Gary Neville’s 1,110-word diatribe on Man United ‘shambles’

Matt Stead

Gary Neville has branded Manchester United a “shambles” for considering Rio Ferdinand as their first ever sporting director.

Ferdinand emerged as a shock candidate for the role last week, with United hoping to revamp their entire football structure off the pitch.

The retired centre-half is one of a number of former United players who the club are reportedly in talks with, including Darren Fletcher.

Their lack of experience in the boardroom has seen many question the wisdom in having such an individual appointed to a crucial role, and Neville has gone in two-footed.

“How can it be that four players that have never been businessmen, never been sporting directors, never managed a club, never coached, are put forward for this amazingly difficult role at the biggest club in the world? It’s a shambles,” he told Sky Sports.

“Sorting things out doesn’t just start in the dressing room. They need someone to run the football club. What they should do to start with is shift the people running the club back into the business side down in London, put a new football department in charge who are the best-in class, not who have played for the club, been at the club 15 years, played 200 games or a fan, the best-in-class football operators. They’ve got three at City – not one, three.

“Underneath that, put in the right recruitment people, the right technical people. Then the coach will find things a lot easier, and you’ll get the right spirit in the dressing room, the right group of people in the dressing room – you’ve seen one out here, like Harry Maguire, I’m not disrespecting Leicester, but he’s the type of character that you would expect to see.

“From that point, you might get into the top four, finish fourth and third, and you’ll develop a team the fans like and we can respect professionally. That might take two or three years, and you can then go on for the title. This is a five-year project.

“They’re not going to go from where they are now to winning the title in the next 12 to 18 months, two years. It’s not going to happen. Think about a plan that’s going to work, but you’ve got to get the right people in first.

“The first three or four years out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s era, I can explain. Sir Alex and David Gill leave within 10 minutes of each other, so it’s always been a two-man job. One businessperson and one manager.

“I can understand why they went for David Moyes, who fitted in line with what they’ve gone with historically, and why they moved someone within the club too. When Peter Kenyon left, David Gill took over. So that’s fine, Ed Woodward came in.

“But he’s had seven years now at this, he’s had his chance at running the football side of the club. I’ve got no problem with keeping him in with the business side of things, the revenues and operating profit are probably pleasing the Glazer family enormously.

“But now you have to think that two-person structure hasn’t worked for the first three or four years, it’s now a situation whereby they have to bring a different structure in. They need to bring in the best-in class and step aside.

“I will never ask for a manager to be sacked on Sky. I never will. I’m never going to turn around when one gets appointed and say it’s the wrong appointment. The reality is, you don’t know sometimes. When Mauricio Pochettino came to Southampton and Nigel Adkins left, we thought it was a little bit strange. It turned out to be an inspired appointment.

“When David Moyes is appointed you try to support him; we’re ex-professionals, we’ve been in changing rooms ourselves. Over the last five years, the club has ricocheted like a pinball between managers with different philosophies.

“They’ve been pulled around, played in the transfer market time and time again, and forget if I would’ve agreed with it or not at the time, if you’ve not delivered success on the pitch, for five, six, seven years, there comes a point where you have to say – hang on a second, it can’t keep on being the coach. There must be people above who have to step aside and move into a different role.

“If I ran a football club, and I didn’t achieve our goals for seven years, I wouldn’t think I was doing very well. The goals of Manchester United aren’t just about the bottom line, of course it has to make a lot of profit, but it has to deliver performance and results, and it’s not.

“Ole has a two-stage job. The idea they should talk about a Premier League title-winning team right now is nonsensical, forget it. The first thing they have to do is cleanse the dressing room; cleanse the club. That’s from the top to the bottom, to be quite honest.

“They’ve had coaches over the last six to seven years who have been best-in-class. Jose Mourinho was an equal in relation to Pep Guardiola in terms of success over 20 years. Louis van Gaal is one of the most experienced managers over the past 25 years.

“They’ve experienced best-in-class coaches who have failed. You have to say to yourself, is it just the coach? There’s a cultural problem. It’s deep, the decisions are bad. The choices are poor. Who’s signing the players this summer? At every other club in the country, I could tell you who’s in charge of signings. I haven’t got a clue at Manchester United.

“They’ve still got Sir Alex’s chief scout, they’ve got Van Gaal’s scout. They’ve got David Moyes’ chief football operator there, four or five people there and another I think who has been appointed by Ed Woodward. You’ve got a head coach who has an opinion, a CEO with an opinion, who’s in charge? Who has the final say?

“Jose Mourinho, last summer, was told his signings that he wanted were not right. He didn’t cover himself in glory – he should have moved to Manchester, he should have committed to buying a house. He should’ve smiled a little bit more, it should be a joy to manage Manchester United.

“Maybe the football wasn’t the most delightful, but actually it was better than I thought under Van Gaal. He made some wrong decisions, but you have to ask who’s telling him, a manager who has won things wherever he has been, that you cannot sign that centre back? Who’s qualified to tell him that?

“Last year there were two centre backs that Jose wanted to bring in and the club refused. They might not have been the right centre backs, it might have been the right decision, but once you start going against your manager on signings, he might as well walk out of the door.

“You can’t bring him in and then say you didn’t like his last two signings, so you’re not going to support him on this one. You either work with him or you don’t. And as soon as they weren’t, they should have moved him out. Because as soon as you’re not supported as a manager with your signings, you’re finished.”