John Murtough is Erik ten Hag’s closest confidant at Manchester United as the pair work closely to run the club’s football operations under chief executive Richard Arnold’s more reserved approach. But rival club figures’ reported opinion of Murtough paints a worrying picture for hopes that he can help guide United back among the elite.
In March 2021, United appointed Murtough as football director in a new role at the club after he spent seven years as head of football development.
The Red Devils noted part of his role was to ‘align recruitment and other strategies’ and ‘create the structures, processes and culture to deliver sustained success on the pitch’.
He has since played a central role in United’s recruitment under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ten Hag, even more so after Arnold replaced Ed Woodward’s hands-on regime.
But United have often been criticised for passing on lesser-known gems who have eventually gone on to thrive elsewhere in the Premier League – Julian Alvarez, Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez are recent examples.
The Old Trafford giants have instead opted for players whom managers have specifically demanded or high-profile names to provide a financial boost and win fans over.
According to The Independent, figures at United’s rivals have privately dismissed Murtough’s quality as a football director.
There is said to be a feeling among the industry that the 52-year-old doesn’t boast the same level of contacts as his counterparts, including Manchester City chief Txiki Begiristain.
The report claims some have gone as far as saying the United job is ‘too big for him’, questioning whether he would be so high up in the hierarchy at another top club.
Since Murtough started his role as football director, United have signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Casemiro – world-class players in their prime but ageing.
The Independent claim the additions of the latter two have been described as ‘obvious’ signings while United’s rivals have recruited in a different market to better results.
Both played a crucial role in Ten Hag’s successful maiden season as United manager. But this term, Varane’s injury issues have returned, and Casemiro looks a shadow of his 2022/23 self.
However, behind the scenes at Old Trafford, Murtough will be defended for his role in a more streamlined system Arnold has looked to implement since Woodward’s departure.
This summer alone, Mason Mount and Rasmus Hojlund look like inspired targets in terms of how well they suit Ten Hag’s philosophy.