After several years of speculation, Manchester United have at last appointed their very first football director, John Murtough.
For United obsessives, Murtough will already be a familiar name. However, for the rest of us, his appointment sparked plenty of chin stroking and frantic Googling.
Here is everything you need to know about the man now responsible for operations and strategy across all football functions at Old Trafford…
As per United’s official club statement, Murtough will “have overall leadership and responsibility for operations and strategy across all football functions, reinforcing the strong foundations already in place.”
If you pick apart the corporate speak, this essentially means he will be heavily involved in player recruitment for the men’s, women’s and youth section, while also making sure that the club’s current players have access to the best possible structures to aid their development.
Murtough’s ascension has created new roles for Darren Fletcher and Matt Judge as well. Former midfielder Fletcher, who was already assisting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has been appointed Technical Director.
The Scot will be tasked with creating “a co-ordinated and long-term approach to player and squad development, helping maintain the integral link between the Academy and the first team, aligned with Manchester United’s values and culture.”
Judge, meanwhile, is now Director of Football Negotiations. Both he and Fletcher will report to Murtough, who himself is working under de-facto CEO Ed Woodward.
One of the advantages of handing Murtough the reins is that he knows the club inside out.
He joined in November 2013, a few months after David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson in the hot seat. The pair previously worked together at Everton and after Moyes was dismissed Murtough stuck around, eventually being promoted to head of football development in 2016.
His role has not been confined to just that, though. In 2018, the MEN reported that Murtough introduced himself as ‘director of football’ when he was in charge of recruitment for the club’s newly formed women’ s team back in 2018.
Prior to joining United he was head of elite performance at the Premier League and also held senior roles at several other clubs.
Over the past few years, United have been linked with a string of big name candidates for their vacant sporting director role.
Ralf Rangnick, the mastermind behind Red Bull’s footballing empire, was one name mentioned, while Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar was also rumoured to be a target.
In the end, United have opted for a safer – and much cheaper pair of hands – in Murtough. According to MEN, they have taken this route as all of the other names mentioned are solely associated with solid recruitment, whereas they were looking for more of an all-rounder. Murtough fits the bill.
Over the past few seasons Murtough has been on the front lines of some of United’s biggest transfers.
He is said to have met Alexis Sanchez at Manchester airport the night that he sealed his move from Arsenal, while he also accompanied Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo to their medicals.
He even chaperoned 16-year-old Hannibal Mejbri through Oslo when United were there for a pre-season friendly. A vital skill for any football director we’re sure you agree.
Murtough is also widely credited for overhauling United’s recruitment after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived at the club.
He does not give many interviews, but one time he did talk to the press was in 2019. Speaking in a film produced in collaboration with Gulf Oil, he explained a little bit more about how he likes to work.
“We start scouting young players from the age of seven. We’re ultimately looking to bring in an Under-9 time which is primarily for the north-west of England,” Murtough said, as quoted by the Daily Mirror.
“As the players get older, our reach goes further, so we’ll start looking for the best young players not only within the north west, but also within the UK, then when they get to 16, 17 we’ll also be looking to bring in those exceptionally talented players from across Europe.
“I think talent is nothing without hard work. What we do is we try and look for those attributes when developing future potential.
“Whether they’re a fantastic problem-solver, or whether they’re someone who is a tenacious tackler, we’re ultimately looking to see which have got quality or got potential we can work with in our development system.”
It all sounds pretty promising.