United: Going in the wrong direction?

Manchester United need a Director of Football, simple as that. The fact we have burned through managers since Sir Alex Fergerson’s departure, managers that have been held in extremely high regard prior to coming to Old Trafford, indicates serious issues up high within the club. After all, there is a reason that #GlazersOut has devoured United twitter.

United fans have reached the point now where no one likes the Glazers, and somehow even less people like Ed Woodward. Woodward is the Glazers’ frontman and they surely love him for all the work he has done to grow Manchester United on a non-footballing front, even in our bleakest years of this century. And, we should give credit where credit is due, Ed Woodward is phenomenal when it comes to growing the Manchester United brand. But, his lack of footballing knowledge and craft has lead to severe blunders over the past few years.

Our recruitment policy has been aimless and pathetic. Plenty of money has been wasted on signings that quickly became ‘flops’ and that is before we look at the 1 Billion pounds the Glazers have taken from this football club. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that Woodward has failed to stick by a manager. In fact he has continued to appoint managerial failures like Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. This has left the squad in a dire state as players that past mangers have signed to help their own particular styles have been inherited by new managers who play completely differently. Jose to Ole is a perfect example of this – and Woodward is to blame.

Woodwards poor day to day running of the club in terms of football is why a Director Of Football is urgently required. Fergie’s extraordinary talent of being both the manager and acting DOF has been shown here to be quite remarkable. Brendan Rodgers has described this as the’British way’ of running things as European clubs are more prone to rigid titles like DOF and Fergerson was a critical pioneer in starting this trend undoubtedly. When Sir Alex needed someone to help manage the burden of the giant that is MUFC, he had the wonderful former Chief Executive, David Gill, to assist him. Gill is the very man whose shoes Woodward has tried and failed to fill. It was a dark day when both Gill and Ferguson decided to leave and what great lengths many fans would go to see them both back running the show.

A Director of Football is required at Manchester United more so than any other club in the world, by my measure. That is why it is so utterly shameful we don’t have one yet. It is needed more so with us than anywhere else not only because of the sheer stature of United, but the fact that we have some vital core values that should be instilled in every player to ever have the privilege of wearing the shirt. And, add to the fact that the club is getting more and more disconnected with the owners themselves, a DOF should be top priority. After all, one of their main roles is bridging the gap between the owners and those involved in the main side of Man Utd, the footballing side.

The values of the club previously mentioned include the non-negotiable promotion of youth, the focus on constant ‘waves’ of attack that occur at a fast pace and a never say die attitude that so often in the past has lead to famous late winners. Our very own manager could tell us a thing or two about a specific last minute winner. Furthermore, a Director of Football who knows his stuff would never have appointed the failures LVG and Mourinho as their style is simply far too pedestrian for this illustrious club and its famous style. It may seem like a potential Footballing Director who ticks all these boxes is too good to be true and simply doesn’t exist, but there is a certain man who may be exactly what we need. His name is Paul Mitchell.

Mitchell currently works for successful Bundesliga side, RB Leipzig, as Head Of Recruitment and Development. He is Manchester born and has previously worked for Southampton and Spurs where he followed Argentine Mauricio Pochettino, the man he probably would still be with had Spurs recruitment gone off in a direction he wasn’t fond of leading to his departure from the EPL. One reason he is such a good fit is he was influential in creating hardworking, youthful, attacking squads at both the Saints and Spurs. Not only does this make him ‘Premier League proven’, he also clearly has United beliefs in his DNA. He is responsible for finding Premier League stars like Sadio Mane, Toby Alderweireld and Dele Alli. Mitchell is also renowned for having a ferocious personal work ethic and this was personified when he went to great lengths to make sure a then 19 year old Dele Alli settled into London well after his move from MK Dons to Tottenham. And, considering the club themselves admitted that we need a DOF, could Mitchell be the biggest signing of the summer?

In reflection, the Glazers clearly have no grasp or understanding on our beautiful game. Nor does Woodward. Their lack of knowledge and competence has been shown for all to see in recent years and a DOF must come in to save us from our embarrassing current state. Am I hopeful? No. The news on Mitchell has gone cold since the turn of the year. There is a temptation to give the job to an ‘old boy’. A legend, who knows all about the club and it’s philosophies. Names like Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and Edwin Van Der Sar suddenly enter the conversation. Rio was linked with the job just a few months back, although he wouldn’t be my first choice. Edwin and Neville seem to be two excellent options especially after Neville’s rant post the shocking 4-0 loss to Everton away last season showed him speaking like a true Director Of Football. Van Der Sar has far more experience after his fruitful years at a blossoming Ajax and therefore seems less likely to ruin the good thing he has in Amsterdam by rejoining United.

In truth all United fans want is Alex Fergerson back at the helm and a Director of Football role could have suited him perfectly. In a perfect world this might of been the case, but he doesn’t seem too interested in the position and is still recovering from a brain haemorrhage so we can forget about that pipe dream. The shoddy handling of this whole situation was summed up quite perfectly in an article by BBC Sport on this very same issue. “It’s a shame it took nearly five years and three managers to realise it was impossible for one man to replace Ferguson on his own.”


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