Miguel Delaney of The Independent reported on Monday that Manchester United would prefer to appoint their new Director of Football prior to the appointment of a new manager in the summer. Red Bull Leipzig’s Paul Mitchell – formerly of Southampton – is the preferred choice but may be difficult to bring to Manchester, and the same could be true for Fabio Paratici of Juventus.
The end of the summer transfer window was maligned by a scattergun, indecisive approach to signings. There is a problem now that this approach has not been consigned to the past and fans should be concerned should Manchester United not appoint either a Director of Football or manager before the summer window and enter that window in much the same manner as last summer.
Manchester United are starting to experience ‘Big Club’ problems once more. Despite five years of discontent under David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and José Mourinho, seven successive wins in all competitions has dared Manchester United fans to dream and that old arrogance has returned in earnest. ‘It was a great win against Tottenham,’ said some. ‘Yeah but they shouldn’t have let them back into it in the second half.’ The same thing happened at Brighton at the weekend. Manchester United have developed a taste for success and want it to continue. No longer are the fans dreaming of Champions League qualification, now they want to displace Tottenham in third and finish the season in style.
Which brings another question of its own: should Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham surrender third place to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s blazing Manchester United, is the Argentine still the type of manager United should aspire to hiring? Is he still good enough? Or should United stick with Solskjaer and his harem of Ferguson old boys?
Oh, how that old smugness has reawakened so quickly.
In Pochettino’s defence, should his Spurs team fail to finish in third place ahead of Manchester United this season – something which the bookmakers are still not expecting to happen – it would more be an indictment of Tottenham Hotspur’s failure to back their manager in the market, rather than a failure of the Argentine to get the most out of his team. Losing Harry Kane and Dele Alli to injury while Heung-min Son has gone to to the Asia Cup are not losses that most teams could sustain.
What Daniel Levy is attempting seems almost impossible; building a state-of-the-art stadium while holding in place not only a stellar team but also a box office manager. Sacrificing either his manager or a star player might help Levy to balance the books, but it is a delicate job to keep the Tottenham train in motion.
Pochettino has had difficult working conditions at Tottenham but he should be considered the elite managerial candidate in world football. He should continue to be the manager Manchester United aspire to hire in the summer.
The question about the team the next Manchester United manager inherits remains an ongoing concern. Part of the criticism of Ed Woodwork on the eve of the transfer window closing last August was that he had not backed his manager in the market. ‘Who is making the signings at Old Trafford? Who signed Fred?’ A Director of Football was then offered as someone who would determine the footballing direction of Manchester United and prevent confusion about targets from cropping up again.
Five months later, and Manchester United do not appear to have made significant inroads in appointing someone to this position. The club will potentially approach the summer transfer window without a manager or Director of Football to select transfer targets with fans potentially complaining once more about Ed Woodward – an accountant – selecting the players to sign for Manchester United rather than those who know something about the game.
Then again; you hardly need to be a footballing genius to sign Kalidou Koulibaly or Rueben Neuves, do you?
Manchester United fans now feel closer than ever to that promised land – which in 2019 is a competitive team. The squad will need investment in the summer window. Quite remarkably, the scattergun strategy of the past five years that wasted so much money has somehow left a highly functional team. Maybe if the conditions are right, you can buy a winning team. But there still remains massive holes in the Manchester United team that will require skill and knowledge of the game to plug.
You can say Manchester United fans are spoilt. They are; the Ferguson years were too good to forget and quite inextricably, the team are beginning to shine once more. The fans are correct in demanding the best standards for their club, whether that is in recruitment or not falling away in the second halves of games. 2019 promises to be an exciting year for Manchester United and one which they must get right.