Buidling Dreams Together


Sir Jim’s Revolution: What is Changing at Man United?

Since INEOS and Sir Jim Ratcliffe announced their purchase of a 25% stake in Manchester United, the team have won seven of their last nine. This may be no coincidence, but the positive off the field impact that has been particularly telling. The Glazer’s looming presence still leaves a bad taste, but delegating sporting control to an experienced sporting institution will only benefit the club.

Yesterday, the club officially announced the acquisition following the satisfaction of all conditions, including approvals from the Football Association and the Premier League. DubSports’ Austin Wood covered the story when it was first announced on Christmas Eve. Detailing the purchase of the club and delving into who INEOS are and their sporting past. Just under two months have past since that first announcement – so let’s have a look at what’s already changing to take United back to the top.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JANUARY 04: Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford of INEOS meet Manager Erik ten Hag of Manchester United in the staff restaurant at Carrington Training Complex on January 04, 2024 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Manchester United/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Creating the “Wembley of the North”

Redevelopment of Old Trafford has been well overdue. 2006 was the last time any expansion has been made to the stadium. Currently sitting at a capacity of 74,031, The Theatre of Dreams still sits top with the largest club capacity in the UK. Only Wembley and Twickenham have a larger capacity taking into account all stadia, but it is well documented how neglected Old Trafford has been since the Glazer’s arrival.

Recent reports show roof leakages during matches, soaking match going fans. As well as parts of the roof crumbling onto fans during a WSL match between United and City. The overall rusty, archaic look emanates inside and outside the ground. Comparing it to newer, state-of-the-art stadiums like the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Wembley it’s like night and day.

Furthermore, the ground was snubbed as a host stadium at Euro 2028 due to worries that any redevelopment of the ground may not be complete in time for the tournament. While it is clear Old Trafford was considered to be a part of the list, I can’t help but think that if the Glazer’s worried more about the wellbeing of such an iconic ground rather than their yearly dividends, then any such redevelopment in the future wouldn’t have to take nearly as long.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MARCH 15: (EDITORS NOTE: This photograph was taken using a drone) An aerial view of Old Trafford ahead of the UEFA Champions League Round Of Sixteen Leg Two match between Manchester United and Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford on March 15, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

United hired stadium masterplanners Populous to present proposals for an expanded Old Trafford in April 2022. While this was well before Sir Jim arrived, accelerating these plans and creating a direction for a “new” Old Trafford will endear the fans already. Looking at how Liverpool and Man City have redeveloped Anfield and the Etihad Stadium, a stadium glow-up is absolutely necessary to keep with times but also retain the rich history it holds.

Clearly Ratcliffe feels the same, determined to turn Old Trafford into “Wembley of the North”. Populous and management consultants Legends International have been consulted on the redevelopment plans, whom both worked on building the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A source close to Ratcliffe told Telegraph Sport: “He feels the club needs an absolute state-of-the-art, knock-it-out-of-the-park, ‘wow’ stadium. Bringing that feel-good factor back to Old Trafford will create a fortress-like aura we’ve been so used to in Premier League history.

Assembling the Avengers

Sir Alex Ferguson retiring didn’t just change the team on the pitch, but long-standing Chief Executive David Gill left his post as well. What followed saw years of expensive, desperate and erratic transfer strategies which has ultimately led to years of failure. Ed Woodward, who succeeded Gill, was at the forefront of this and left in January 2022, months after announcing his resignation due to the club leaving the European Super League. Richard Arnold replaced Woodward as the CEO, but the same problems arose as late, expensive signings such as Casemiro and Antony proved there was still no proper strategy.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 26: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) (MINIMUM FEES APPLY – 150 GBP PRINT & 75 GBP ONLINE OR LOCAL EQUIVALENT, PER IMAGE) (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been digitally altered) Angel di Maria of Manchester United poses with Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward after signing for the club at Aon Training Complex on August 26, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

One of INEOS’ promises was to bring in sporting expertise from across the world to oversee this transition. Arnold stepped down from his role in November 2023 and will be replaced by Omar Berrada. He was the Chief Football Operations Officer at the City Football Group, which include rivals Manchester City, Girona, New York City and more. INEOS looked at his impressive record at Manchester City in particular as the driving force to bring him in. He brokered deals that saw City sign the likes of Erling Haaland and Jack Grealish, as well as generate record revenue from the City Academy.

