“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
For a few unusually comforting days, Manchester United fans were beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. OK, so the Glazers, the 18-year de facto owners of the club and the fans’ nemesis, were not quite “out” yet, but Ratcliffe, Manchester lad, lifelong fan and self-made billionaire, was “in”. Ratcliffe was taking over the football “side” of things (the fact that we’re talking of football as being one “side of things” at a football club is evidence in itself of what is so badly wrong).
Ratcliffe was getting rid of the current structure above manager Erik ten Hag – the manipulative, insensitive, corporate, rugby-loving CEO Richard Arnold, the shadowy, inept, bungling totally out-of-his-depth director of football, John Murtough and the even-he-doesn’t-know-what-his-function-is, totally pointless jobs-for-the-boys technical director, Darren Fletcher.
Sir Jim had lined up either Paul Mitchell or Michael Edwards to replace Murtough, two of the best sporting directors, by reputation at least, in the world.
With Ratcliffe also rumoured to have negotiated a path to assuming full control of the club in the future, with 25% ownership already secured, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Arnold resigned and reports came thick and fast that Murtough had already cleared out his desk and was “definitely” leaving, so the MEN’s Samuel Luckhurst said. Fletcher, too, looked likely to be departing.
£245 million was going to be invested in the delapidated stadium. Ratcliffe was possibly going to inject funds to clear United’s financial fair play problems so that significant money could be spent in January. We weren’t exactly happy, but we were getting there.
Thank you, James Ducker, of The Telegraph, for bursting our balloon.
OK, Arnold has gone. That much is true. But as for the rest …
“John Murtough expects to play a part in any transition under Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Manchester United despite uncertainty over his position as football director,” Ducker says, just to get us off to a bad start.
The reporter says that Murtough’s role is so wide that, even though a sporting director would be brought in, he “expects to work with Ineos during the transition process … and potentially beyond if his role evolved in a way that worked for both parties.”
“Staff say Murtough … has shown little inclination to take a back seat since it became clear last month that Ratcliffe was likely to come on board,” he adds, before the real stinger:
“Murtough is still hoping to make more additions of his own to United’s existing recruitment team as part of major changes to the scouting set-up at youth and first-team level.”
Not only that, but the names in the frame for the sporting director role seem to have changed. Edwards is out. Mitchell is still there but is joined by “Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman … Atalanta’s Lee Congerton, the former AC Milan duo Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara and Andrea Berta of Atletico Madrid.”
With Ducker also claiming that Ratcliffe will consult with Sir Alex Ferguson over the appointment, that probably makes Freedman a shoo-in, despite almost inarguably being the least qualified, given Fergie’s well-established predilection for anyone or anything Scottish.
The reporter then gives us more bad news, claiming that “there are no guarantees [Ratcliffe’s investment] will be wrapped up before Thanksgiving holidays start in the US on Thursday and some close to the process fear it could be next week before an announcement is forthcoming.”
Whilst on the surface of it, another week or so shouldn’t matter, these delays are crucial when it comes to the January window. The Premier League will take 6-8 weeks to ratify the change, which means Sir Jim will not be able to put in the money needed for January signings in time.
Still, nonetheless, we will at least have Ratcliffe making all the football-related decisions from then on, ending the well-documented paralysing and excruciating decision-making process caused by Joel Glazer micro-management that has hampered United for years in transfers and contract renewals, right?
Wrong, says Ducker, who explains that his “sources stress that Joel Glazer, the United co-chairman, remains the majority shareholder and ultimate decision maker.”
To make matters worse, some have also noted that it is possible that Sir Jim’s 25% investment, if split between the powerful class B shares and class A shares equally in dollar terms, would mean in reality he would only have 5% of the voting power at the club.
It does not sound great, but let’s hope and choose to believe that Sir Jim has a better plan than this. After all, he didn’t get to be a billionaire by making bad choices.