The appointment of a technical director at Manchester United could be the most important decision since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
There can be no doubt that the lack of a figurehead leading the football operations of the club has greatly impacted the club’s success in recent years so the appointment is crucial to get right.
The wrong choice could send United down another cul-de-sac which could see them fall further behind the likes of Manchester City. In contrast, the right choice could set up the club for success over the long term.
There are three potential candidates that have been talked about in recent days. We take a look at each to see what they could bring to the table:
Currently assistant manager, the former Hull City boss is reportedly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preferred option to become the new technical director.
On the face of things, he looks like a decent choice. He knows the inner workings of the club after being a player and coach at Old Trafford for many years. He knows the youth setup after being appointed Under 18s coach in 1999 before being promoted to the senior team.
From 2008 to 2013, he worked directly under Ferguson as assistant before making the move into management at Hull. Since 2016, he has also been Sporting Director of Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners so he would be familiar with the role.
The one big question mark is whether he has the connections in Europe to secure the signings that would transform the United squad. He would certainly be perfect if the Red Devils opt to focus on youth development but squad building wouldn’t necessarily be his forte.
This would be a left-field choice but United’s hierarchy are said to have been impressed by the former defender’s knowledge when he was interviewed for the role.
After 12 years as a player at United, Ferdinand knows the ins and outs of the club, and he clearly has the intelligence to learn on the job if he were to be appointed technical director.
Still, his lack of experience may count against him. United’s appointment may be for the long-term but foundations will need to be built and United may not want someone effectively learning his role whilst also having to construct a strategy for the whole football club.
RB Leipzig’s head of recruitment would likely be a more traditional Director of Football, rather than the technical director the club are looking for.
His work at both Southampton and Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino indicates that he is able to identify talent and build squads without requiring significant transfer funds.
Out of the three, Mitchell would definitely be the one to go for if United are keen on a more coherent transfer strategy, investing in young talent and hidden gems.
Each candidate, therefore, has their pros and cons. If United want to focus on improved player recruitment, Mitchell may be the man to turn to, but if youth development is a higher priority, Phelan would probably be a better choice.