Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to change manager’s role at Man Utd – with or without Erik ten Hag

Erik ten Hag. Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to build the right structure around head coach Erik Ten Hag and said it is wrong that managers carried the can for the club's decade without a Premier League title
Erik ten Hag's role at Old Trafford could be about to change - PA Wire/Bradley Collyer

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is looking to put a head coach in charge at Manchester United rather than the current “manager” role, with the change of structure wanted regardless of Erik ten Hag’s future at Old Trafford.

Ratcliffe, who is in control of football operations with his 27.7 per cent ownership of United, believes an important part of his club revamp is moving away from the traditional model of one manager overseeing several departments in the way Sir Alex Ferguson worked.

The new model would see a head coach focused primarily on the training pitches of Carrington, while recruitment would be led by incoming sporting director Dan Ashworth and CEO Omar Berrada when they are in place at United.

United announced Ten Hag’s arrival in 2022 as manager and he has pushed for players in the transfer market including Brazil internationals Antony and Casemiro. He was also heavily involved in the recruitment of Mason Mount last summer, and according to sources had a key role in making him feel wanted by the club.

While United recorded a famous FA Cup win against Liverpool last weekend, Ten Hag’s position has been under scrutiny this season during spells of poor form and crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage.

No decision has been made on Ten Hag staying or going as yet, although fitting into the head coach structure could be a factor for all parties.

Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, chairman and founder of Ineos Group Holdings Plc, following a Bloomberg Television interview
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has radical plans at Manchester United - Bloomberg/Hollie Adams

Mikel Arteta at Arsenal had his job title changed in his second season at the club, going from head coach to manager to reflect his responsibilities at the Emirates which included analysis, recruitment and the medical department.

At the time of the change it was announced by Arsenal he would be “working really, really closely together to manage all the other elements of our football operations that are so important”.

At United, there was always Ferguson in charge of football operations during his time at the club. United appointed John Murtough as the club’s first “football director” but the managers had a huge say in transfers through to Ten Hag’s appointment, when he looked to sign Andre Onana after working with him at Ajax, as he did with Antony.

Rival clubs have tended to move away from this traditional model to one where a sporting director is in place and can let the head coach concentrate on preparing the team for matches.

Ratcliffe spoke earlier this week on the Geraint Thomas Cycling Club podcast where his comments on finding “the next Kylian Mbappe” gained attention, although his view on head coaches was interpreted by sources as equally important.

“It’s where you start. You need the right organisation and structure. In the old days of Sir Alex Ferguson he was the manager,” said Ratcliffe.

“Well, we don’t have managers today, we have a coach. And a coach would normally report to a sporting director and a sporting director would report to the chief executive. Where do you put recruitment? Strategy? All that kind of stuff. You need to get your organisation right and then need to populate it with the people who are best in class.”