How Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Man United restructure could take shape
How Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Man United restructure could take shape: A new CEO, a football committee featuring Sir Dave Brailsford… and five figures – including Paolo Maldini and Dougie Freedman – in line for sporting director
- Sir Jim Ratcliffe is waiting to seal his £1.3billion move for a 25 per cent stake
- He is widely expected to undertake an overhaul of Man United off the pitch
- It’s the world against Everton – it can galvanise the players to stay up – IAKO
Approaching a year to the day since the Glazer family announced their intention to make Manchester United available to buy, Sir Jim Ratcliffe is still waiting to seal a £1.3billion move for 25 per cent.
There have been reports that confirmation from United’s side could run into next week, while it could take up to another eight weeks for the Premier League to rubber-stamp it.
And so Ratcliffe is still some weeks away from being able to get stuck into overhauling Manchester United.
Along with his INEOS team, Ratcliffe is expected to take control of football operations and in doing so help build out a new hierarchy to give Erik ten Hag and his players the greatest chance of success.
With that in mind, Mail Sport looks at a possible United hierarchy at the start of the Ratcliffe era.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is waiting to complete his £1.3billion purchase to own 25% of Man United
United are one of the biggest sporting brands in the world, but they are struggling to win
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Top of the tree: The Glazers
Unfortunately for Manchester United fans the deeply unpopular Glazer family aren’t going anywhere right now.
Angry United fans resumed protests against the Glazers for their last match against Luton Town, and those are expected to continue even with Ratcliffe’s arrival.
By selling to Ratcliffe, rather than his biggest competitor Sheikh Jassim from Qatar, who was seeking a 100 per cent buyout, they can continue to run Manchester United as the majority shareholder.
Mail Sport reported last month that the Glazer family is set to avoid a £100m tax bill as a result of the sale of a stake to Ratcliffe.
The American owners are expected to avoid the bill after listing the club in the Cayman Islands, where there is no capital gains tax.
Ratcliffe’s INEOS Group are in talks with the Glazer family to seal a £1.3bn deal for 25 per cent of the club in a deal that would hand the Glazers a profit of £510m, after they acquired the club for £790m in 2005.
By selling a minority stake to Ratcliffe, the Glazer family remain in position at Old Trafford
Minority owner: Sir Jim Ratcliffe
Next would come Ratcliffe.
The petrochemicals billionaire, who is the second richest man in Britain according to the Sunday Times’ 2023 Rich List, is a boyhood Manchester United fan and is walking in, supposedly, to take control of football operations.
Ratcliffe is no stranger to sporting investments, with stakes in Mercedes F1 and in Nice, a French football team in the top division.
While success since his investments have been mixed, there is hope he can elevate United back to trophy contention.
As well as his £1.3bn investment for his stake, Ratcliffe is is also likely to commit £245m from his own personal fortune to improving infrastructure at United, with the majority of what would be staggered funding due before the end of the year.
Industry experts have warned that the sum – should it be spent in its entirety on what is a decaying Old Trafford – will not be transformative.
Ratcliffe has a vision to turn United’s fortunes around after falling behind rivals in recent years
Anti-Glazer protests are heard regularly but they’re set to retain a large percentage of the club
There are, too, concerns over how much the Glazers will let go and allow Ratcliffe to press on. Former Man United midfielder Paul Scholes is one of the sceptics.
Scholes told the Webby & O’Neill YouTube channel: ‘I just find it difficult to believe that he’s going to be left to his own devices only owning 25 per cent of the football club.
‘How are the Glazers not going to want a say at the top table when it comes to football decisions?
‘Obviously you can draw up contracts, of course you can, but if stuff is then happening that they don’t like, you’re telling me they’re not going to come to the table and have something to say about it? I’m sure they will.
‘I just find it bizarre. It’s obviously a stepping stone to him [Ratcliffe] taking over the club permanently, but how long that is going to be we don’t know. And how much time has he got to try and get things right?’
Perhaps one of the most crucial parts of a Ratcliffe revolution.
As well as the Glazers, Ratcliffe and his INEOS ally Sir Dave Brailsford, a sporting director would likely form a key part of any football committee.
Dougie Freedman, Lee Congerton, Paolo Maldini, Ricky Massara, and Atletico Madrid’s Andrea Berta are all understood to be in contention, while Paul Mitchell is believed not to be in the running.
Freedman has built his reputation after overseeing the acquisitions of young stars Michael Olise, Marc Guehi and Eberechi Eze.
Dougie Freedman of Crystal Palace has emerged as a contender for a role at Man United
Meanwhile, the likes of Berta and Congerton have forged impressive reputations on the continent.
The Telegraph reported Congerton, currently the head of senior recruitment at Serie A club Atalanta, as a contender for the job.
The Welshman, 51, was responsible for bringing Rasmus Hojlund in from Sturm Graz for £14.85m and then selling the Danish striker on to United for a chunky £72m just a year later.
Prior to Atalanta, Congerton was a coach at Liverpool and then at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, later heading up the Blues’ scouting department.
Berta, meanwhile, has been linked with not only United but also Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain in recent weeks.
The Italian has gained a positive reputation within football after whipping Atletico’s transfer policy into shape during a decade of success.
Andrea Berta (left) welcomes Kieran Trippier to Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2019
Lee Congerton, pictured when he worked with Brendan Rodgers at Celtic, is a contender
He was their technical director as they reached Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016, losing on both occasions to rivals Real Madrid. The club won the LaLiga title in 2014.
While there is sure to be lots of debate on who is the right fit – with director of football John Murtough’s place reportedly vulnerable, there are also likely to be question marks over Andy O’Boyle (Deputy Football Director) and Darren Fletcher (Technical Director) if Murtough departs.
