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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Ratification of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investment brings sporting director role into focus

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s bid to invest in a 25% stake of Manchester United has finally been ratified by the Football Association (FA) and Premier League officials. The £1.03 billion investment means the Glazer family retains a controlling stake in the Red Devils, while Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group will oversee all day-to-day football operations. With the Glazers overseeing years of on-field decay at Old Trafford, this is a very savvy move from the Americans. It retains their commercial interest in the club, while allowing them to step back from the coalface.

The Premier League coalface is hotting up as we approach the final third of the season. The underperforming Red Devils find themselves six points shy of fourth-placed Tottenham, having made up ground on fifth-placed Aston Villa with their recent win against Unai Emery’s men. Nevertheless, the bookies don’t fancy United’s chances of Champions League qualification this term. They are 5/1 outsiders for a top four finish with BetMGM, which is one of the newest entrants to the UK sports betting market. The calibre of BetMGM free bets for first-time users is rated four out of five by oddschecker, which compares the biggest betting brands in Britain.

What are the priorities for Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group?

Ratcliffe and senior officials of the Ineos Group have been regular visitors to Old Trafford in recent months, as well as the club’s training facility. Ratcliffe and Ineos’ head of sport, Sir Dave Brailsford, is being tasked with reviewing the club’s existing infrastructure, with bold plans afoot to overhaul its recruitment department and general first team hierarchy.

At the front and centre of these plans is the appointment of a new sporting director. A new chief executive is also imminent, with Omar Berrada due to commence his role in the close season after being placed on gardening leave by his current employers, Manchester City.

Dan Ashworth has been head-hunted by Ratcliffe and Brailsford

In terms of the identity of United’s new sporting director, everything is pointing towards Dan Ashworth. The former Brighton and Hove Albion sporting director, who also spent several years working at the FA, is one of the most highly regarded football directors in the modern era. His work was central to England’s U17 and U20 World Cup successes in 2017.

Ashworth was poached from Brighton by big-spending Newcastle United last year, but Ashworth is said to be keen on a reunion with Brailsford. Ashworth crossed paths with Brailsford many times during his role at the FA and it’s clear there is mutual respect between the pair.

Brailsford is someone who knows all too well the demands of elite-level sport. However, he’s also acutely aware of the need for a sporting director to knit it all together behind the scenes. From a recruitment perspective, United have haemorrhaged money in the transfer market over recent years. Former CEO Richard Arnold acknowledged the Red Devils had “burned” upwards of £1 billion on signings with no clear strategy or playing style to integrate them into.

ten Hag hopeful of being on the same page as new sporting director

United boss Erik ten Hag recently spoke of the need for him to be on the ‘same page’ as the club’s new sporting director. The Dutchman said this covered everything from overall football philosophy, including tactics and the target profile of players needed for ongoing recruitment.

Ten Hag agrees that, going forward, United need the ‘right characters’ just as much as the ‘right players’. All too often this United era has been characterised by inconsistency and an inability to dig in and come up on top when it matters.

Reports suggest that both United and Newcastle are yet to talk formally over a package for Ashworth, although compensation is likely to be far from insignificant. Ashworth is also likely to have to sit on the sidelines for a spell of gardening leave from his post with the Magpies, who are bidding to cement themselves as one of the Premier League elite following their takeover by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF).

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