John Murtough expects to play a part in any transition under Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Manchester United despite uncertainty over his position as football director.
United announced Richard Arnold’s departure as chief executive last week and Murtough’s role has come under intense scrutiny with the Ineos founder’s team known to be looking at a number of candidates for a new sporting director.
Telegraph Sport reported last week that, in addition to Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman and the former Tottenham recruitment chief Paul Mitchell, Atalanta’s Lee Congerton, the former AC Milan duo Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara and Andrea Berta of Atletico Madrid are all under consideration for a director of football role.
Nonetheless, it is understood that Murtough expects to work with Ineos during the transition process once Ratcliffe’s estimated £1.3 billion deal for a quarter stake in the club has been concluded and potentially beyond if his role evolved in a way that worked for both parties.
Ratcliffe had hoped to complete a deal by now but there are no guarantees it will be wrapped up before Thanksgiving holidays start in the US on Thursday and some close to the process fear it could be next week before an announcement is forthcoming.
Ratcliffe feels recruitment issues have been one of the factors behind United’s struggles since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and must improve as he prepares to take control of football operations, hence why his team at Ineos have been looking closely at specialists in that field.
What is unclear at this stage is whether the potential arrival of an external sporting director could lead specifically to the departure of Murtough, or changes to his current role and responsibilities.
At present, Murtough’s wide ranging remit extends to overseeing the academy and women’s set-ups as well as the men’s first team, in addition operations at the club’s Carrington base.
Ratcliffe, who is expected to take some guidance from Ferguson, and his key executives at Ineos must decide whether Murtough retains a value to them beyond any interim stage, even if responsibility for first-team recruitment is placed in other hands.
There will also be a six to eight-week wait for the Premier League to ratify any deal before Ratcliffe can press ahead with plans, which helps to explain some of the frustrations at the delays with the January transfer window around the corner.
Arnold’s departure was seen as the first of what are expected to be a number of changes at senior level by Ratcliffe, although sources stress that Joel Glazer, the United co-chairman, remains the majority shareholder and ultimate decision maker.
But it is understood that there have so far been no indications among United’s most senior executives of an impending change to Murtough’s situation.
While there was a feeling among staff that Arnold had begun to disengage over recent weeks and relations with Joel Glazer had deteriorated somewhat, it is understood there has been no sense of that with Murtough.
Rumours over the past week that Murtough’s office had already been cleared out have been met with bemusement by colleagues.
Murtough has been on a short holiday during the international break but is due back at Carrington on Wednesday, before the first team squad return from their travels.
Staff say Murtough has been as visible a presence as ever around the training ground and has shown little inclination to take a back seat since it became clear last month that Ratcliffe was likely to come on board.
Murtough is still hoping to make more additions of his own to United’s existing recruitment team as part of major changes to the scouting set-up at youth and first-team level.
United have spent more than £400 million with mixed results under Ten Hag, who has exerted huge influence over the club’s transfer policy, and it remains to be seen how much money will be available in January.
Resolving the future of England winger Jadon Sancho, who has been exiled since early September after a falling out with Ten Hag, is considered a priority.
Juventus and Sancho’s former club Borussia Dortmund are keeping a close eye on the situation and Saudi Arabia could renew their interest in the player, even if his preference is to stay in Europe at this stage of his career.