Man Utd step up Jason Wilcox and Dan Ashworth moves after John Murtough exit

John Murtough (right)/Man Utd step up Jason Wilcox and Dan Ashworth moves after John Murtough exit
John Murtough (right) will leave Manchester United after more than 10 years service at the club - PA

Manchester United are accelerating moves to appoint Jason Wilcox and Dan Ashworth after announcing the departure of football director John Murtough by mutual agreement.

United are hoping to reach an agreement with Southampton over compensation for Wilcox that would enable the Championship club’s director of football to take over as technical director at Old Trafford within weeks.

Wilcox would report into Ashworth, who is due to replace the outgoing Murtough as sporting director in due course, although he is likely to have a period of gardening leave to serve should United agree a compensation package with Newcastle for the 53-year-old.

Newcastle were initially demanding £20 million in compensation for Ashworth - a figure United have no intention of going anywhere near given the Tyneside club only paid Brighton around £2million in compensation to service his services two years ago.

United want their former midfielder Darren Fletcher, who was appointed technical director at the same time as Murtough became football director three years ago, to stay amid the shake-up. But there is an acceptance his current title is an ill-fitting one for his responsibilities and it will have to be changed in due course.

Omar Berrada is due to formally start work in July after being appointed as United’s new chief executive in January following the departure of Richard Arnold, the first high profile exit under new Old Trafford kingpin Sir Jim Ratcliffe. Berrada is currently on gardening leave from Manchester City, where he served as chief operations officer.

Ratcliffe and his Ineos team want Berrada, Ashworth and Wilcox to spearhead a new football operations team going forward but, in the wake of Murtough’s exit, day-to-day management will be provided by the likes of deputy football director Andy O’Boyle, director of football negotiations Matt Hargreaves and director of football operations Dave Harrison.

With only a couple of months before the transfer window is due to open, United are keen to appoint Wilcox as quickly as possible although Sir Dave Brailsford, the Ineos director of sport who has been conducting a thorough audit of United’s football operations, is offering key oversight behind the scenes.

Ten Hag’s future remains uncertain

Erik ten Hag’s position as United manager remains shrouded in uncertainty after a deeply troubled season that has raised serious concerns about his suitability for the job. But the United manager has been included in the meetings around recruitment ahead of yet another critical summer transfer window and has been making decisions on arrangements for the club’s pre-season tour of the US.

Murtough’s position was under threat the moment it emerged last year that Ratcliffe would be handed control of football operations as part of his £1.03 billion deal with the Glazers for a minority stake in the club.

Brought to Old Trafford by former manager David Moyes in 2013, Murtough performed a variety of roles before being made United’s first football director in 2021.

Murtough has been assisting the transition under Ineos and has now agreed to stand aside and let the new operation take shape.

United co-chairman Joel Glazer said: “After 11 years of tireless work for the club, John has mutually agreed with us that now is the right time to step aside to 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.”

Ratcliffe thanked Murtough for his “support and integrity” during the current transition period.

Murtough had sought to improve United’s dire recruitment record since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 but the quality of the club’s signings has remained decidedly chequered.

Ten Hag has asserted huge influence over transfer policy but Ineos plan to change that. Murtough was credited with helping to drive serious improvements to the academy set-up alongside Nick Cox that have seen the likes of Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo establish themselves as first team players as well as various operational changes behind the scenes.

Changes already afoot to free up money

Corporate restructuring firm Interpath Advisory are currently overseeing a major cost-cutting drive at United in a bid to free up more money to invest in the first team squad and ensure the club do not flout Premier League rules governing spending.

Certain moves have already been made such as cancelling the corporate credit cards of senior staff and scaling back the use of chauffeur-driven private cars for staff.

United’s finances are tight heading into Ratcliffe’s first transfer window and the Ineos owner wants to provide the recruitment team with as much room for manoeuvre as possible given the limits presented by the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules and Uefa’s financial sustainability regulations.

United’s summer transfer budget will be severely squeezed by financial fair play restrictions - and take an even bigger hit if the club fail to qualify for the Champions League, with the club currently 11 points adrift of fourth placed Spurs and Aston Villa in fifth.

Telegraph Sport reported earlier this year how around 250 jobs could be under threat amid the prospect of cuts to around 25 per cent of staff.

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