It’s one of the most talked about roles at Manchester United: who will become the club’s inaugural director of football. The Red Devils have been in an utter mess since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, stumbling around season to season with no obvious end goal in sight.
Mish-mash transfer policies and constant chopping and changing of managers certainly hasn’t helped matters, which is why suggestions last season that Ed Woodward was considering appointing a sporting or technical director seemed like a breath of fresh air.
Last week, however, United’s executive vice-chairman appeared to pour cold water over those hopes. In a conference call with club investors, the 47-year-old insisted the Red Devils’ current recruitment approach is the “right one”, and played down talk that an appointment for a new behind-the-scenes role could be made.
But, as matters appear to get worse on the pitch (look no further than the West Ham debacle), perhaps Woodward should seriously reconsider his position on the matter. United desperately need someone fresh to take hold of the reins on the transfer front, and there are a whole host of names across the footballing world who would quite conceivably do a better job than the current man at the helm.
And with that in mind, let’s check out just who could be in the frame to be the club’s first-ever director of football…
Let’s start with arguably one of the more popular choices on this list (well at least on social media).
A cornerstone of United’s all-conquering teams in the 2000s and early 2010s, Ferdinand undoubtedly says all the right things when it comes to his former club. The ex-England international is a no-nonsense straight-talker who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. As someone who appears finely in tune with the club’s ideals, appointing the 40-year-old would undoubtedly go some way to addressing the disconnect that currently lingers at Old Trafford.
Mitchell the footballer was hardly a Ballon d’Or worthy talent. But his career post-retirement? Well, that’s another story. Having previously worked at Southampton and Tottenham in the Premier League, the 38-year-old has developed a burgeoning reputation for spotting lesser-known talent and seeing them thrive.
The likes of Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic, Toby Alderweireld and Dele Alli were all Mitchell-approved signings. He may have been the perfect man for United due to his proven track record, but sadly for United, Sky Sports confirmed he would be taking on the role of Technical Director of Red Bull’s Global Soccer division earlier this month.
He’s one for the Red Devils to keep a track on even with his recent appointment mind.
Perhaps not the most recognisable name on this list, but Marcel Bout (pictured left) is certainly a key figure amongst United’s backroom staff already.
Brought in by Louis van Gaal, the Dutchman has now taken on the role of Head of Global Scouting. As someone with such a significant position at Old Trafford, he could well be an in-house solution to United’s search for a director of football. But, if The Daily Mirror’s report is anything to go by, then perhaps the club should think again. It claimed Bout predicted now Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt would follow in his father’s footsteps of becoming too fat, and so the club decided against a move. Oh dear.
Another man with historic links to the club, Van der Sar would represent another popular appointment in Manchester. Quite crucially, the Dutchman already has considerable backroom experience in his time as Ajax’s CEO. The former United number one was at the top of the tree as the Eredivisie giants returned to the pinnacle of European football with their run to the Champions League semi-final last season. Van der Sar has admitted himself he would be open to taking on a new challenge sooner rather than later. Could that be United?
A man who was reported to be on United’s list of targets whilst Jose Mourinho was in charge (the pair had worked together at Real Madrid), Campos (pictured far right) is one of the most highly-rated individuals in his profession. In his time with French side AS Monaco, the Portuguese man oversaw the arrivals of Joao Moutinho, James Rodriguez, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko, amongst others. Not to mention negotiating the club-record £72m sale of Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal this summer from his current role at Lille. The perfect candidate for a rebuild job at Old Trafford?
Is it time for the messiah to come home and rescue the club? Sir Alex Ferguson has seen first-hand the kind of mess United currently find themselves in, watching on from the stands like the rest of the Old Trafford faithful.
Surely it must eat away at him seeing his dynasty die a slow and painful death? His management days may be over, but a role as director of football where he could perhaps have the final input on matters, and thus not fully have him come out of requirement may be what’s needed.
Ferguson doesn’t need United, but United certainly need him.
Cause you know, why not? ‘The King’ has become almost as big of a superstar off-the-pitch in recent years, as he was in his playing days at Old Trafford.
From his iconic “when the seagulls follow the trawler” in 1995, to his equally bizarre quoting of William Shakespeare’s King Lear this year, Cantona has made a habit of leaving us all scratching our heads.
United have been riddled with managers and players pulling in different directions, and so having the Frenchman’s wacky single-mindedness may just be a strange cure. If anything, the potential opportunity of having the 53-year-old kung-fu kick Ed Woodward in the boardroom may just be worth the price of handing him the director of football role.