Friday, January 22, 2021

Woodward, What Happened to the Director of Football?

Manchester United are on the verge of appointing a technical director for the first time in the clubs history after whittling it down to two final candidates, both of whom are internal employees.

Recently, I put together an investigation into who Ed Woodward is, where he has come from and some of the decisions he’s made whilst in power in the Ed Woodward Expose. if you haven’t taken a read I strongly recommend doing so.

With this upcoming move now on the verge of completion I’m able to share a few interesting details in the decision making process that has lead to this stage.

The two candidates we’re talking about do have names, one is Head Scout and right-hand man of Ed Woodward on the footballing side – Marcel Bout. The other man in question is John Murtagh, current Head of Operations.

To give you insight into the careers of both men I’ve prepared little summaries below.


Marcel Bout is one of the most seasoned coaches in the modern game with over 25 years of behind the scenes management in football. The fact he’s been retained in multiple situations where the manager who bought them in wasn’t kept on should speak volumes as to his professionalism.

His past has seen him work in various positions with the likes of AZ Alkmaar, Feyenoord, Bayern Munich and the Dutch national team. As you’d have probably guessed from reading the list of clubs reeled off, Bout is a man who was hired by Louis Van Gaal.

Since Van Gaal has left United, Bout has enjoyed a blossoming relationship with Ed Woodward, a fact which should send alarm bells ringing instantly.

Here are some things to note about Marcel Bout:

  • His current role at Manchester United is the first scouting role he has ever had in player recruitment
  • Bout has typically taken up positions surrounding opposition analysis scouting and has never worked in anything like a technical director role.
  • His work has been credited with the arrivals of potential superstars Lukasz Bejger, Ondrej Mastny, Matej Kovar, Arnau Puigmal and perhaps more notably Reece Devine and Connor Stanley.

Bout is in many aspects is one of the most respected men within the game. His accomplishments at specifically Feyenoord and Bayern Munich are phenomenal.


John Murtagh is a man with a relatively small online footprint despite his relatively high profile position at Manchester United. Most notably, he’s credited with the development of England internationals Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, despite their classes being several years apart.

Murtagh, another former byproduct of a manager acquisition having been appointed by Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor David Moyes, as the Head of Youth Development.

Ed Woodward is known to be such an admirer of John Murtagh as a person and as a professional, hence his untimely and relatively undeserved promotion to his now role, Head of Operations.

If Marcel Bout is the man behind the strong levels of youth recruitment shown in recent years then John Murtagh is the man behind the surge in youth player development – Arguably the clubs strongest streak of youth Academy players since the 2011 season which included infamous talent Ravel Morrison, undersized playmaker Larnell Cole and Millwall’s British battering ram Ryan Tunnicliffe.

After the departure of Brian McClair to the Scottish FA in February 2015, John Murtagh’s role at United increased substantially. Along with rookie Nicky Butt, Murtagh was set the challenge of reviving a youth system, more specifically the U21 development that had been accused nationwide of failing to provide players of any real quality to the first team.

The likes of Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Guillermo Varela, Paddy McNair, Tom Lawrence, Michael Keane, Tom Thorpe, Ben Amos, Tyler Blackett, Davide Petrucci, Joe Rothwell, Will Keane, James Wilson and Ángelo Henríquez all failed to make any form of consistent impact in the first team despite their world beating academy reputations.

Comparing the 2015 academy products to the academy prospects now, you’ll see the huge gulf in class, the 2019 academy standouts are arguably the best since 1993 with players including: Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong, Ro-Shaun Williams, Tyrell Warren, Dean Henderson & Aiden Barlow to name but a few future premier league calibre players.

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