In an incredible coincidence, Manchester United’s perfect director of football and technical director were under their noses all along.
The club confirmed on Wednesday that they had appointed John Murtough - of such standing that David Moyes originally gave him his break as a sports scientist - and Darren Fletcher to the respective roles.
Existing hard-nosed negotiator Matt Judge, who prised Harry Maguire away from Leicester City for an up-front £80 million and spent almost £50 million on Aaron Wan-Bissaka, will remain in charge of negotiations, so expect United to remain as brutally efficient in the market as ever.
The club explained: “John will have overall leadership and responsibility for operations and strategy across all football functions, reinforcing the strong foundations already in place. This appointment builds on the work John has already undertaken in recent years, working closely with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the rest of the football staff to create the structures, processes and culture to deliver sustained success on the pitch. This has included successful overhauls of the club’s Academy and recruitment department.
“Darren will work closely with John to add technical input and direction into all football and performance areas. He will focus on a co-ordinated and long-term approach to player and squad development, helping maintain the integral link between the Academy and the first team, aligned with Manchester United’s values and culture.
“As Football Director, John will work day-to-day with Ole to align recruitment and other strategies and to ensure that the first team has the best-in-class operational support it needs to succeed.”
Ed Woodward then blurted out his own opinions.
“We have already made great strides forward in the way we run our football operations, and the benefits are visible in the resurgent pipeline of Academy talent reaching the first team and through our improved recruitment record. John has been integral to our progress in all these areas and his deep understanding of development ensures the club’s traditions of bringing young players through from Academy to first team will continue. This new position is a natural evolution that harnesses his leadership qualities and his years of experience in the game.
“Darren’s stellar achievements as a player and his own journey from Academy to Premier League and Champions League winner means he naturally commands respect and understands this vital part of the club’s DNA. In this new role, the first in our history, he will deliver technical advice across all aspects of the football department as well as contributing to the communication and delivery of our football philosophy across all areas of the club.
“I am delighted that John and Darren have accepted these roles and I look forward to the contribution they will make, together with Ole and the rest of the staff, as we build toward future success.”
United had been discussing appointing a director of football for at least three years, which means that such an exhaustive search was ultimately fruitless as it turns out the best candidate was already at the club. In no way is this a similar appointment to Solskjaer, who knows he would never get such a good job anywhere else and therefore won’t rock the boat when he gets poorly treated.