Why Manchester United have made this transfer window harder than it needed to be – Tyrone Marshall
It was August 2018 when United’s plans to install a director of football first made the headlines.
Less than 24 hours after the unconvincing 2-1 win over Leicester opened last season came the news that United were planning a restructure over how they conducted transfer business.
It came in the wake of a transfer window that had left Jose Mourinho furious and he struggled to hide his discontent in the wake of that opening weekend win, in which the performance was a forerunner to what was to come rather than the result.
Having seen the club fail to sign the elite level central defender he was so desperate for, Mourinho said: “That’s football, that’s football management, I think football is changing and probably football managers should be called head coaches. I think we are more the head coach than the manager.”
On the continent the man in charge of first-team affairs is often called the head coach. When United gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the permanent job in March they referred to him as the “manager”.
Since last August United have rebranded one job title. The planned director of football appointment became a technical director instead. What difference to the specifics of the job that change will have remains unknown, because 10 months after such an appointment was first touted we appear to be no closer to someone actually getting the job.
So United go into another transfer window without a specialist to operate as a buffer between Solskjaer and Ed Woodward and Matt Judge and to pull the strings in the transfer market. While the club have seen their rivals appoint recruitment heads to fulfill those roles – whatever the job title may be – United are lagging behind once again.
In what has been billed as one of the most important transfer windows the club will face, United are relying on a relatively inexperienced manager and two former investment bankers to seal deals. Solskjaer is looking to start his “rebuild” of United this summer but the foundations is still not in place to do that.
Former Leicester City and Everton director of football Steve Walsh was the latest to be linked with the technical director job this week, but if you’re involved in a similar role in football and haven’t been linked with Old Trafford you must be doing something wrong. From high profile DoFs to former United players, the list of people considered for the role and then passed over is growing and growing.
Given the toxic way Mourinho‘s reign unravelled at the start of the season, United have had their fair share of issues to deal with, but there is no obvious reason why such a crucial appointment should now be dragging into an 11th month. If Woodward hasn’t found his ideal candidate by now, then is he ever likely to find one? There can’t be many people suitable for the role who are yet to be either sounded out or express an interest.
Solskjaer had previously stressed that he wanted United’s business done by the time players returned to pre-season training. That is now just 12 days away and so far Daniel James is the only new arrival. It’s probably not how the Norwegian envisaged the summer going.
Concluding business early is not easy in the transfer window, unless a club is willing to meet asking prices for players to accelerate deals, but United aren’t helping themselves by the delaying of such a crucial appointment when it comes to recruitment.
This window could yet turn out to be a success for United, but if it does it would be the exception rather than the rule since Woodward has put himself front and centre when it comes to transfers.
United should never have found themselves heading into this window without a technical director, but it’s an appointment that they can’t continue to mull over for much longer.