Were both to say they would almost certainly become part of a football committee, but Ratcliffe won’t want too many intefering strategies as he builds out a vision to get United back on track.
While United’s top lawyer Patrick Stewart will take over on an interim basis, one of Ratcliffe’s key aides, INEOS Sport chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc, is viewed as a potential permanent replacement.
Blanc is the Harvard graduate nicknamed the ‘Lionel Messi of sports business’ – and is someone Ratcliffe trusts implicitly.
With Richard Arnold departing, Ratcliffe is going to need someone in place that he has total faith in to help deliver his vision.
Should he take on the role of CEO, Blanc would offer a wealth of experience following gigs with the Tour de France, the Paris Dakar, the French Open and the Davis Cup, all to go with an MBA earned at Harvard Business School in 1994.
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Jean-Claude Blanc is one of the frontrunners to be the new CEO of Manchester United
Blanc (centre) is a trusted ally of Ratcliffe (right), who is buying 25% of Manchester United
One example of Blanc, father of two children, Eléa and Hugo, transforming fortunes comes with his success with the French Open after being promoted to CEO.
His innovative ideas – which included adding an extra weekend to the Slam by starting on a Sunday rather than a Monday – dramatically elevated its commercial success.
Similarly transformative moves at both Juventus – he walked through the door in Italy fresh from a match-fixing scandal – and PSG, where he turned them into a commercial powerhouse, evidence Blanc would not find the size of Manchester United daunting.
Legal: Patrick Stewart
In the interim phase Stewart will slot in as CEO but when a permanent successor to Arnold is appointed it is assumed that Stewart will return to his role as Man United’s chief legal officer and general counsel.
Ratcliffe will want to put his stamp on United’s hierarchy but keeping hold of Stewart feels like a no brainer.
Patrick Stewart will take on an interim CEO role as they search for a full-time successor
Stewart is viewed as a highly experienced and respected figure inside the club and across football, with the official leading club liaison with governing and representative bodies.
The solicitor, who has worked for the club since 2006, is typically responsible for managing the legal and regulatory affairs as well as its relationships with football stakeholders.
Stewart was appointed to Man United’s board at the end of 2022, shortly after the Glazer family announced the takeover process.
He has reportedly taken a leading role in recent weeks regarding the sale of the stake to Ratcliffe and those relations should stand him in good stead.
He also works as an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, after being nominated by the European Club Association in 2018.
Prior to joining Man United, Stewart worked for two leading UK commercial law firms and TEAM Marketing AG, the Swiss sports marketing agency responsible for selling commercial rights to the UEFA Champions League.
Finances: Cliff Baty
Again, Ratcliffe would be sensible to lean on some familiar faces at Old Trafford, rather than rip it all up from the off.
One of those he could turn to early on is Chief Financial Officer, Cliff Baty, who is been in his current role at United since 2016.
There is, of course, a chance that Ratcliffe will want his own money man in there as part of this wider refresh.
But Baty’s credentials suggest he is someone worth keeping around.
Cliff Baty (left) has been a key figure behind the scenes as United’s Chief Financial Officer
Baty is responsible for managing all aspects of financial reporting and financial control for the club.
Prior to joining United he served as CFO and a member of the Board of Directors of Sporttech plc, a leading pool betting operator and technology supplier.
The qualified Chartered Accountant, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from Oriel College, Oxford University in 1992, has almost 20 years top level experience in senior roles at some of the biggest businesses in the world.
Manager: Erik ten Hag
Undoubtedly one of the most precarious positions whenever there is an ownership change is that of the manager.
But after ending Manchester United’s six-year trophy drought last season by winning the Carabao Cup, there is a feeling at Old Trafford that Ten Hag has enough credit in the bank to be backed to turn a poor start to the season around.
United headed into this most recent international break as the most in-form team in the Premier League across the last five matches – and the challenge now is to build on that.
Ten Hag met with Ratcliffe earlier in the year when he made a personal visit to Manchester amid the drawn out takeover process and while Ratcliffe has his thoughts on the football side of things and how transfer policy may need to shift, disposing of Ten Hag doesn’t seem on the agenda.
Erik ten Hag is expected to be backed by Ratcliffe to turn things around at Old Trafford
Revised scouting network
Improving the squad over a longer term will require an overhaul of the club’s scouting network.
Mail Sport reported last week that Manchester United has enlisted the services of American recruitment firm Pace, based in Los Angeles, to identify a new talent scout for emerging players.
The decision comes as the club feel they are lacking in their scouting department, particularly in comparison to Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea, according to The Sun.
The change to using an external agency for talent acquisition, rather than an in-house department is a shift away from United’s traditional methods.
The interview process has also changed, with candidates being assessed through computer-based interviews, rather than conventional face-to-face interviews.
This strategic move follows Ratcliffe’s growing influence at United, marked by the departure of the club’s chief executive, Richard Arnold.
Man United feel they are falling behind as rivals Man City have succeeded in finding new talent
Now these lot really are under the microscope as part of a new regime.
Too many have massively underperformed given their staggering wages and exorbitant transfer fees.
United have spent a whopping £1.4billion on transfers since Sir Alex Ferguson left his role as manager and retired a decade ago. Current incumbent Ten Hag has spent almost £400m since joining the club last summer.
Ratcliffe, like many top businessmen, hates wasting money and he is said to have been staggered by the nature of United’s spending.
Reports have circulated that he is ready to sell £194m worth of talent in January to raise funds at the club – with Antony, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial all on the chopping block.
Should United continue their turnaround in form then some of those may get a stay of execution but a key focus for Ratcliffe and his football committee moving forward will be to find value where others don’t, rather than paying over the odds for players simply because they are available.
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