Manchester United restructured their football operations midway through last season and are already reaping the rewards from a more modernised approach to recruitment.
John Murtough, who arrived at Old Trafford in November 2013, was appointed the club’s director of football in March as former midfielder Darren Fletcher, was also promoted to technical director as the pair would work in tandem with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to deliver the best results off the field.
Murtough works closely alongside manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to “align recruitment and other strategies”, as well as “creating the structures, processes and culture to deliver sustained success on the pitch”.
In other words, he leads operations across United’s men’s and women’s teams, including the academy, as well as overseeing the club’s transfer strategy.
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Meanwhile, former Scotland international Fletcher focuses on “a coordinated and long-term approach to player and squad development”.
He assists Murtough with some input on football and performance while looking after the academy system and developing players, with an emphasis on the long-term.
The idea behind the redefined roles was there would be a clear structure in place with less overlap for each individual, as well as the ability for Murtough, Fletcher and Solskjear to work closely together.
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest jobs for the trio is recruitment and, in Murtough’s new position, he has taken a hands-on approach to transfers.
Murtough picks out potential transfer targets working alongside the manager, reporting to the Glazers “to ensure that the first team has the best-in-class operations support it needs to succeed”.
And United are already seeing the benefits of his work behind the scenes during his first transfer window for the club as director of football.
The Red Devils missed out on Jadon Sancho last summer as talks dragged on for the duration of the window with the club eventually failing to meet the deadline set out by Borussia Dortmund.
But Murtough would make sure lightning would not strike twice as they sealed the £72m transfer for the England international with six weeks to spare until the window shuts.
And the transfer chief has already started looking at other areas United can strengthen in as they target a center-half to partner Harry Maguire in defence.
Raphael Varane has emerged as their number one target and the club have been proactive in trying to get a deal done sooner rather than later, instead of letting it linger on.
The French defender has accepted personal terms with United, all that is left is for the club and Real Madrid to agree on a fee for the 28-year-old. Man Utd are reportedly willing to pay £40m, but the Spanish side are holding out for closer to £60m.
But with Varane keen to push for a move to Old Trafford, Murtough will hope they can meet somewhere in the middle in what would be another statement of intent for United ahead of the upcoming season.
The final piece of the puzzle that still needs to be solved is the future of Paul Pogba.
The French midfielder, who has a year left on his current deal, has turned down a contract extension as he looks to leave United either this summer or next.
But from Man Utd’s perspective, they have all done all they can to convince him to stay by offering him a more lucrative deal than he is currently on, as well as improving the squad in the last 18 months to show that United are going in the right direction.
United will look to sell Pogba instead of keeping an unhappy player and let him walk for free this summer.
And this decision is another example of Murtough’s decisiveness and making the right calls for the club, even if sometimes they are the difficult ones to make.