Why Man United’s director of football role is so hard to fill

by Red Billy

The appointment of a technical director at Manchester United is being hampered by the structure of the club, according to a new report.

There has been much confusion among fans and the media for some time as to why a big club such as United does not have a director of football, sporting director or technical director – all variations of the same role – and leaves important matters such as recruitment, retention and sales to non-footballing men.

The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell this morning has published a new report claiming that the powers-that-be at the club are aware they need somebody in that role, but have been unable to find somebody who would be prepared to take it because of the limited authority they would be given.

‘There is a clear consensus from those inside and outside the club that United would benefit from such a football figure, to guide a refined process for ins and outs,’ Whitwell says.

‘But it is felt the Glazer family’s fundamental control of finances waters down the prospective position.

‘”If somebody comes in at an elite level they don’t want to be a nodding donkey, they want to be able to do the job properly,”’ a source told the reporter.

‘”A strong individual of the profile United should in theory be looking for would create a culture of confrontation.

‘”Monchi of Sevilla, or someone like that, is not going to want to come in and be told, ‘No, you can’t do that’”‘.

What the report is clearly suggesting is that whilst there is an acceptance within the club that a director is needed, nobody worth their salt would take the job as they would end up just acting as a go-between rather than being a decision-maker.

‘The role would, in reality, be that of a messenger between the finance and football departments.

‘The decision is down to [executive vice chairman Ed] Woodward.’
Whitwell reports that the lack of this expertise within the club and Woodward and majority shareholder Joel Glazer’s need to micro-manage everything has led to problems both in buying and selling players.
‘The inertia has led to some insiders claiming United look like “a rudderless ship”. Others describe how decisions appear to fall into a “bit of a black hole” and United suffered for this over [Jadon] Sancho,’ he says.
This paints a bleak picture for the future because it confirms that even if a sporting director is eventually appointed, things would not really improve because everything would still need to be passed up to Glazer for approval.
On the plus side, the presence of a football man in that role could help to avoid poor contract decisions and bring some sense into transfer negotiations.

On the other hand, it could be argued that the appointment would add yet another office that any decision would have to pass through and make the process even slower than it is now.

The bottom line is that until Glazer and Woodward are prepared to take a step back and allow decisions to be made by football men, nothing significant will change even if a director is appointed.

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