Manchester United Football Director John Murtough Steps Down amid INEOS-led Restructure

Manchester United football director John Murtough has stepped down from his post and will leave the club this week after more than 10 years’ service, as the INEOS-led restructure of sporting operations at Old Trafford continues.

The investment into United by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the appointments he is making to key roles produced an expectation that Murtough would depart or be offered a different position.

But in a move confirmed on Tuesday, Murtough has decided to stand aside altogether and let the new set-up take shape.

Ratcliffe said: “We want to thank John for his loyal service over many years, and for his support and integrity during this period of transition. He leaves with our best wishes for the future.”

Co-chairman Joel Glazer said: “After 11 years of tireless work for the club, John has mutually agreed with us that now is the right time to step aside and allow the new football leadership structure to be put in place. He will always be welcome back at Manchester United as a friend of the club.”

Murtough will effectively be replaced by Dan Ashworth, once the Newcastle United sporting director’s spell of gardening leave finishes, while Southampton director of football Jason Wilcox is on course to be named technical director.


What Jason Wilcox would bring to Manchester United

United hope Wilcox will start in the coming weeks, provided an agreement can be reached on compensation, whereas more time could be required for Ashworth to commence duties.

It brings to an end Murtough’s decade at United, who he joined in 2013 after stints working for the Premier League, Everton and Fulham.

Murtough was appointed football director in 2021 (Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Having initially focused on the academy and scouting, Murtough was promoted to head of football development in 2016 and became United’s first football director five years later.

This essentially placed him in overall charge of the men’s, women’s and academy operations.

He was central to the arrival of Erik ten Hag as manager in 2022, heavily involved in squad building and has been constructing a team around him that includes the likes of deputy football director Andy O’Boyle, director of football operations David Harrison and director of football negotiations Matt Hargreaves.


What we’re hearing about Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United future

They are among those tasked with leading United on a day-to-day basis in the period between Murtough’s exit and his successors beginning. INEOS director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford will be on hand to offer executive oversight.

Murtough is often criticised for United’s activity in the transfer market but collaboration with colleagues such as director of academy Nick Cox to bring homegrown talent through to senior level has earned the Englishman credit.

The transformation of that area and the women’s side are considered positive developments.

Many of Murtough’s responsibilities will eventually be assumed by Ashworth and Wilcox, while Omar Berrada is due to arrive from Manchester City as chief executive this summer.

Darren Fletcher remains technical director at present and United want him to stay under an alternative title, which is not yet finalised.


Special report: Inside the football operation Ratcliffe stands to inherit at Man United

So, what now?

Analysis from Mark Critchley

Despite United’s £518m in transfer spending since Murtough’s appointment as football director in March 2021, he will leave United’s squad largely as he found it — an uneven, imbalanced and slightly bloated hodgepodge of players that somehow still has plenty of gaps to fill.

Despite Rasmus Hojlund’s positive start to life at Old Trafford, another centre-forward remains a priority and will be required to provide more reliable cover than Anthony Martial, who is set to leave on a free.

At the back, uncertainty over Raphael Varane’s future and Lisandro Martinez’s injury struggles requires further investment in the centre of defence.

Left-back is another priority given Luke Shaw’s lack of availability and the absence of Tyrell Malacia all season long, while the centre of midfield also requires attention less than two years after a revamp with the arrivals of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen.

Yet the biggest and most consequential decision of all could regard the manager. Ten Hag is currently working with INEOS across plans for next season and wants to stay at United and work under the new set-up, but his position remains under scrutiny amid wildly inconsistent results.

Ten Hag was the overwhelming choice to become United manager following a process led and executed by Murtough. Yet another managerial search could end up top of the to-do list for Murtough’s successor.


What will Brailsford, Ratcliffe and Man Utd’s new faces do? And who could follow?

(Kevork Djansezian/Manchester United via Getty Images)

2024-04-09 18:29:16
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