Manchester United have promoted John Murtough to football director and named Darren Fletcher as their first technical director as part of an eye-catching restructure.
Following Wednesday’s announcement, the PA news agency takes a look at how the appointments came about and what they mean moving forwards.
What has happened?
The conspicuous absence of a director of football at Old Trafford has been the subject of discussion for years, making the shake-up announced on the eve of the Europa League clash with AC Milan particularly interesting. Murtough has been at United for seven years and, having most recently held the role of head of football development, has been promoted to the role of football director. Fletcher enjoyed a medal-laden playing career after coming through the ranks at United, where he returned at the start of the year as part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s coaching set-up. The former midfielder becomes the club’s first technical director and United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said that “these are hugely important appointments that reinforce the progress we have been making as a club in recent years in our relentless pursuit of success”.
What will Fletcher’s role be?
The 37-year-old will focus on the long-term approach to player and squad development – key at a club synonymous with bringing through homegrown talent. Fletcher knows that path well and will work closely with Murtough to add “technical input and direction into all football and performance areas”. The ex-Scotland midfielder has impressed the powers that be at Old Trafford since returning to the club as coach in terms of his knowledge, personal skills and vision. Solskjaer says he will combine coaching with the technical director role, although the latter position will take precedence.
What about Murtough?
Not as well known as Fletcher, the newly-appointed football director has 23 years of experience working in the sport. Murtough joined United under David Moyes in 2014, having worked as the Premier League’s head of elite performance following roles with the likes of Fulham and Everton. Murtough impressed in repairing and overhauling United’s academy and recruitment set-up, while he also played a key role in starting the women’s team from scratch. The club confirmed that he will “have overall leadership and responsibility for operations and strategy across all football functions”, with Woodward saying his “new position is a natural evolution that harnesses his leadership qualities and his years of experience in the game”. The new football director reports to Woodward along with manager Solskjaer – the only football figures that will report directly into the executive vice-chairman.
Having improved areas such as recruitment, United decided promoting two individuals from within would best suit the needs of the club. Murtough becomes the main authority at the Aon Training Complex along with Solskjaer, offering operational experience that is complemented by Fletcher’s technical skills. While former manager Jose Mourinho was understood to be resistant to such a model, successor Solskjaer welcomed the moves at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “I’m very happy that we’ve made this decision and the announcement,” the United boss said. “Of course I’ve known about it for a little while. I’ve known John since I came. He was here when I came and now it’s more of a formal role, the job title. He’s still been working behind the scenes and I’ve worked well with him. It’s a cultural fit. We know we’re a work in progress and what we’re doing we just want to improve on and better, so very happy with what we have. We’ve still got the continuity of the last few years but still got new ideas and fresh thinking with Fletch, who has been at the club before and come back now.”
What does it mean for recruitment?
Evolution rather than revolution is how it is viewed at United on that front. Solskjaer and the recruitment department continue to each have a veto on signings, while Matt Judge remains the individual negotiating deals for United under the new title of director of football negotiations. Judge will report to Murtough, who will attend recruitment meetings, as will Fletcher, ahead of an important and coronavirus-complicated summer.