Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Manchester United find themselves in a mess at the moment, and much of the club’s current malaise has been attributed to what many consider to be an archaic upper management structure and a lack of direction at board room level.
Stories in the media over the past few months have suggested that United have been making moves to revamp their set-up behind the scenes however, and the search for the right candidates is thought to be well under way.
Already, a whole host of names have been linked with the new, and currently hypothetical, Director of Football and Sporting Director roles at the club, though United Chairman Ed Woodward has yet to make any decisions that are even close to concrete.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the candidates thought to be in the running for the new role:
Edwin van der Sar – 8/11
Current Ajax CEO and former Champions League winning Man Utd goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has been muted for one of the new major decision-making roles at the club.
After his retirement in 2011, van der Sar took a year out before joining Ajax as the club’s marketing director in November 2012. Van der Sar was promoted to the position of CEO 4 years later in 2016, helping to oversee the development of Ajax’s latest golden generation of young players.
Van der Sar fits many of the criteria that United would have identified for their ideal candidate, though it could be difficult to prise the Dutchman away from Ajax after a relatively short stint as their Chief Executive Officer.
Rio Ferdinand – 9/4
Decorated former United player and current pundit Rio Ferdinand emerged as a shock contender for a boardroom position at the club this week. Ferdinand spent 12 silver-lined years at Old Trafford, winning 6 Premier Leagues and 1 Champions League title during one of the club’s most successful ever periods.
Ed Woodward is thought to think highly of Ferdinand’s charismatic character, his analysis skills and his business acumen away from the game, and the 81-times capped England international is still held in high regard in football circles from his time as a player.
Ferdinand’s lack of experience in a decision-making capacity at a football club could count against him however, with many supporters concerned that he lacks the knowhow required to make an impact.
Mike Phelan – 9/2
Mike Phelan’s association with Manchester United is a long-term relationship that started in the late 1980s, when the former midfielder patrolled the pitch at Old Trafford.
From there, Phelan worked at the club’s centre of excellence and academy, before taking a role as a first team coach in 2001. Phelan was eventually installed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant manager in 2008, before leaving the club after the legendary Scottish manager’s retirement in 2013.
In December last year, Phelan returned to Manchester to assist the then interim-boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at first team level. The Norwegian is thought to highly value Phelan’s opinion and Solskjaer wants the 56-year old to hold a prominent decision-making decision at the club.
With those factors considered, we think Phelan represents the best value out of all the current contenders for the role at 9/2 with Paddy Power.
Marcel Bout – 9/1
Dutchman Marcel Bout is currently the Head of Global Scouting at United, though the highly-respected 56-year old’s name is in the frame for a promotion.
During his lengthy career, Bout worked at Bayern Munich in various roles – a club he was brought to by former United boss Louis van Gaal in 2011.
Bout joined van Gaal again at Old Trafford when the controversial Dutch manager was made Man Utd boss in 2014, before he was named as Chief Scout at the club 2 years later.
United’s terrible player recruitment record since then has been heavily criticised however – something that is bound to count against Bout in any discussions about moving him to a more prominent position at the club.
Paul Mitchell – 20/1
Mancunian Paul Mitchell is one of Europe’s most highly thought of recruitment and development experts. The 37-year old currently holds an influential position at German club RB Leipzig, where his eye for spotting talented young players has made him one of the most important people at the club.
Before moving to Germany, Mitchell held similar Head of Recruitment roles at Southampton and then Tottenham Hotspur, and was heavily involved in the signing of players like Nathaniel Clyne, Victor Wanyama, Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane, Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld at the clubs.
Many consider Mitchell to be the ideal candidate to drag Manchester United’s recruitment department into the modern area, though the former Wigan Athletic defender is thought to value the high level of responsibility he has at RB Leipzig.
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