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HomeSport NewsSir Jim Ratcliffe looking to build new 'sporting department' at Manchester United

Sir Jim Ratcliffe looking to build new ‘sporting department’ at Manchester United

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is reportedly in the process of establishing a new football operations department at Manchester United, pending the confirmation of his acquisition of a 25% stake in the club.

The official announcement of Ratcliffe’s investment is anticipated this week, coinciding with November 22, exactly one year since the current owners, the Glazer family, announced their intention to “explore strategic alternatives” for the club.

Ratcliffe’s stake purchase, amounting to £245 million, is expected to bring substantial investment into United’s infrastructure. Additionally, as part of the acquisition, Ratcliffe is poised to assume control of sporting operations. The club has already officially communicated the departure of chief executive Richard Arnold, with Patrick Stewart temporarily taking on the role in addition to his current position as general counsel. Arnold, who assumed the role in February 2022 after the departure of Ed Woodward, faced a challenging tenure, navigating various off-field challenges.

A new CEO will be appointed in due course, and 90min has learned that Jean-Claude Blanc, formerly associated with Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, is likely to be confirmed as the permanent CEO as part of Ratcliffe’s strategic plans.

Blanc is renowned for his pivotal role in revitalizing Juventus after the 2006 Calciopoli scandal, guiding them to the top of Serie A and contributing significantly to the club’s transition to a new stadium. During his 11-year tenure in Paris, Blanc played a key role in PSG’s ascent from a team outside of Europe’s elite to a global football powerhouse and commercial giant. His influence is regarded as instrumental in establishing PSG as a leading force in world football since the Qatar takeover, laying the groundwork for their ambitious project.


Paris Saint-Germain v Montpellier HSC - Ligue 1
Jean-Claude Blanc has extensive experience of turning around clubs who have lost their way, as he has shown in previous roles with Juventus and PSG / Xavier Laine/GettyImages

Described as a “constant” and a “stabiliser” to PSG, Blanc moved to join INEOS in 2022 as chief executive of INEOS Sport. His role to date has been to oversee the company’s sporting portfolio which spans across other football clubs Lausanne-Sport and OGC Nice, Formula One with Mercedes, as well as cycling, sailing and rugby.

Blanc is expected to be turned to by Ratcliffe as CEO, and his appointment won’t be the only one.

sporting director and further roles beyond the established two can be expected to follow in due course. It has been learned that Ratcliffe and INEOS want to install a new “football department” at United, similar to the idea of what’s been installed at Chelsea – but more concentrated and less extensive.

There are a number of names being considered to become the new sporting director, with John Murtough, the club’s current football director, expected to eventually follow Arnold and leave once operations are up and running under Ratcliffe’s control.

Michael Edwards has been looked into as a potential option but 90min has learned that the former Liverpool sporting director will not occupy a role at United, with other candidates in the running instead. Lee Congerton, currently at Atalanta in Serie A, and Dougie Freedman, of Crystal Palace and an ally of Sir Alex Ferguson, have been among names considered as INEOS do their due diligence.

Milan legend Paolo Maldini has been rumoured in reports from elsewhere while INEOS like Brentford technical director Lee Dykes, who has been previously linked and is liked by some within the framework for his analytics approach. Appointments beyond a sporting director and new CEO could follow in the months following Ratcliffe’s acquisition and as the results of an inquiry into the running of the club led by Sir Dave Brailsford become clearer.

90min understands, however, that Paul Mitchell remains the favoured option for the role. The former Monaco, RB Leipzig and Tottenham director has been established as Ratcliffe’s top choice for the job for a number of months.

Mitchell has already publicly spoken about United’s situation as a club while in his role at Monaco in July 2022.

“They [Manchester United] need a top blueprint not only for now but for the next five years, and work towards that,” he told Sky Sports. “Sometimes on that journey there are hard moments when you don’t get the right results, even though you’re doing the right things.

“You have to know that, over that period, the consistency of the decision-making will yield a good end result. I think we’ve seen that both Manchester City and Liverpool, that when you adopt that long-term strategy you can get real consistency and sustainable success.

“I think that’s the biggest thing for Manchester United; putting down their identity of what they want to be today, but most crucially what they want to be in five years’ time, and where they want to be, and what they want to look like; from everything from young players, to the style of play, to the whole culture in Manchester United.”

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