Murtough leaving Man Utd after 11 years to make way for new leadership

John Murtough: Joined United in 2013 with David Moyes

John Murtough: Joined United in 2013 with David Moyes

Manchester United have confirmed that Football Director John Murtough is to leave the club after 11 years to allow a “new football structure to be put in place.”

That structure will be headed up by Sporting Director Dan Ashworth and Technical Director Jason Wilcox, overseen by Sir Dave Brailsford, the Head of Sport for Manchester United’s co-owners INEOS.

United are currently in negotiations with Newcastle United and Southampton respectively to secure the exits of Ashworth and Wilcox. In the mean time, day-to-day management at United will be provided by the “leadership team” of Deputy Football Director Andy O’Boyle, Director of Player Negotiations Matt Hargreaves, Director of Football Operations David Harrison and Academy Director Nick Cox.

Current Technical Director Darren Fletcher will remain at the club but take on a new title and responsibilities.

Co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe said: “We want to thank John for his loyal service over many years, and for his support and integrity during this period of transition. He leaves with our best wishes for the future.”

Co-chairman Joel Glazer added: “After 11 years of tireless work for the club, John has mutually agreed with us that now is the right time to step aside and allow the new football leadership structure to be put in place. He will always be welcome back at Manchester United as a friend of the club.”

However, there is no escaping the fact that Murtough has been one of the key football figures at the club during a period in which United have fallen behind rivals Manchester City and Liverpool, both on and off the pitch. However, away from the men's first team, Murtough has overseen improvements in the Academy and the creation of United’s first professional women’s team in 2018.

Murtough joined United in November 2013 from the Premier League, where he was Head of Elite Performance, in order to provide administrative support for then-manager David Moyes, with whom he had worked during two spells at Everton.

Over time he developed a strong relationship with both Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward and co-owner Joel Glazer, leading to greater influence and responsibility. In 2016, he was promoted to Head of Football Development, with a remit of overseeing football projects and reshaping the Academy and recruitment set-up, and in March 2021 he became Football Director, providing “overall leadership and responsibility for operations and strategy across all football functions.”

As Football Director, Murtough's job was, in the words of the club, to “align recruitment and other strategies and to ensure that the first team has the best-in-class operational support it needs to succeed.”

But, as Ratcliffe said in a recent interview with the BBC: “In the last 11 years, Manchester United have had a lot of coaches and nobody has been very successful in that environment. That says to me there is something wrong with the environment.”

As always, there is nuance though and Tom Vernon, the founder of Right to Dream, wrote on LinkedIn: "I always aspired to treat people with the class and EQ John does and it’s still a work in progress to get to his level.

"His leadership style breads positive culture. He one of the best leaders in the game and will be a bigger loss than many can see. I’m forever grateful to have met him and received his support and inspiration. They don’t make them like that anymore."

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