Manchester United have reignited their search for a director of football to work alongside manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after plans to do so had previously been shelved.
United have explored various options over the past two years, from a traditional director of football or technical director to a transfer committee made up of ex-players like Rio Ferdinand and Darren Fletcher. But the saga has been on and off to an almost embarrassing extent.
United were initially thought to have ended their interest in a director of football-type figure in September 2019 as a result of club officials being impressed with the way transfer business last summer was conducted without one, both in terms of incoming players and departures.
But in the New Year, United were linked with former PSG sporting director Antero Henrique and the possibility appeared to be back on the table. At various points over the last two years the club is also believed to have at least spoken to Steve Walsh, who assembled Leicester’s title winning team and later oversaw recruitment at Everton, former Spurs official Paul Mitchell, Ralf Rangnick of Red Bull fame, Stuart Webber at Norwich and even former goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
By May, it was seemingly back off the agenda, with The Athletic summarising at the time that United felt the structure of the club doesn’t lend itself to a director of football overseeing recruitment when there is already a direct line from Solskjaer to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
The club, while it could be argued would benefit from the holistic long-term approach a director of football might given when hiring managers has often resulted in whole new teams being bought intended to play in new styles, had also already sought to achieve that without one.
Now, just a few months further on, Woodward is reported to have put hiring a director of football back on the table. The Daily Telegraph notes that it would be a complementary role to sit alongside the existing collaborative system in place, rather than someone to come in and take control.
Woodward is said to have outlined the criteria for the job, but has not started shortlisting potential candidates just yet. Instead, the immediate focus is finishing the 2019/20 season on the pitch and strategising amid the significant financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.
When it does come to actually identifying potential hires, the Telegraph explains that the role United are creating will not match the job’s traditional remit that would be familiar to high profile DoF figures across Europe like the aforementioned Henrique or Juventus’ Fabio Paratici.
That means working alongside Solskjaer and the first-team staff, scouts, data analysts and chief negotiator Matt Judge, rather than simply overseeing recruitment as might be expected. There will also be input into training ground changes and in reference to the thriving women’s team.