Manchester United are set to appoint a new sporting director when Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s 25% investment in the club is officially completed – part of the businessman’s plans to strengthen and expand the football operations department in pursuit of prominence on the pitch.
90min has previously reported that the plan is for Ratfcliffe to sit on a committee at the top of the club looking after immediate changes following the purchase. He will be joined on the three-man panel by current chairman Joel Glazer and current INEOS head of sport Sir Dave Brailsford.
Reporting directly to the committee will be managing director Richard Arnold, whose role will continue to run the business side of the club. But alongside Arnold will be a new figure in charge of sports operations, above football manager John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher.
The question on the lips of many United supporters is who will Ratcliffe look to bring to the club? Is there an internal candidate up for the job, or does fresh thinking and new energy need to come in and create a different atmosphere at Old Trafford?
Here is a 90min ranking of those who might be thinking.
Rio Ferdinand is candid as a pundit / Michael Regan/GettyImages
United were thought to be considering former defender Rio Ferdinand as a candidate for the technical director position as far back as 2019. He has since turned to content online and in the social media world, as well as TV pundits, but still has more useful expertise.
Ferdinand has also been sympathetic to the Glazer family in the face of criticism after Sheikh Jassim withdrew his bid for a full takeover.
“They have the right to decide who comes into the football club and what contract suits them best. This contract suits them best as a family and some people may not like it, but you have to respect it and go, “right, OK , who is the next best example for the football club?'” he told 90min exclusively.
Gary Neville is co-owner of Salford City / Mike Marsland / GettyImages
Gary Neville is a leading TV pundit for Sky Sports, but is also already the club owner of Salford City in League Two and is overseeing their major promotion through the leagues. He is also a serial trader.
The United legend is unlikely to ever return to day-to-day training after his disastrous spell at Valencia, but being a sporting director has a different perspective. It would, however, require him to put many of his other projects on the backburner to focus on what would be an extremely intense job.
Darren Fletcher would be an internal presentation / Visionhaus/GettyImages
Darren Fletcher was set to begin a managerial career when he hung up his boots in 2019, first arriving at United that year to coach players in the academy. The Scot was promoted to the first team at the start of 2021, but was then appointed technical director within just two months.
If he were to get the sporting director job, it would be an internal promotion, tapping into someone already well versed in the United way.
Max Eberl has a lot of experience as a sporting director in the Bundesliga / Matthias Hangst/GettyImages
Looking beyond former players who already know the club inside out, United could consider Max Eberl for his stint as sporting director at Borussia Mönchengladbach and later RB Leipzig.
During his 14 years in charge of sporting activities at Gladbach, the club recovered from the 1990s and 2000s slump to reach the Champions League several times. He left RB Leipzig last month and is believed to be on Bayern Munich’s radar.
Julian Ward pulled the strings to help Liverpool land Alexis MacAllister and Cody Gakpo were / Richard Sellers/Allstar/GettyImages
The last of Julian Ward’s 11 years at Liverpool was spent as sporting director following internal promotion in the summer of 2022. He had already played a key role in the club’s consistently successful and successful recruitment drive in previous seasons.
Known for his dedication, even skipping Christmas dinner to ensure Liverpool landed Cody Gakpo last December, he is particularly noted for his role in recruiting South American players such as Alexis Mac Allister, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz thanks to strong agent relationships.
Dan Ashworth has built up experience at several clubs and the FA / Dan Mullan/GettyImages
After a modest non-league playing career, Dan Ashworth has held various managerial roles since before he turned 30. He first worked at youth level until arguably his breakthrough as West Bromwich Albion’s sporting and technical director in 2007 at the age of 36.
Ashworth was poached by the FA to become their director of elite development in 2012, was a rumored suitor for United as far back as 2018, then led Brighton’s rise behind the scenes and is now tasked with building Newcastle into one of the best teams in Europe.
Much of Liverpool’s success was due to Michael Edwards negotiating a high fee for Philippe Coutinho/Catherine Ivill/GettyImages
United have previously played down the idea of approaching Michael Edwards, but there is no denying that this former Liverpool sporting director is one of the most respected figures in the game because of everything that was achieved at Anfield with him in the role.
Edwards left Liverpool in 2022 after 11 years and has since been linked with Chelsea and Real Madrid. He hasn’t worked for a club since but it was recently reported that he was stepping back into football as a consultant with the company Ludonautics.
Paul Mitchell is well known by Sir Jim Ratcliffe / VALERY HACHE / GettyImages
Paul Mitchell is the favorite to get the job. He is already well known to Monaco-based Ratcliffe for his work in recent seasons with the Principality and has spoken publicly of a return to England.
United have been linked with Mitchell for several years now and he is well-respected for his previous work as a scout and recruiter, which has included building Mauricio Pochettino’s successful Southampton side, as well as Tottenham’s eventual champions in 2019. under the control of the Argentine.
Mitchell has also worked at RB Leipzig, where the guiding philosophy, similar to United’s, is around developing young players.
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