Fergie’s back! Jim Ratcliffe ‘will seek advice’ from legendary boss Sir Alex as he plans radical overhaul of Manchester United’s football operation after £1.3bn buyout… with FIVE names in the running to become sporting director

  • Ratcliffe will take over football operations at United following £1.3bn buyout
  • A number of names are in the frame to become the club’s new sporting director
  • Southgate’s loyalty to his players is an issue and a weakness – It’s All Coming Up 

Sir Jim Ratcliffe will reportedly seek advice from legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as he prepares to take control of football operations at Old Trafford.

The INEOS billionaire is closing in on a £1.3billion deal to take a 25 per cent stake in United from the Glazer family.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Ratcliffe will ask Ferguson, 81, for advice and guidance as he plots an extensive overhaul of the football side.

This could boost Dougie Freedman’s chances becoming United’s new sporting director amid stiff competition.

The Scot, who currently fulfils a similar role at Crystal Palace, is a long-standing friend and ally of compatriot Ferguson. Freedman was formerly a neighbour of Ferguson in Cheshire before he took up his post at Palace in 2017.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe (left) will reportedly seek advice from legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson over who should be Manchester United’s new sporting director
Ferguson will reportedly be consulted on who best fits the bill
It could mean good news for Dougie Freedman, a friend and former neighbour of Ferguson’s
Ratcliffe has his work cut out in his attempts to transform the fortunes of the Red Devils
Glazer family remain in control of the club despite initially looking to sell their majority stake

Freedman spent time with Ferguson in his office at Old Trafford in 2011 when he was Palace manager.

The 49-year-old’s eye for a promising talent and diligent scouting could prove attractive to United with Eberechi Eze, Marc Guehi and Michael Olise among successful Selhurst Park arrivals in recent years.

The Telegraph report that other sporting director candidates include Atalanta’s Lee Congerton, Atletico Madrid’s Andrea Berta and former AC Milan duo Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara.

A Ratcliffe appointment in this department would make the job of existing director of football John Murtough vulnerable.

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Blanc, a leading figure at Ratcliffe’s INEOS Sport, is a top contender to replace Richard Arnold as chief executive.

United have been in decline on the pitch since Ferguson retired in 2013 after almost 27 years at the helm.

They have failed to win a Premier League title in the decade since, claiming one FA Cup, two League Cups and one Europa League despite spending over £1bn on players and getting through four permanent managers.

Ten Hag’s side have made an inconsistent start to the current campaign, losing as many matches as they have won in all competitions. 

Jean-Claude Blanc is one of the frontrunners to be the new CEO of Manchester United
Blanc (right, with his wife Stephanie) has been called the ‘Lionel Messi of sports business’
Man United chief executive Richard Arnold will leave the club at the end of December
United’s general counsel Patrick Stewart (left) will become Man United’s interim CEO
United’s football director John Murtough pictured with Erik ten Hag during pre-season

United sit sixth in the Premier League table despite losing five of their opening 12 games but they are already out of the Carabao Cup and staring at elimination from the Champions League. 

As previously reported by Mail Sport, Ratcliffe’s impending investment will give the British billionaire a major say in the composition of United’s executive and management teams, with Arnold the first casualty. 

Erik ten Hag’s job is thought to be safe for now unless results deteriorate significantly over the next few weeks, but the position of Murtough is also being scrutinised as Ineos executives have privately expressed misgivings about some of United’s recent transfer business.

Ratcliffe’s investment is expected to be confirmed next week, but could take a further two months to be ratified by the Premier League. 

The club will conduct a thorough search for a new CEO, although Blanc’s position as a senior Ineos employee counts in his favour, as does his experience as chief executive and chairman of Juventus and another executive role at Paris Saint-Germain.

Ineos’s director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford is also expected to be involved, but may act as an adviser rather than taking a formal role.

Lee Congerton (right) pictured with Brendan Rodgers when Celtic’s head of recruitment
Paolo Maldini, who was formerly AC Milan’s technical director, is another name in the frame
Andrea Berta (left) welcomes Kieran Trippier to Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2019

Arnold replaced Ed Woodward as chief executive in February 2022. The 52-year-old has been instrumental to United’s strong commercial growth over the last decade, securing a £900million kit deal with adidas and £60m shirt sponsorship with Qualcomm earlier this year, but was widely criticised over the club’s handling of the Mason Greenwood saga which led to the England striker joining Getafe on loan following a United U-turn.

Joel Glazer, United’s executive co-chairman, said: ‘We are fortunate to be able to call on the deep knowledge and experience of Patrick Stewart to provide stability and continuity as we embark on a search for a new permanent CEO.’

Congerton, 51, is currently head of senior recruitment at Italian club Atalanta having previously worked at Leicester City, Celtic, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion.

The Welshman formerly worked as Chelsea’s youth team coach under Jose Mourinho and later as the Blues’ chief scout.

Berta is Atletico’s sporting director and has also been linked with Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain in recent months.

The Italian’s recruitment policies helped Atletico reach two Champions League finals and win two LaLiga titles during a decade at the club.

Maldini was sacked as AC Milan’s technical director back in June after four years in post which saw the club win their first Scudetto in 11 years in 2022.

The former Italy defender and Massara, the director of football, were laid off as part of a restructure at the San Siro club.


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify


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