• Tuesday, December 05, 2023
businessday logo


Ratcliffe shortlists contenders for Man United sporting director role

British Billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has not officially become a part owner of Manchester United, but the 70-year-old is getting straight to work on his plans for the Premier League giants.

The Mirror reports that Ratcliffe, founder and chief executive of petrochemical firm INEOS, reportedly opened talks with potential names over who could become the Red Devils’ first-ever sporting director.

Ratcliffe, Britain’s second-richest man, has been making headlines over a potential £1.4billion deal which will see his company own 25 per cent of the club in part one of a staged takeover. While the Glazers will retain, majority financial control, and INEOS executives will be granted the power to oversee United’s football operations.

Five names have been discussed in the race to become Manchester United’s sporting director once Sir Jim Ratcliffe gets his feet under the table at Old Trafford and could be appointing the club sporting director.

Former executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward toyed with the idea during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign, only to promote John Murtough from within to become United’s first ‘football director’, a role which he’s continued under current CEO Richard Arnold. Ratcliffe, though, is expected to bring in his own man, with five candidates being mentioned.

Read also Manchester United bid: 12 men who will decide Ratcliffe and voting rules

Among them is Paul Mitchell, the former Tottenham, Southampton and RB Leipzig chief who left Monaco – local rivals of INEOS-owned Nice – earlier month. Mitchell, who hails from Greater Manchester like Ratcliffe, is highly regarded for his work across Europe and multiple reports state that the 42-year-old has been considered.

The Athletic also claim that Mitchell has a ‘good relationship’ with one senior figure at INEOS, perhaps thanks to being based in the south of France during his three years with Monaco. The ex-Manchester City youth player was linked with joining United during Woodward’s search which included talks with current Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth.

Ashworth made his name working for the FA to kickstart Gareth Southgate’s tenure and later Brighton, who’ve established themselves as one of the Premier League’s most well-run clubs. It’d take a hefty compensation fee to prise him away from St James’ Park, however, if the 52-year-old even fancied quitting that project.

Two former Liverpool sporting directors are also noted as possible appointments: Michael Edwards and Julian Ward. Edwards is credited with playing a key role in Liverpool’s resurgence under boss Jurgen Klopp, while assistant Ward took over for the 2022-23 season before leaving this past summer.

Both are available, but their Anfield connections could make the pair non-starters for Ratcliffe. One man the INEOS boss knows well is Jean-Claude Blanc, who in December 2022 became CEO of the company’s sporting empire, including football, rugby, Formula 1, cycling and sailing teams.