Manchester United consider four sporting directors in eight-week audit of club

Sir Dave Brailsford will examine the scale of the operation surrounding the performance of the club with four targets identified as potential directors of football

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Monday 08 January 2024 17:00 GMT
Sir Jim Ratcliffe completes deal for minority stake in Manchester United

Sir Dave Brailsford will decide whether Manchester United need one chief or two in an audit that will last eight weeks.

The outcome will also detail other key appointments, but there will be no major decisions taken until its conclusion.

This is likely to mean a quiet January and ensure Erik ten Hag is safe as manager until the end of the season.

The audit, mandated by Ineos as they also go through the Premier League Owners and Directors Test for a minority stake in the club, is primarily an attempt to understand "the performance challenge".

United will thereafter decide whether the football structure will be controlled by one primary director of football or whether the role will be split into two: one director of football and one sporting director.

Some primary targets have still been sounded out for roles with this situation raised, although that has not diminished interest in many cases.

Monaco sporting director Paul Mitchell is very much seen as a contender, and it would also suit him from a personal perspective due to his family being in Manchester.

Brailsford's own main choice is former Liverpool official Julian Ward, who is also interested, although such decisions will not come down to the former Team Sky manager alone.

Expected chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc will have the primary say. Ward's former Liverpool colleague Michael Edwards has long been an option, but the view in the industry is that he would be reluctant to move back into a club role for anything less than an offer of £10m a year.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford of INEOS meet Manager Erik ten Hag of Manchester United in the staff restaurant at Carrington Training Complex (Manchester United via Getty Imag)

Along the same lines, Newcastle United's Dan Ashworth is currently reluctant to go to Old Trafford, due to the scope of his role at St James' Park.

It is understood the Manchester club would have to go very high with a financial offer and well-defined terms to tempt him.

It is for all these reasons that the new minority owners don't want to make any major decisions until they have clarity, which will ensure Ten Haag is not under immediate pressure.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford of INEOS meet Rasmus Hojlund of Manchester United (Manchester United via Getty Imag)

There will obviously be a requirement to prove he can fit into the future structure, though, amid a dismal run of results.

All of which is to say that United’s main business in January will focused around sales.

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