Berrada has 20 years of experience in senior-level football, having lived in six different countries including Spain where he worked for Barcelona before joining City. He specialises in business management and football operations, which include player transfers, sponsorships and media rights. This expertise is something we haven’t seen from a CEO in years. We’ve gone from a glorified ‘Football Manager’ player to an accomplished CEO who has worked during clubs’ most successful eras.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 21: Pep Guardiola the head coach / manager of Manchester City poses with the Premier League trophy and Manchester City / City Football Group board members during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea FC at Etihad Stadium on May 21, 2023 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Sporting Director Dan Ashworth was put on gardening leave by Newcastle amid United’s interest. He joined Newcastle in June 2022 after a four year stint at Brighton. He’s also held positions at West Brom, Peterborough and Cambridge United. Ashworth was notorious for finding cheap talent and selling them on for huge fees, being responsible for signing Moises Caicedo, Marc Cucurella and Kaoru Mitoma. Brighton made huge profits on Caicedo and Cucurella, with Mitoma destined to make the step up soon.

With a greater budget at Newcastle, he was the driving force behind signings such as Alexander Isak, Anthony Gordon and Sven Botman. Ashworth knows where to get the best deals.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – JUNE 28: New signing Sven Botman shakes hands with the Sporting Director Dan Ashworth (L) at St. James Park on June 28, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

At United, we have rarely bought a player on the cheap to then grow and develop them into superstars. Diogo Dalot is one example. He was signed for £19 million when he was nineteen, from Porto. Starting off inconsistently, he has now become one of ten Hag’s most trustworthy players after an extended run in the team.

Ander Herrera was signed for £29 million from Athletic Bilbao at twenty-four. He quickly established himself as key player under Louis van Gaal. Moreover, Jose Mourinho’s first season saw the best of Herrera. Winning Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year, his tenacity and drive helped win the Community Shield, League Cup and Europa League.

More expensive signings, such as Juan Mata and Bruno Fernandes, have proved to be good value for money by contributing to the club for a number of years.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 01: Fred, Ander Herrera and Diogo Dalot in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on May 01, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Ashworth has not yet been confirmed as United’s new Sporting Director. But with huge links over the last week suggesting he will, Sir Jim is slowly delivering on his promise of bringing in expertise from all over. This the kind of ruthlessness has been required for years.

Looking Forward Not Back

With these two changes in the offing, they almost become pointless if results don’t change on the pitch. As mentioned, performances have improved since Christmas Eve but there’s still a long way to go this season. Ruthlessness with the non-playing staff is a start, but this is exactly needed inside the dressing room too. Some players are almost certain to depart, whether that happens this summer or next.

Casemiro and Raphael Varane have been rumoured to be getting the axe due to their age and wages. These two aren’t bad players, however, INEOS will be eager to focus on building sustained success for the next ten years rather than the next few months. While only rumours, players such as Jarrad Branthwaite, Jean-Clair Todibo and Pedro Neto will be perfect to kick-start the rebuild.

Utilizing experienced players will be crucial when adopting this kind of plan, with Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw likely to play their part in this. Similarly, the existing youngsters: Alejandro Garnacho, Rasmus Hojlund and Kobbie Mainoo will be at the forefront of the new regime and likely play key parts in years to come.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 04: Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United celebrates with Rasmus Hojlund and Kobbie Mainoo of Manchester United after scoring his team’s second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on February 04, 2024 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

We know nothing is going to change overnight. Even the best teams have taken multiple years to mould into winning machines, just look at Liverpool and Arsenal. Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta had the vision and the patience to build their own team, which is similarly going to be afforded to ten Hag. It may take time, but Sir Jim has taken the best first steps since his acquisition into the club.

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