortionate wages, leading to a broken pay structure at the club. One can hope, at least.

Manchester United have the fundamentals of an amazing dynasty. With an enormous fanbase, a magical history, money in the coffers, and young talent like Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho, and Kobbie Mainoo, and now, they seem to have assembled the Avengers of the football director world. All the building blocks are there. Now it’s up to Ashworth and his backroom boys to put the pieces together.


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By Nicky Helfgott / @NickyH3lfgott on Twitter

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