Sir Jim Ratcliffe looking to build new 'sporting department' at Manchester United

  • Ratcliffe set to be announced as owner of 25% stake in United in coming days
  • New sporting department to be built, consisting of CEO, sporting director + more roles
  • Jean-Claude Blanc and Paul Mitchell could be joined by more appointments

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is set to complete the purchase of a 25% stake in Manchester United
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is set to complete the purchase of a 25% stake in Manchester United / Eric Alonso/GettyImages

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is planning to build a new football operations department at Manchester United once his purchase of a 25% stake in the club is confirmed, 90min understands.

An official announcement of Ratcliffe's acquisition could be made this week, with Wednesday 22 November marking a year to the day since current owners the Glazer family announced they were looking to "explore strategic alternatives" for the club.

The chosen path is set to come in the form of Ratcliffe's purchase of stake, with £245m worth in investment into United's infrastructure set to follow. Ratcliffe is also set to gain control of sporting operations as part of his purchase and the club have already officially communicated that chief executive Richard Arnold is to leave his role.

Confirmation of Arnold's departure came last Wednesday, with Patrick Stewart stepping in to replace Arnold on an interim basis, in addition to his existing role as general counsel. Arnold himself had only been in the position since February 2022 following the departure of Ed Woodward and has endured a challenging time in the position as the club have had a multitude of off-field situations to manage.

A new CEO will be appointed in time and 90min understands Jean-Claude Blanc, formerly of Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, is likely to be confirmed in the role on a full-time basis as part of Ratcliffe's plans.

Blanc is credited with turning Juventus' fortunes around following the 2006 Calciopoli scandal and subsequent relegation, bringing them back to the top of Serie A and playing a pivotal role in their plan to move to a new stadium.

The 60-year-old also spent 11 years in Paris, a time in which the French champions won 28 trophies. Blanc helped transform PSG from a team adrift from Europe's elite to one of world football's leading global brands and a commercial powerhouse and is considered the strongest executive PSG have employed since their Qatar takeover - laying the foundations for their project.

Paris Saint-Germain v Montpellier HSC - Ligue 1
Jean-Claude Blanc has extensive experience of turning around clubs who have lost their way, as he has shown in previous roles with Juventus and PSG / Xavier Laine/GettyImages

Described as a "constant" and a "stabiliser" to PSG, Blanc moved to join INEOS in 2022 as chief executive of INEOS Sport. His role to date has been to oversee the company's sporting portfolio which spans across other football clubs Lausanne-Sport and OGC Nice, Formula One with Mercedes, as well as cycling, sailing and rugby.

Blanc is expected to be turned to by Ratcliffe as CEO, and his appointment won't be the only one.

90min understands a new sporting director and further roles beyond the established two can be expected to follow in due course. It has been learned that Ratcliffe and INEOS want to install a new "football department" at United, similar to the idea of what's been installed at Chelsea - but more concentrated and less extensive.

There are a number of names being considered to become the new sporting director, with John Murtough, the club's current football director, expected to eventually follow Arnold and leave once operations are up and running under Ratcliffe's control.

Michael Edwards has been looked into as a potential option but 90min has learned that the former Liverpool sporting director will not occupy a role at United, with other candidates in the running instead. Lee Congerton, currently at Atalanta in Serie A, and Dougie Freedman, of Crystal Palace and an ally of Sir Alex Ferguson, have been among names considered as INEOS do their due diligence.

Milan legend Paolo Maldini has been rumoured in reports from elsewhere while INEOS like Brentford technical director Lee Dykes, who has been previously linked and is liked by some within the framework for his analytics approach. Appointments beyond a sporting director and new CEO could follow in the months following Ratcliffe's acquisition and as the results of an inquiry into the running of the club led by Sir Dave Brailsford become clearer.

90min understands, however, that Paul Mitchell remains the favoured option for the role. The former Monaco, RB Leipzig and Tottenham director has been established as Ratcliffe's top choice for the job for a number of months.

Mitchell has already publicly spoken about United's situation as a club while in his role at Monaco in July 2022.

"They [Manchester United] need a top blueprint not only for now but for the next five years, and work towards that," he told Sky Sports. "Sometimes on that journey there are hard moments when you don't get the right results, even though you're doing the right things.

"You have to know that, over that period, the consistency of the decision-making will yield a good end result. I think we've seen that both Manchester City and Liverpool, that when you adopt that long-term strategy you can get real consistency and sustainable success.

"I think that's the biggest thing for Manchester United; putting down their identity of what they want to be today, but most crucially what they want to be in five years' time, and where they want to be, and what they want to look like; from everything from young players, to the style of play, to the whole culture in Manchester United."