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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Exclusive: INEOS have a five-window plan to transform Manchester United

Sir Jim Ratcliffe believes Manchester United need five transfer windows to restore the club to its former glory.

Those close to INEOS are clear that a patient recruitment strategy is needed. Ratcliffe has, and will continue to, waste no time in building a best-in-class recruitment team, but it’s understood the club’s financial muscle and infrastructure will take some time to catch up with the ambition.

Ratcliffe is aware from his due diligence that Manchester United can’t just go on a major spending spree this summer due to both UEFA’s Financial Fair Play and the Premier League’s Profit & Sustainability rules. There may be some moderate flexibility if Champions League qualification is secured this season, or around £100m is brought in via outgoings.

Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise is the only currently-approved summer target, with the Palace winger open to the move. Most of the other INEOS-driven talk to date has been around positions not individuals, although they are naturally aware of other names that pre-date them.

Manchester United also want a striker and a centre-back, but they will have to get creative with the structure of deals in order to bring in three established players this summer, or rely on outgoings to fund their business.

Sir Dave Brailsford is continuing his strategic review, which started last year and will continue into the first 6-8 weeks post completion.

Brailsford, Ratcliffe and Jean-Claude Blanc may also have to consider a shorter-term leadership team whilst the club wait for Dan Ashworth to start; and with highly-rated new CEO Omar Berrada on gardening leave until summer. Interim Patrick Stewart is currently playing a key and valued role as part of the transition process.

Ashworth has already agreed to join Manchester United, and Newcastle have officially acknowledged he’ll depart. But the clubs have to agree to a compensation package, with Newcastle pushing for £10m+ if Ashworth is to serve less than 20 months gardening leave. The situation is expected to resolve itself very quickly.

Even if that number is reduced to 12 months, it would mean Ashworth misses two transfer windows. It is likely a compromise will be found, but Manchester United won’t overpay. They are prepared to wait until after this summer if needs be, and potentially even longer.

Southampton’s Jason Wilcox is also expected to join Manchester United with talks currently ongoing. And there will be at least two other senior executive hires in 2024.

The approach to recruitment will be very different. Sources indicate it will be highly collaborative with titles far less important than the overall dynamic, and that Ashworth pointed out at interview the average age of the squad must be brought down by 1.5 years.

Brailsford and to an extent Ratcliffe personally, also plan to be hands-on in ensuring key players remain at the club and, where applicable, are adequately compensated. This could mean a new deal for Kobbie Mainoo, even though he only extended last February until 2027 with the option of an extra year.

Ratcliffe wants to keep Marcus Rashford, despite concrete PSG interest. And there is a firm desire to stop the Parisens signing Mary Earps. The England goalkeeper is yet to agree a new contract at Manchester United. The feeling remains Earps will leave this summer, but the new INEOS-led sporting department still hope to change her mind.

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