Five reasons Man Utd fans should be happy with Jason Wilcox as technical director

Will Ford
Jason Wilcox is incoming at Man Utd
Jason Wilcox is incoming at Man Utd

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS’ quest to irritate as many clubs as possible is going to plan as they act fast to build a new team behind the scenes at Old Trafford to provide the best possible chance for on-pitch success.

After stealing Omar Berrada from Manchester City to become the new CEO, they remain in talks with Newcastle over a compensation package for sporting director Dan Ashworth from Newcastle. They also ‘angered’ Southampton by tapping up Jason Wilcox, who was confirmed as United’s new technical director on Friday. 

Wilcox represents another coup for the new-look Red Devils regime, with Liverpool also supposedly keen on luring him to Anfield, and we’ve come up with five reasons the United supporters should be over the moon with his appointment.


Cole Palmer
Palmer, Chelsea and England owe Wilcox a huge debt of gratitude. The player tied with Jude Bellingham as the Under-21 player with the most goal contributions (30) in Europe’s top five leagues this season was set to be released from the Manchester City academy as a 16-year-old, before Wilcox stepped in.

Then the academy manager – having started as the head coach of the Under 18s at City – Wilcox advocated for Palmer to be handed a professional contract, convinced by the playmaker’s ability to force his way into the first team despite doubts from others in the academy set-up.

Wilcox described Palmer’s journey from the academy to the first team as “hugely inspiring”, as is the case with Phil Foden, Rico Lewis and Oscar Bobb, all of whom benefited either directly from Wilcox’s coaching, or through the academy structure and ethos he played a huge part in creating in a ten-year span which has seen the club’s youth system emerge as one of the world’s best.


Academy success and sales
Last season, the Manchester City Under-18s and Under-21s won their respective Premier League league titles for a third consecutive season. It was an unprecedented achievement.

United’s academy used to be the best in town, but it has been eclipsed in every sense by City’s, which boasts some of the best training facilities in the world, allied with some top coaches. Wilcox used to be one of them, until he was promoted to oversee the smooth running of what has turned into a title-winning, money-making machine.

Because those players who haven’t made the cut to thrive in Guardiola’s team have been sold for big money, in many cases purely on the strength of their displays through the age groups.

Last summer they sold goalkeeper James Trafford to Burnley for £19m, Shea Charles joined Southampton for a fee that could rise to £15m, Taylor Harwood-Bellis also signed for Southampton on loan with a £20m obligation to buy if the Championship club are promoted, while Carlos Borges moved to Ajax for £17m. Of those players, only Charles had featured for the first team, making his debut off the bench against Brentford on the final day of last season.

Sam Edozie, Gavin Bazunu and Juan Larios were sold for a combined fee of £31m to Southampton in 2022, and Edozie – with one appearance – was the only one to represent the first team.

They’ve made £150m solely through the sales of homegrown players since the summer of 2022; a period in which United made sales of all players totalling £70m.

READ MORE: Manchester City transfer cheat code: Burnley among those fleeced for nearly £240m during Pep reign


Head of the Pep Guardiola school
“It takes courage and a lot of hard work to play his way,” Wilcox said when asked about getting the academy players to adopt Guardiola’s style. “This doesn’t just happen on a Saturday; this is hours and hours and hours of practice, days and months of real hard work on the training pitch. We have to adopt the same level of hard work, consistency and detail in our daily programme.”

United need only look at Arsenal or Bayer Leverkusen to appreciate the benefits of hiring people well versed in the methods of the man Wilcox describes as “the best coach in the world”. And given the uncertainty surrounding Ten Hag and doubt as to who will be the head coach at Old Trafford next season, this may be a case of egg before chicken in the sense that the United could look to hire managers to suit a designated club style – presumably not dissimilar to City’s – as relying on Gareth Southgate or Graham Potter to set the philosophy would require near-certainty that they will be a legacy manager set to champion that philosophy for years to come.

Both at City and upon joining Southampton, Wilcox spoke of the importance of the club academy “aligning” with the first team – something that has also been key to England’s uplift, with Dan Ashworth central to setting the values that have held them in good stead under Southgate. Wilcox and Ashworth would be aligned on being aligned.

Guardiola Foden Palmer
Jason Wilcox was key to the development of Phil Foden and Cole Palmer.


£160m in sales
It takes some bottle to leave what must have been a very cushy job leading the Manchester City academy to become director of football at a club that had just been relegated from the Premier League after an 11-year stint in the top flight, that needed a new manager and had a significant number of players angling for the exit who will have been deemed easy pickings ahead of a season in the Championship.

The club sold Romeo Lavia for a £30m profit after one season on the back of just 29 Premier League appearances, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Tella for a combined £50m of pure profit, and made £160m in total.

United have arguably been as bad at selling players as they’ve been at signing them, with Romelu Lukaku (£74m) the only player sold for more than £50m since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2010, in which time they’ve signed 12 players for more than that figure.

Southampton spent just £18m in the summer, with Wilcox making good use of the loan market to give manager Russell Martin – who’s proven to be a smart appointment – the resources required to return to the Premier League. They’re now unlikely to clinch automatic promotion, but have all-but secured a place in the play-offs – a not insignificant achievement given such a summer of change.


Omar Berrada relationship
Berrada has left City to become United’s CEO, and it can’t be a bad thing to have two senior figures working closely together who have done so before. It’s also telling of Wilcox’s quality that Berrada has made him the club’s top technical director target.

Much of the criticism of United over the last few years of the Glazers ownership has been the lack of structure and no clear links between the coaches, recruitment, analysts, the academy and the board members. Having people join the club who already have relationships – presumably positive ones – like Berrada does with Wilcox, will mean United can hit the ground running, and not lose further ground on the Premier League teams currently streaking away from them on and off the pitch.