Manchester United have been tipped to shelve plans to hire a director of football to assist with the recruitment process, which would be disappointing but not entirely surprising.
United have been linked with the idea of some kind of ‘technical director’ or ‘director of football’, the exact definition of which seems to differ at every club, for what seems like an eternity without ever seemingly being close to appointing anyone.
The general idea is that the club wanted someone to help with transfers, not necessarily with scouting or negotiating, but just an extra voice to weigh up options and assist with decisions.
Former United players Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand were linked. There was also speculation that Nicky Butt could be involved, somehow combining it with his new role as head of first-team development – a position created following academy restructuring during the summer, or even current assistant manager Mike Phelan.
But nothing came of it and now a report from the Evening Standard suggests it isn’t likely to.
The alleged reason for that is that club officials are ‘so impressed’ with the success of transfers during the summer – Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James in; Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and others out – that the ‘mood has changed’.
It was already known that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had a major impact on the drastically altered transfer policy that targets young, preferably domestic, talents ripe for development, over older established stars, but his active contributions, and those of Phelan, have seemingly been noted by those higher up.
And with Solskjaer not going anywhere, despite increasing pressure from vocal fans on social media too short-sighted to see past disappointing results alone, there appears to be less motivation for a director of football than there was even just a few months ago.
United supporters will undoubtedly be disappointed by that, but it is perhaps not surprising.
In a recent column for FourFourTwo earlier this month - a fascinating read that is well worth bookmarking for when you have a few minutes - United fanzine editor and author Andy Mitten explained in a bit more depth what is going on behind the scenes.
Mitten shed light on the fact that United are not chasing a high profile ‘DOF’ – the likes of Monchi or Fabio Paratici might fall into that category – and have actually ‘politely rebuffed’ a number of noted but unnamed candidates that have offered their services to the club.
For United, it seems any director of football would have to fit with the existing structure and not the other way around. The rebuild has already happened, so a new body coming into that kind of role would be joining something, rather than being the start of it.
Mitten explains that Ed Woodward is still the man in charge who signs off each transfer and that seems like it will remain the case, but the Glazer family’s right-hand man does not identify targets, nor does he even necessarily negotiate the terms of every single deal.
United have a vast scouting network to identify and evaluate players, while negotiation appears to be predominantly done by Matt Judge, head of corporate affairs, a non-football man who only gets involved when the transfer is past the initial identification stages.
Mitten also noted that Solskjaer and Phelan are ‘involved at almost every stage’ of transfers.
After years of failure in the transfer market, United have been extremely careful with new signings since Solskjaer arrived. Too many false dawns in the last few seasons seems to be driving the club to make sure that, this time, things are done right.
The same seems to now be the case when it comes to a director of football, and it may be better, for now at least, to have no one instead of the wrong one.