Nicky Butt’s departure from Manchester United, reported here yesterday, was not an amicable one and was a direct result of John Murtough and Darren Fletcher’s recent appointments as director of football and technical director, The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell claims.
The announcement of the head of first team development’s resignation suggested an amicable split amid rumours that the reason for his decision was to pursue a coaching career with Salford City.
But Whitwell claims that this is far from the case and that in fact Butt was angry at being overlooked for the position awarded to Fletcher and was unwilling to work under Murtough.
‘It is understood Butt could not countenance Murtough effectively becoming his line manager,’ Whitwell says.
‘When they were level colleagues, compromises were possible for the sake of the club [but] … according to sources, Butt and Murtough were like chalk and cheese, coming at football from different perspectives.
‘Butt’s vision is based on a glittering playing career, much of it with United and also England. Murtough’s knowledge comes from years as an administrator.
‘Friction had built up in recent months as Murtough increased his influence at United and when the recent restructuring announcements arrived, Butt made his decision.’
On Darren Fletcher’s appointment, Whitwell is keen to stress that the two former players’ relationship is amicable, but Butt was disappointed not to be given an opportunity to pitch for the role.
‘Butt and Fletcher have a good relationship, having been United team-mates from 2002-04,’ he explains.
‘Butt would have liked to be considered for that technical director role himself though and the sense of being overlooked was compounded when club officials failed to communicate the coming changes directly in advance.’
Whitwell believes that the Salford City links are not genuine and that Butt is more likely to go north of the border.
‘Long-time United team-mate Roy Keane [is] reportedly in the running to become the new manager of Celtic, one of his former clubs.
‘Assisting Keane there while Liverpool old boys Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister are in charge across Glasgow at Rangers would certainly present a captivating duel.’
Butt’s departure is a big loss for United. The Class of 92 star has been an important part of the academy overhaul.
‘[He] gave a trusted opinion to Solskjaer over the likes of Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams, Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri,’ notes Whitwell.