On November 6, 1986, Sir Alex Ferguson was appointed as the manager of Manchester United, marking 37 years since this pivotal moment. When Ferguson, who came from Aberdeen, took over, he had no prior experience in England as a player or manager.
However, his appointment would prove to be a turning point in the club’s dramatic history.
The United board’s decision to resist pressure from the national media to sack Ferguson one year into his tenure was equally significant. At the time, the team’s performance on the pitch was dismal, and one newspaper headline read, “Fergie must go.” The article suggested, “He’s been in charge for more than a year and has spent £2 million on new players, yet the team is worse.”
Since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, Manchester United has had five permanent managers, and the club’s closest brush with a league title has been two runner-up finishes under Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
However, recruitment during this period has been chaotic, with over £1 billion spent on transfers. United’s chief executive, Richard Arnold, even acknowledged that the club had “burned through cash.”
The impending arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a British billionaire set to acquire a 25% stake in the club for approximately £1.25 billion, is expected to bring changes to the footballing structure. This could affect John Murtough, United’s football director, as Ratcliffe may prefer to have his own sporting director in place. Paul Mitchell’s name has been mentioned as a potential candidate.
Mitchell has previously worked for Tottenham, Southampton, and Monaco and is originally from Greater Manchester. He has been seen at Old Trafford in recent years.
The role of sporting director is crucial in guiding recruitment decisions and helping the club make more strategic investments. Names like Dan Ashworth, currently at Newcastle, and former Liverpool director Michael Edwards are also being considered.
Ashworth has a strong track record with West Brom, the FA, and Brighton, and his appointment at Newcastle was a significant move for the club. Brighton’s transfer strategy has been widely praised, and Ashworth played a pivotal role in it.
The appointment of a sporting director will be an important step for Manchester United as they aim to make more effective use of their resources and secure the talent needed to compete at the highest level.