It has been reported this week that staff at Manchester United are concerned about the security of their positions at the club once a new owner has been announced.
It is inevitable that there should be concerns. A new broom sweeps clean, after all.
For the most part, jobs will probably be safe, but one member of staff who really should be worried is director of football, John Murtough.
Murtough was given the role in 2021 amidst criticism that it was a “jobs for the boys” appointment by the then supremo, Ed Woodward. Fans had been clamoring for years for a world class sporting director, but instead were rewarded with the internal transfer of a man with no experience in the role at all.
To say Woodward set a low bar in terms of transfer and contract handling is the understatement of the century, yet it is debatable whether Murtough has offered any kind of improvement whatsoever.
His latest bungle – that we know of anyway, as a couple of days have passed since – is to have allowed the women’s team’s two best players, Ona Batlle and Alessia Russo – to walk away from the club as free agents.
There was arguably little that could have been done about Batlle, but the loss of Russo – one of the world’s best and most marketable forwards, hero of the Lionesses, is shocking.
United through and through, Russo looked set to stay at the club as they achieved Champions League qualification for the first time.
Arsenal had made a world-record offer for the star in the January window which Murtough and co. refused, but just five months later, his inability to offer a good contract soon enough meant that the tearful forward left the club – much as happened with Ander Herrera under Woodward some years ago – for nothing.
This was not Murtough’s first failure.
It would probably be unfair to blame the catastrophic return of Cristiano Ronaldo on the supposedly likeable Liverpudlian, but it could be argued that a stronger DoF might have been able to persuade the powers-that-be not to make that fateful investment.
Murtough’s first transfer was that of Jadon Sancho. Again, everyone was just glad he’d paid what it took to get the England man, but the fact is United ended up waiting a year to pay pretty much what they could have paid for him a year prior.
There was then the issue of not supporting Ralf Rangnick in the winter 2022 window. This was perhaps beyond Murtough’s control, but it partly came about because of that spending on Sancho and Ronaldo and it effectively put an end to United’s campaign.
Then there was the Frenkie de Jong fiasco last summer. Remember when Murtough flew in to Barcelona to clinch the deal?
And then there was the time he flew in to Turin to clinch the Adrien Rabiot deal.
Both trips were humiliating for United.
Murtough then paid €95 million for Antony when his market value was €35 million. Again, you could argue this wasn’t his fault, Ten Hag was insistent and Ajax were intransigent. But had there been a strategy in the first place, such brinkmanship would not have been necessary.
The whole summer of 2022 was spent chasing Ten Hag’s targets. There was no direction from the so-called director of football.
Marcus Rashford has not signed a new deal yet. David de Gea sits in limbo with his contract expiring in 13 days’ time.
As for this winter’s window, the least said, the better. Shall we make excuses again for Murtough or can he take some responsibility for the debacle that saw United sign Wout Weghorst when they had no other striker available?
As mentioned here recently, Ten Hag has hinted at his frustration as to Murtough’s abilities by singing the praises of Txiki Begiristain, Man City’s DoF, who has managed a net spend that is half that of United’s in the last five years.
This week’s loss of Russo might not be the highest profile mistake Murtough has made, but it is arguably the biggest and proves once and for all that he is not learning from the many he has already made.
Aston Villa have signed Monchi, Michael Edwards is available, Edwin van der Sar is available and Jordi Cruyff is gettable. Yet one of the biggest clubs in the world continues with the no-job-credentials-or-experience John “Whoareya” Murtough. If that isn’t reason enough to keep banging the Glazers Out drum, I’m not sure what is.