Manchester United football director John Murtough says a “thorough process” is under way to find their next permanent manager as the club looks to start challenging for “top trophies” again.
This has been another challenging season at Old Trafford, with a top-four finish the best they can hope for domestically and the Champions League remaining their only route to silverware.
United have been working under interim manager Ralf Rangnick since December, when the German succeeded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a poor start to the campaign and a number of chastening defeats.
Murtough has been heartened by the “improved results” as they look to secure Champions League qualification at a time when the hunt for the next permanent manager is ongoing.
“We know that consistency is key as we strive for a top-four finish this season,” Murtough said.
“I want to reiterate however that this is not the ultimate objective for Manchester United, and everyone at the club is focused on challenging for the top trophies.
“We are now conducting a thorough process for the appointment of a new permanent manager who will take charge this summer, with the objective to get us back to challenging for those domestic and European titles.”
Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax coach Erik ten Hag are among the favorites to permanently succeed Solskjaer at a club that Murtough believes are on the right track.
The football director said the women’s team are “enjoying a strong campaign” under Marc Skinner, with work having begun to recruit a Head of Women’s Football, while he flagged United’s recent appointment of a Director of Data Science.
Murtough told investors: “Overall, while there is potential for further improvement and progress, we do feel that we now have the right structures in place across our men’s, women’s and academy teams to support long-term success and we will continue working relentlessly and investing to achieve that. “
Arnold on fostering ‘culture of excellence’
Richard Arnold echoed Murtough’s sentiments as the chief executive commented publicly for the first time since taking up the role on February 1, when executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward departed.
“Everyone associated with Manchester United should have faith in the opportunities that lie ahead of us, both on the pitch and in the way we engage and serve our fans,” he said.
“We have a clear vision and we are implementing a strategy to win with an empowered leadership team to drive that forward.
“We will foster a culture of excellence through a world-class football environment, while strengthening the role of fans at the heart of the club and harnessing the power of Manchester United to make a positive impact on people, the environment and society.
“All of this will be supported by a sustainable operating model that ensures the club is strong for the present and secure for the future.”
Post-COVID recovery underway with revenues up 7.3 per cent
United’s second quarter results for fiscal 2022 showed the club paid £ 10m in “exceptional items”, which included compensation to former manager Solskjaer and certain members of the coaching staff.
That figure also took into account a revaluation of the Football League pension scheme deficit.
The results show an operating profit of £ 5.4million for the quarter, with revenue up to £ 185.4m – a 7.3 per cent uptick on the same period last year.
United’s net debt has increased to £ 494.8m – an increase of 8.6 per cent – and player wages were up 19.6 per cent to £ 97.7m “over the prior year quarter due to investment in the first team playing squad”.
Fletcher defends Man Utd’s set-piece record
Manchester United coach Darren Fletcher has clarified his technical director role and addressed set-piece criticism following the appointment of specialist Eric Ramsay.
Harry Maguire recently ended the club’s unwanted goal drought from corners, scoring on their 139th attempt in the 4-2 win against Leeds at Elland Road.
But Fletcher defended Ramsay’s influence, claiming he had been brought in primarily to improve the team’s deficiencies at defending set pieces.
Speaking at a fans’ forum at Old Trafford, Fletcher has praised the club’s new set-piece coach for his impact already since taking up the role.
“People only give the one narrative about scoring from set pieces,” the former midfielder said.
“The biggest reason Eric was brought in was because we were conceding too many goals from set pieces. We have really improved our defending from set pieces and wide free-kicks this season. Eric is a fantastic coach.”
Fletcher, who came through the ranks of United’s Youth Academy and spent 20 years with United, making 342 appearances for the club, was appointed technical director a year ago with Murtough as football director.
Prior to Harry Maguire’s headed goal at Leeds, Man Utd last scored directly from a corner in the Premier League on January 28, 2021 with a Maguire header during a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United.
His role has been questioned due to his matchday role in assisting interim manager Ralf Rangnick, a duty not typically associated with technical directors.
The Scot made clear at the fans’ forum that his main responsibility lies in developing academy talent for the first team.
Fletcher added: “With Ralf and his staff coming in, and Michael and Kieran choosing to move on, we had a quick transition process, so part of my role has been to assist with that, both on the training pitch and during games.
“I guess that’s been the most visible part for me this season, but that’s really an addition to my overall Technical Director role.
“Probably the key part of the role is taking a holistic view of the path for players from our Academy to our First Team. That pipeline of Academy talent is a massive part of who we are as a club.
“Anthony [Elanga] has done brilliantly since he broke into the first team, and Hannibal Mejbri has also been more involved in the squad.
“Our U19s recently finished top of their group in the UEFA Youth League, and our U18s have reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup.
Anthony [Elanga] has done brilliantly since he broke into the first team, and Hannibal Mejbri has also been more involved in the squad.
“I’m working closely with Nick Cox, as Head of Academy, to look at the long-term strategy for bringing players through.
“We have to manage the balance between allowing them to develop and creating the right steps for that, without piling the pressure onto them.
“Along with Nick, I’m looking at how we best use the loan system to give Academy players invaluable experience at other clubs.
“We currently have 13 young players and Academy products on loan and playing regularly in other divisions or leagues.
“Hopefully we’ll see players like Brandon Williams, Teden Mengi, Jimmy Garner, Ethan Laird, Tahiti Chong, and Amad Diallo reap the benefits of that.
“All of them are doing really well on loan and we’re excited to bring them back in pre-season to see how they fare with our first team players.
“It’s been a brilliant experience since I took on the role, and the combination of long-term planning and contributing to our strategic goals, with the opportunity to still be close to the team and management, makes it a unique role.”
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