Monday 14 October 2019

Manchester United set to begin thorough search for director of football

New man will be part of plan for unified vision at club, writes Miguel Delaney

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Miguel Delaney

Manchester United have started preliminary work in their search for a new director of football, with the club sounding out potential candidates in what is set to be a rigorous recruitment process for one of the most important appointments in the club's history.

A difficult summer in the transfer window that exposed differences in priorities between the club's hierarchy and manager Jose Mourinho has finally prompted a move that had been considered for some time.

Roma's Monchi and Juventus' Fabio Paratici are currently the most desired options, but both are seen as hugely difficult to extract from their current clubs, especially given Monchi has only recently moved after so many years of success at Sevilla.

Former United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is also viewed favourably due to his work at Ajax, but United remain open-minded about who should be appointed to what will be one of the most sought-after jobs in the game.

Mourinho has previously been averse to the idea of working under a director of football, but he now accepts that United will press ahead with their plans that they hope will give a club an identity that has been badly lacking one since the retirement of Alex Ferguson.

In the three managerial appointments they have made since the Fergie era ended - not to mention so many transfers - United have often quickly settled on names and not budged.

But that is going to be very different this time as this may become the most important role at Old Trafford.

It is, after all, half of Ferguson's old job, which nobody has done since with any success.

The biggest problem is that executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Mourinho are not singing off the same hymn sheet and this has led to too many diverging priorities at the club; there is no unified vision.

Mourinho wanted the 26-to-29-year-old signings he generally prefers for his ideal team, whereas Woodward couldn't see the logic in spending the sums required for players of such an age.

The extra complication is that there is logic to both views. While Mourinho is in the job, why not back him? Woodward, however, must fairly look beyond the short term. The club have to take bigger decisions.

Hence the need for a director of football, whose remit will be wide, making it one of the biggest jobs in football.

It will, after so much fanciful talk for so long, involve the tangible setting of a 'United way'.

A director of football and his staff will have to decide upon a general club approach, with every decision from the signing of players to the role of the head coach being the new man's responsibility.

This appointment is long overdue and might finally see United maximise their immense resources.

That is something they just haven't done since Ferguson went, for various reasons, but most of all because of the lack of direction.

They were really an institution out of step, a modern super club in status and resources, but not really in outlook. That looks set to change.


And it looks like the club are going to give the search for their director of football the depth it warrants.

All talk around the hierarchy is that it will be an extensive process, involving a lot of interviews, and with a lot of expertise canvassed.

Monchi and Paratici may be their top targets, but they will not be overly distracted by too-difficult deals, and want to make an intelligent appointment.

It is understood that figures like Marcelo Lippi have been asked for their opinion and United have also sounded out Domenico Teti, a Novara employee greatly respected in Italy but not too well known outside, who has shown his aptitude by getting Mauro Icardi into Sampdoria for next to nothing.

Some of those sounded out have already been asked to submit lists of players they have bought and moved on to a higher level. (© Independent News Service)

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