United put finding first director of football back on the agenda
Ed Woodward will look to appoint a director of football at Manchester United, as the executive vice-chairman puts creating the role back on his agenda.
Woodward first looked at the position two years ago, and has now returned to the idea of a wide-ranging post to sit alongside the existing structure at Old Trafford, working in various departments such as recruitment, the training ground and women’s football.
Atletico Madrid’s Andrea Berta is among the sporting directors who may be tempted to work for one of the world’s biggest clubs. Others who are highly rated include Fabio Paratici, of Juventus, and Antero
Henrique, who left Paris St-Germain a year ago.
Woodward has outlined the criteria for a first director of football in the club’s history, but is yet to start the process of shortlisting candidates, with his priority being the completion of the season and dealing with the financial impact of the pandemic.
The position will be one of the most prestigious roles in world sport. However, United are not seeking a figure to change the culture of the club, but to be part of the existing structure around manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United have been pleased with their recruitment since a shift in policy from targeting marquee signings such as Alexis Sanchez, who has been loaned out to Inter Milan this season. Home-grown, younger players were brought in last summer and the January arrival of Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes has been among the best signings of the season.
Rather than overseeing recruitment, the club’s first director of football would work with the current set-up, which includes Solskjaer and his coaches, scouts, data analysts, plus Matt Judge, who negotiates deals.
The new recruit would also have responsibility for assessing the training ground at Carrington, where changes are expected to be made.
The challenge for United will be appointing the right person. The role at other clubs involves finding players for the coach, which can mean having a key influence on the style of football. United will seek a candidate to be part of their current system, rather than ripping up a plan that has served them well for the past 18 months.
Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Dan James have been viewed as successes, while the arrival of Fernandes has helped Solskjaer’s team go on a run that gives them a chance of reaching the Champions League with a top-four finish this weekend.
United are looking at signing another young England international in Jadon Sancho, with Borussia Dortmund preparing for his departure should a deal be struck. More changes to the squad are expected, with a centre-back another area that could be strengthened.
Jesse Lingard is among the players with one year left on his contract at United and he has spoken of “off-field issues” that affected him at the start of the season. His future has appeared unclear after his failure to start a Premier League game since Jan 1.
“At the start of the season I had quite a few off-the-field issues that I had to deal with privately,” Lingard said. “Obviously I spoke to the manager about it and he understood.
“When I was playing, I wasn’t really fully concentrated. I was thinking about different things in the back of my head of what’s happening off the field. I wasn’t mentally right, really, to play even, to an extent.
“Lockdown kind of came at a good time for me, where I could really re-evaluate the things that were happening. It’s just about getting me back to the old Jesse.
“I’ve got good people around me that are looking after me. The coaching staff are happy, so I’ve got to wait for my opportunity now.”
Backing: A director of football would be part of the existing structure around United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer