CHRIS WHEELER: Richard Arnold and John Murtough are getting tough as they tackle EVERY area of Man United’s culture – the big name exits are just the start of huge behind-the-scenes changes
- The club has needed a proper reset since Sir Alex Ferguson departed in 2013
- Early promise under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not deliver the changes needed
- Squad has grown stale under the last five managers – club needs a clear out
- Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata all leaving as free agents this summer
- Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan Bissaka and Phil Jones could follow
They called it a ‘cultural reset’ at Manchester United three years ago when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer landed the manager’s job full-time and the task of detoxifying his old club in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s departure.
Smiles on faces, faith in youth, a return to United’s traditions of attacking football. It all felt so good for a while too with Ole at the wheel.
But the sense of optimism that reached its peak one night in Paris and a rather misty-eyed sense of nostalgia were never going to be a match for the empires being built at Manchester City and Liverpool. United needed real change; a proper reset from top to bottom.
Erik ten Hag will look to begin a reset at the club this summer, starting with a player clear out
If one thing has become clear during the club’s worst ever Premier League season – through Solskjaer’s sacking, Ralf Rangnick’s fruitless spell as interim manager and the demise of a team that could have been so much better – it’s a recognition from within Old Trafford that change must happen now.
Nowhere more so than on the pitch, and United have been helped in that regard by the sheer number of players coming out of contract this summer.
It has already been confirmed that Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic are leaving as free agents, and more will follow before the new season kicks off.
Paul Pogba was the first major departure announced by United this week, with the Frenchman set to join Juventus on a free transfer
Jesse Lingard (L) and Paul Pogba (R) will both leave the club this summer after poor seasons
Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are among the others who could be on their way as United overhaul a bloated squad that has grown stale under five different managers since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
The club have been guilty of hoarding players and renewing contracts without good reason. They will look to freshen up the squad this summer by making up to five new signings with a striker and central midfielder the priorities.
There will be new faces in the dugout too after a season that saw Solskjaer make way for a caretaker in Michael Carrick and an interim in Rangnick.
John Murtough (R) will lead the revolution from upstairs, supporting Erik ten Hag in his role
Jesse Lingard became a member of a poorly constructed and bloated squad at Man Utd
Erik ten Hag has the job now. His assistants Mitchell van der Gaag and Steve McClaren will replace Solskjaer’s No.2 Mike Phelan and Rangnick’s backroom team, and at least one more first-team coach is expected to follow.
A fastidious individual, Ten Hag will have his own plans (this is a man who wants the water bottles lined up in a certain way), but United have already set about refurbishing the first-team restaurant and upgrading the players’ menu.
It’s all part of a climate of change that comes from the top. At a club where every move is scrutinised and broadcast around the globe, Richard Arnold’s accession to chief executive in February as a replacement for Ed Woodward was remarkably subdued – and that’s just how Arnold wanted it.
He does not share his predecessor’s interest in involving himself too closely in football matters, preferring to leave that to football director John Murtough – the man credited with a successful overhaul of United’s academy and launch of the women’s team – and technical director Darren Fletcher.
When United announced that Ten Hag had been appointed as their new manager in April, it was significant that Murtough, not Arnold, spoke on behalf of the club.
Richard Arnold, the CEO, is part of the team attempting to lead a revolution at the club
The fans became disillusioned with the team through a number of poor results late on in the season
Murtough has a more influential role now, assisted by Fletcher and new deputy football director Andy O’Boyle, a former Liverpool fitness coach no less who left his job as the Premier League’s head of elite performance to join United this week.
It will inevitably attract greater scrutiny. Murtough was largely behind the decision to bring in Rangnick from Lokomotiv Moscow – a move that bought United time to get Ten Hag but very little else – and he will be judged on the new manager’s success too.
Murtough and Fletcher will also have greater influence over new signings as chief transfer negotiator Matt Judge prepares to leave United, although it’s understood that Judge remains active in current negotiations and Ten Hag will still have the right to veto any players he doesn’t want.
Improvements are being made at Carrington, the club’s training ground, this summer
It would be fanciful to think that he didn’t have a say in the U-turn over Rangnick’s consultancy role at United either.
No sooner had Ten Hag declared at his unveiling that Rangnick’s six-day-a-month gig was ‘on the club’ than it was announced that the 63-year-old would be cutting ties to focus on his new job as coach of Austria.
Rangnick intended to work with United on recruitment as part of a new set-up that has already seen senior scouting figures Jim Lawlor and Marcel Bout leave the club.
Elsewhere, United have modernised by appointing their first director of data science, Dominic Jordan, who started in February. There has even been a reshuffle in the press office.
Everywhere you look at United, change is afoot under Arnold and Murtough. It will take time to close the yawning gap on City and Liverpool that has taken almost a decade to open up. But at least the club seem to have woken up to the scale of their problems, and are taking meaningful steps to solve them.
Juan Mata will wave goodbye to Manchester United when his contract expires this month
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