Until recently, a particular backroom role was always stigmatised within English Football, only to be regarded a normality amongst most continental sides.
The role in question has seen a couple of mishaps nearly forever tarnishing it’s image in England, despite some incidents being in the relatively distant past.
Recent sour incidents happened with Damian Comolli at Liverpool, Franco Baldini at Tottenham Hotspur and Joe Kinnear with his delirious ‘all my qualities put me head and shoulders above the rest’ rant upon his return to Newcastle.
Manchester United also possess their own chequered past with this role having seen Sir Matt Busby take a similar position when he retired in June 1969, with Wilf McGuiness being elevated to the manager role. That ended with Sir Matt briefly retaking the reigns in December 1970, when McGuiness was subsequently sacked.
This role often seems to either bring out a manager’s forceful or apprehensive side, depending on their personality, as it has reputation for ruffling one’s feathers from the off.
However, it has become abundantly clear that Manchester United desperately requires a Sporting Director or Director of Football in this day and age.
The club requires a figurehead to perform the glue-like role in between Ed Woodward, as Executive Vice Chairman, and the manager – be it Louis van Gaal today, or whoever it may be in the future.
The utter footballing disorganisation that has been allowed to infest the club ever-since Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill left in 2013 has taken some doing, and the club is now in desperate need of restructuring from top to bottom.
The ‘one man does all’ managerial likes of a Sir Alex is approaching extinction, with only Arsene Wenger carrying that sword today, perhaps.
Modern day managers require a go-to man that is allowed to focus on tasks that arise outside first team matters, especially given the amount of commercialised PR-driven dribble that is put their way nowadays.
Nevertheless, a football club with the right structure, financial clout and a focused view on where they want to go, and how they want to do it, can go a long way to reaching their end-goal these days.
Manchester United need a club philosophy in terms of recruitment, youth development and playing style that doesn’t end up with someone in the dugout holding a Filofax containing notes on the ‘Ten best ways to cure Insomnia’.
The hierarchy have taken their focus off the youth academy to such an extent, that they’ve had to undertake a so-called ‘root and branch review’ of its dealings following a ten-match losing streak at U18 level.
This resulted in a departure for the long-serving Paul McGuiness, who fulfilled numerous club roles and nurtured many a talent over the years, at the beginning of February.
Remarkably, the youth teams have been so under resourced at times this season that they’ve had to wait until one age group finishes a match, in order to run a player over to be part of another age group’s squad.
Even more astoundingly, it took the club ten months and two rejections by known Reds in Oxford manager, Michael Appleton and Tottenham Hotspur’s Head of Youth Development, John McDermott to realise that the answer to Brian McClair’s long standing void already laid at the club in Nicky Butt.
In addition to this, we approach each summer transfer window in overconfident fashion, only to be outmanoeuvred and made a laughing stock amongst our rivals due to our incompetence and sheer ignorance, before adopting a scattergun-like approach come the end of August.
To make matters worse, Manchester City have shown United the correct way of late, by employing former Barcelona kingpins Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain to head their footballing programme as CEO and Sporting Director, which has now resulted in Pep Guardiola joining the club for a three-year stint before another so-called project takes his fancy.
All of this whilst United’s own Ed Woodward’s official job description on the club’s investor relations page (ir.manutd.com) reads his mammoth duties in plain black and white:
“Edward Woodward, aged 43, is Executive Vice Chairman and a Director of Manchester United plc. Mr Woodward oversees the club as a whole having joined in 2005. Since 2013, Mr. Woodward has taken responsibility for all aspects of the football club, including transfers and the world famous Manchester United Academy.”
Therefore, it should be no bombshell whatsoever that the footballing side of the club is in such disarray, given the man in charge specialises in investment banking, commercial operations and qualified as a Chartered Accountant from PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1997 after receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics at Bristol University in 1993.
Now tell me, what exactly has any of that got to do with Football?
Forget the current conundrum regarding the United Kingdom’s position within the European Union; Manchester United and Old Trafford requires reform first and foremost.
First published in Red News Issue 232 on 28/02/2016.