Manchester United plan to install director of football after restructuringManchester United’s manager has been unhappy with the club’s transfer policy.
Manchester United are set to appoint the first director of football in their 140-year history, as soon as the current restructure of the club and expansion of facilities are complete.
The move will allow United a continuity of football style and ethos as well as a more streamlined transfer policy. It is understood this is also recognition by the hierarchy of the need to modernise in an era when managers are often in situ only for the short term. This can lead to disjointed recruitment and a disconnect between the manager and the executive.
United suffered precisely this in the transfer window that closed on Thursday. José Mourinho believed he required a frontline centre-back to strengthen his squad and while the board led by Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, was supportive it was not prepared to sanction what was viewed as the exorbitant valuations demanded for the manager’s particular targets. Woodward is still expected to have a key role in recruitment following the appointment of a director of football, with Mourinho and his successors still substantially involved in player recruitment.
In the summer, the manager identified Leicester’s Harry Maguire, Bayern Munich’s Jérôme Boateng, and Atlético Madrid’s Diego Godín as possible signings. Yet United decided against a move for any of them as the conclusion was that none would markedly improve on the central defenders already at the club, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf. This left Mourinho frustrated at the board and the executive bemused at some of the manager’s public pronouncements regarding transfer policy.
READ MORE: Gossip: Barcelona not giving up on Pogba
A director of football would provide a buffer between the hierarchy and manager with the extra layer of expertise designed to maintain United’s style and ethos. This will allow an instantly recognisable blueprint to identify players and any fresh manager appointment.
It is unclear how Mourinho might react if a director of football is appointed during his tenure. After Friday night’s 2-1 win over Leicester he acknowledged his influence over transfers has waned, when complaining about missing out on a centre-back.
Mourinho, whose side won thanks to goals from Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw answered only by Jamie Vardy in added time, said: “I had my plans for many months and I find myself with the market closed in a situation I did not think I would be in. I think football is changing and managers should be called head coaches.”
An example of how a director of football can work is available nearby. At Manchester City, the champions have Txiki Begiristain, under the job title of sporting director. A fundamental part of the Spaniard’s role is to identify suitable managerial candidates, as was the case with Pep Guardiola, appointed in 2016.
United have previously adhered to a long-term managerial model and while this remains the ideal the demands of the position have become more relentless, often making a tenure at an elite club a two or three-year cycle. After Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in May 2013 David Moyes was given a six-year contract in the hope he could build a similar dynasty at Old Trafford to his predecessor. Ferguson was in charge for 26-and-a-half years but Moyes was sacked in April 2014 and his replacement, Louis van Gaal, lasted two seasons before being succeeded by Mourinho.
Mourinho, who is contracted until June 2020, has suggested any title challenge this season is unlikely and that defending the second place achieved in May will be difficult. The view from the top of club is that the Portuguese can be too reliant on short-term fixes and that given United’s strong defensive record in his two seasons in charge Mourinho should be able to mount a credible title tilt.
The executive believes that if an increased number of goals can be provided in support of Romelu Lukaku – who top-scored with 16 in the league last season – then the 19-point gap to City can be bridged. This places pressure on Mourinho to coax improvements from Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sánchez, among others.
United are discussing the expansion of their training complex in Carrington because the recently formed women’s team requires facilities and extra personnel. Once these changes are executed it is expected the director of football will be appointed.