Manchester United need change – that much is obvious after six years of decline since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
It not only needs huge improvement on the pitch but a cultural reset off it. The big question is what exactly Ed Woodward is planning to do about it.
Manchester City have executives with huge football experience, Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano. Champions League semi-finalists Ajax have enjoyed a resurgence under club legends Edwin van der Sar and Marc Overmars.
United are now trying to find significant roles for their famous old boys in order to restructure their youth development and recruitment. Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer is back as manager, now there is a will to have Mike Phelan, Darren Fletcher and, most excitingly, Rio Ferdinand on board for the long term.
Sportsmail attempts to cut through the confusion and let United fans know what may happen next…
Manchester United are looking to restructure their operation to aid Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ed Woodward has a big summer ahead of him as United look to return to the top of football
WHY ARE MANCHESTER UNITED OVERHAULING THE HIERARCHY OF THE CLUB?
Quite simply, their present policies have been a disaster since 2013. Since then, Manchester City have signed Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus for less than Romelu Lukaku and Fred. Their highest-paid players Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne don’t earn what United give Alexis Sanchez.
United need to start signing the right players but also nurture more academy gems so Marcus Rashford isn’t seen as a one-off. They want a conveyor belt of Phil Fodens and Callum Hudson-Odois.
The jury is still out on Romelu Lukaku after his £75million move from Everton two seasons ago
WHY HAS IT TAKEN SO LONG?
United were like a rabbit stuck in headlights once chief executive David Gill left at the same time as Ferguson. Ed Woodward naively wanted to follow the club’s traditional manager-first policy but David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho proved incapable of following Fergie.
Woodward has belatedly realised he and the first-team manager need help for United to survive in the modern game. He wants Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to concentrate on results and have specialists put in charge of other key areas like transfers (sporting director) and developing youth (technical director).
Woodward has belatedly realised that United have to make changes post Sir Alex Ferguson
HOW WILL THE NEW STRUCTURE LOOK AT MANCHESTER UNITED?
It’s still not fully resolved and depends on the personnel they can attract. Clearly, they would like some kind of director of football who can report to Woodward and the board on all football matters. But there is a case for splitting that job between a sporting director who can go to PSG and sign Neymar, and a technical director who can pick up the next 14-year-old Ryan Giggs and educate club youngsters at Carrington.
WHY DOES ED WOODWARD WANT RIO FERDINAND BACK IN THE FOLD?
It’s getting harder than ever for United to sign elite players when they may also be wanted by Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, Manchester City or Chelsea. United simply can’t blow rivals out the water in terms of salaries, the opportunity to win trophies or a warm climate for their families.
Having Ferdinand involved in transfer negotiations, selling the United dream and philosophy, can only help. Ferdinand has an appeal that transcends race and ages. He is clearly intelligent and well-connected in the game. Going for a British director of football may help United look at the home market to try to find the new Roy Keane or Ferdinand himself.
Rio Ferdinand has been lined up to possibly become sporting director at Manchester United
HOW WOULD THEY WORK WITH SOLSKJAER?
Unlike Mourinho, Solskjaer seems the type who could work alongside other department heads. He’d want his thoughts and opinions on players valued of course but he’d also understand his voice would be one among several.
That wouldn’t be too different to how Guardiola works at City. He selects players he’d like but doesn’t throw his toys out the pram if the club ultimately can’t get them – Jorginho and Alexis Sanchez spring to mind. While Mourinho felt personally insulted if United failed to deliver his target likes Harry Maguire, Solskjaer would be more of a team player. He is onside with promoting youth and has regularly namechecked teenager Mason Greenwood, which will be a big help to Phelan and Fletcher on the technical director/academy side.
Mike Phelan is being lined up as the club’s technical director to help restructure United’s youth
In Mason Greenwood (right) Solskjaer has a young gem from United’s academy
WHO WILL HAVE THE FINAL SAY AT UNITED?
Woodward will ultimately keep the final say as the Glazers man at Old Trafford but someone like Ferdinand is unlikely to sacrifice some of his business interests and family life unless he is convinced his opinion on transfers will carry a lot of weight.
Woodward has had his fingers burnt by trying to please his managers – the signings of Marouane Fellaini, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sanchez are examples. His judgement on long-term signings haven’t been a universal success either, Luke Shaw has not fulfilled his promise since arriving from Southampton in 2014. It has emphasised the need for Woodward to get help – but he’s unlikely to let the real power slip.
Alexis Sanchez has proven a major disappointment since joining from Arsenal in January 2018
IS SIR ALEX FERGUSON INVOLVED AT ALL?
As a voice behind the scenes, yes, and you can be sure Woodward has taken soundings from the former manager. But as an executive influence, the 77-year-old isn’t ultimately behind the wheel.
Fergie will back the return of United faces to the club and always thought Moyes’ biggest mistake was getting rid of Phelan in 2013. You can tell by Solskjaer’s recent press conference comments on Barcelona and Manchester City that he’s been chatting to Ferguson.
Fergie also has great respect for Ferdinand and once made a rare apology to him after initially criticising the player’s decision not to wear a Kick It Out t-shirt as a protest against the way racism was being dealt with.
Solskjaer’s recent press conference comments have been influenced by his mentor Ferguson