Man Utd's director of football candidates - ranked

  • Man Utd nearing appointment of director of football
  • High profile names such as Paolo Maldini, Paul Mitchell and Dan Ashworth linked
  • Ranking eight candidates linked with role

Who will Man Utd turn to?
Who will Man Utd turn to? / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images, VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images

Manchester United have long needed some new figureheads to lead them back to the heights of English and European football.

Their post-Sir Alex Ferguson setups have been a succession of disasters, but there could be some light at the end of the tunnel under the leadership of Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS.

Omar Barreda will make the jump across town from Manchester City in the summer and become United's new CEO, while the Daily Telegraph report their shortlist for a new director of football is down to two candidates.

They do not specify who the duo in question are, but do give an extensive list of people thought to have been on United's radar of late.

Here are those contenders, ranked by how suitable they would be for the United job.

8. Dougie Freedman

Dougie Freedman
A bagsman in his time / Harry Hubbard/GettyImages

Current club: Crystal Palace
Previous clubs: None
Notable transfer hits: Michael Olise, Ebere Eze, Marc Guehi, Joachim Andersen, Conor Gallagher, Cheick Doucoure
Notable transfer misses: Cenk Tosun, Rob Holding

We're not here to say Dougie Freedman is a terrible candidate. Far from it. He's made some lovely little signings with Crystal Palace and clearly has an eye for talent.

But the Eagles have never really kicked on during his spell upstairs at Selhurst Park. He probably needs another move before setting his sights on United.

7. Cristiano Giuntoli

Cristiano Giuntoli
"Hello, Cristiano? It's Chris Tarrant here from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire!" / Gabriele Maltinti/GettyImages

Current club: Juventus
Previous clubs: Napoli, Carpi
Notable transfer hits: Allan, Piotr Zielinski, Fabian Ruiz, Stanislav Lobotka, Matteo Politano, Victor Osimhen, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Kim Min-jae
Notable transfer misses: Vlad Chiriches, Roberto Inglese, Kostas Manolas, Hirving Lozano, Andrea Petagna, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Axel Tuanzebe,

It's only been in recent years that Cristiano Giuntoli, so often responsible for building some rather haphazard Napoli teams, has received his flowers for some of his recruitment.

He's essentially only just got to Juventus, though. Prying him away from I Bianconeri while they're on the up again feels unlikely.

6. Andrea Berta

Thanks for this wonderful crossover, Andrea / GABRIEL BOUYS/GettyImages

Current club: Atletico Madrid
Previous clubs: Genoa
Notable transfer hits: Jose Gimenez, Jan Oblak, Antoine Griezmann, Rodri, Thomas Lemar, Marcos Llorente, Kieran Trippier, Luis Suarez,
Notable transfer misses: Alessio Cerci, Jackson Martinez, Luciano Vietto, Kevin Gameiro, Nico Gaitan, Diego Costa, Joao Felix, Matt Doherty, Caglar Soyuncu

You don't get more qualified for United than 'actually went through with signing Nico Gaitan' like Andrea Berta did.

It's tough for Atletico Madrid to compete against Real Madrid and Barcelona, but Berta's kept them in the mix and they've won La Liga twice during his spell in the Spanish capital.

5. Lee Congerton

Current club: Atalanta
Previous clubs: Leicester, Celtic, Sunderland, Hamburg, Chelsea
Notable transfer hits: Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, Ashley Cole, Nemanja Matic, Ramires, Jermain Defoe, Wesley Fofana, Ederson, Rasmus Hojlund, Ademola Lookman
Notable transfer misses: Shaun Wright-Phillips, Andriy Shevchenko, Jose Bosingwa, Fernando Torres, Boubakary Soumare, Jannik Vestergaard

Lee Congerton's experience in the game serves him well against other candidates, but questions should be asked of his career route after leaving his role as chief scout at Chelsea in 2011.

4. Paul Mitchell

Keep smiling, everybody's happy / VALERY HACHE/GettyImages

Current club: Unemployed
Previous clubs: AS Monaco, RB Leipzig, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Milton Keynes Dons
Notable transfer hits: Sadio Mane, Jay Rodriguez, Dejan Lovren, Son Heung-min, Victor Wanyama, Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier, Dele Alli, Matheus Cunha, Nordi Mukiele, Axel Disasi, Vanderson
Notable transfer misses: Gaston Ramirez, Davinson Sanchez, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Clinton N'Jie, Vincent Janssen, Myron Boadu

During his time at Tottenham, Paul Mitchell was heralded for a 'black book of transfers' which he used to great success at Southampton.

He then proceeded to try and sign several key players from Southampton, obviously.

3. Julian Ward

Current club: Unemployed
Previous clubs: Liverpool
Notable transfer hits: Ibrahima Konate, Luis Diaz
Notable transfer misses: Ozan Kabak, Fabio Carvalho

Julian Ward's short career so far is a positive and a negative. A lot of the signings on his watch at Liverpool are still playing out, but his relative youth gives him an advantage in keeping up with the modern game.

2. Paolo Maldini (and Frederic Massara)

Paolo Maldini, Frederic Massara
The duo have left Milan / Marco Luzzani/GettyImages

Current club: Unemployed
Previous clubs: Milan, Roma
Notable transfer hits: Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leao, Ismael Bennacer, Sandro Tonali, Fikayo Tomori, Mike Maignan, Olivier Giroud, Brahim Diaz
Notable transfer misses: Leo Duarte, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Divock Origi, Charles De Ketelaere

The only reason Paolo Maldini and right-hand-man Frederic Massara haven't been linked to more jobs is because of the former's lifelong association with Milan. It's just so hard to imagine him working for another club.

But the two are largely responsible for building the Scudetto-winning side of 2021/22, filled with players who would perform in any top league and not just Serie A. United could do a lot worse than turn to them.

1. Dan Ashworth

Dan Ashworth
A man with a plan / Dan Mullan/GettyImages

Current club: Newcastle United
Previous clubs: Brighton & Hove Albion, West Bromwich Albion
Notable transfer hits: Bruno Guimaraes, Alexander Isak, Anthony Gordon, Kaoru Mitoma, Moises Caicedo, Evan Ferguson, Leandro Trossard, Romelu Lukaku
Notable transfer misses: Sandro Tonali, Neal Maupay, Adam Webster

With experience under his belt at two clubs on the up as well as the England national team, plus a reputation as one of the country's top talent-spotters, Dan Ashworth is the leading candidate. He's the poster boy for sporting directors in the Premier League.