Manchester United could be poised to hire former player Jordi Cruyff as their new technical director.
It is an appointment that would make perfect sense for a number of reasons and could even be announced within the next few days, with the Dutchman having declined a new contract as head coach of Chinese side Chongqing Dangdai Lifan F.C.
Cruyff announced his departure on Twitter over the weekend, stating that ‘the time has come to take on new challenges’.
Chongqing Xiongqi! pic.twitter.com/XHrICSl6fF
— Jordi Cruyff (@JordiCruyff) December 14, 2019
An article in The Telegraph in March claimed that United were searching for a technical director, rather than a director of football – someone that the manager would work alongside, rather than under. The Telegraph further claimed that ‘the club are determined to continue hiring people who have a genuine feel for the club, with a similar cultural fit’ and that ‘that would point to the possibility of another former player being employed to a key role.’
Since that article was published in March, many names of former players have been mooted – notably Peter Schmeichel, Edwin Van der Saar and Rio Ferdinand – but one name has stood out as representing the ideal profile – that of Cruyff.
Solskjaer and Cruyff both joined Manchester United in 1996 and are known to be good friends. It would seem a very natural fit for the two to work alongside each other again. In an interview with The Times in February, Cruyff spoke in glowing terms about Solskjaer. ‘As a person, Ole was always very calm, a family man. We knew each other well …The most important thing was Ole never put his ego before the interests of the club. He’s a stable guy, a club man, and those kind of characters normally end up being coaches. Normally, players who have been at the club understand the DNA.’
Cruyff has a great deal of experience as a Sporting Director. His first role was at Cypriot club AEK Lacarna between 2010 and 2012, during which time he helped the side reach the Europa League group stages for the first time.
He was then head hunted by struggling Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel and spearheaded a quick change in fortunes that saw them winning their first championship in ten years.
Over the following years, the club won three championships and the Dutchman gained an impressive reputation as a Sporting Director. According to the South China Morning Post, Cruyff turned down offers from former club Barcelona in 2017 and 2018 to fulfill that role at the Neucamp.
Cruyff chose instead to try his hand at management and joined Chongqing, whom he guided to fifth place in the Chinese Super League in 2018/19. However, he has continued to talk about a future as a sporting director, particularly in English football.
‘I’ve always looked at the business of football. I studied business management at university and also post-grad marketing here in Manchester’ he told The Times during that February interview.
His conversation with the South China Morning Post was even more specific: ‘[United] have got the ingredients, the huge fan base and now with Ole in charge it looks like they’re trying to become the real Man United once again… A good sporting director needs a wide network, contacts and needs to know how to talk the football language with old and young players … He needs to oversee scouting too and to make sure their club is the first to arrive at a major new talent with a convincing pitch to sign that player… he also has to trust the manager completely, protect him and work with him … You need football specialists in a club who can identify what will be a short, medium and long term signing that fits with the club’s DNA.’
It reads more like a job interview than a newspaper interview.
It is also probably no coincidence that Cruyff has resigned midway through December, clearing the way for a January 1st technical director appointment. This would give him the opportunity to be involved in any transfer business that is conducted in the January window.
Both Cruyff and Solskjaer scored in the first match they played together for United in August 1996, with the Dutchman assisting the Norwegian for the second. Is that instant understanding about to be rekindled off the pitch?
We believe so.