Solskjaer claims United don't need sporting director and comments don't add up

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has claimed that the structure at Manchester United is “100 per cent” right for the future of the football club. Yet in comparison to the rest of the Premier League, United have one blatant factor missing.

“The structure is right because it is always the manager who has the final say,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

That may be true but, as per Training Ground Guru, Solskjaer is one of only three managers in England’s top division working without a sporting director above him.

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The debate over a sporting director has become a pretty one-sided one. A decade ago, most managers would not have dreamed of working beneath someone else. Now, a sporting director (also known as Director of Football, Technical Director and many other names) is seen as a given at top clubs.

United have been utterly erratic over the last five years. When Ed Woodward first took charge as Executive Vice-Chairman, he targeted Galáctico signings to make United like Real Madrid. But while Real won three consecutive UEFA Champions Leagues, Woodward’s United dropped down the league and out of Europe’s elite club competition.

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United changing recruitment tactics every year

A lack of direction at the top is evident. United have bounced from manager to manager with no sense of continuity. In terms of player recruitment, they’ve changed from the big-money signings of Di Maria and others and now focus on young British talent like Dan James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

A sporting director’s job is to focus on consistency in strategy, no matter who the manager in charge is. Woodward does not do that and United have fallen behind because of it.

Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

So for Solskjaer to claim the strategy is right because the manager has the final say is okay. It makes sense. He is the manager and he played in a period where the manager was exactly that; the boss of the whole club. That’s not the case anymore.

Only 3 Premier League clubs have no sporting director

Training Ground Guru published a list recently of all sporting directors, or equivalents, at Premier League clubs:

  • Arsenal: Raul Sanllehi (Head of Football Relations)
  • Aston Villa: Jesus Garcia Pitarch (Sporting Director)
  • Bournemouth: Richard Hughes (Technical Director)
  • Brighton: Dan Ashworth (Technical Director)
  • Burnley: Mike Rigg (Technical Director)
  • Chelsea: Petr Cech (Technical and Performance Advisor)
  • Crystal Palace: Dougie Freedman (Sporting Director)
  • Everton: Marcel Brands (Director of Football)
  • Leicester: Jon Rudkin (Director of Football)
  • Liverpool: Michael Edwards: (Sporting Director)
  • Manchester City: Txiki Begiristain (Director of Football)
  • Norwich City: Stuart Webber (Sporting Director)
  • Southampton: Ross Wilson (Director of Football Operations)
  • Tottenham: Rebecca Caplehorn (Director of Football Operations)
  • Watford: Filippo Giraldi (Technical Director)
  • West Ham: Mario Husillos (Director of Football)
  • Wolves: Kevin Thelwell (Sporting Director)

There are tow notable things about the list. One is that it shows almost every Premier League club. The second is that every single top club is on there, as well as the other performing sides like Leicester, Brighton and Bournemouth.

Solskjaer can argue that the structure is right at United but it’s yet another example of him and United escaping the problem. Like all sleeping giants, United have failed to keep up with football’s ever-evolving manner. Now they have a great deal of work to do.

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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.