Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Why Man Utd want to appoint Jason Wilcox as Ratcliffe revamp gathers pace

Ryan Baldi
Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Jason Wilcox

Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants Jason Wilcox to be part of his Man Utd revamp

Manchester United’s reshuffle under new part-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS group continues to gather pace, with Southampton director of football Jason Wilcox the latest to be linked with a role at Old Trafford.

Questions over Erik ten Hag’s future as manager and speculation surrounding big-money transfer targets are unlikely to be resolved before the summer, but the club’s new decision makers are wasting no time in executing a behind-the-scenes overhaul.

The highly regarded Omar Berrada has already been poached from rivals Manchester City to serve as CEO, while United’s pursuit of Dan Ashworth from Newcastle United to be their new sporting director is ongoing.

Now, in Wilcox, Ratcliffe and co. have identified their prime candidate for the role of technical director. And Southampton are said to be angered by nature and timing of United’s approach, coming so late into a season in which they are chasing promotion from the Championship.

So who is Wilcox and why are Man Utd so determined to hire him?

From Premier League winner to developer of talent

As a player, Wilcox was a Premier League winner with Blackburn Rovers in 1995 and earned three senior England caps. After a decade in the Ewood Park first team, the left winger went on to spells with Leeds United, Leicester City and Blackpool before retiring in 2006.

After stepping back from the inner workings of the game to work in the football media for a period, Wilcox took his first steps in coaching when he joined Manchester City’s academy staff in 2012.

From there, he worked his way up to the position of under-18s manager, guiding City’s youngsters to two FA Youth Cup finals, before becoming the club’s academy director in 2017.

And it was within City’s youth set-up that Wilcox earned his reputation as an astute spotter and developer of talent. The likes of Cole Palmer, Phil Foden and Oscar Bobb were all either coached directly by the 53-year-old or benefitted from the elite developmental environment his oversaw in east Manchester.

Palmer’s rise – first with City and now with Chelsea and England – perhaps speaks highest to Wilcox’s keen eye for a future star. Around the age of 16, City were considering Palmer for release, with some coaches and decision makers deeming the forward’s development to have stalled to the point he’d fallen too far behind his peers to have a viable future at the Etihad.

But Wilcox was always one of Palmer’s biggest believers. He stuck by the youngster from Wythenshawe, who eventually broke into Pep Guardiola’s first team before earning the club £40 million when he was sold to Chelsea last summer.

Wilcox’s finely tuned sense of when to part ways with players will be attractive to United, too. The 20-time champions have been notoriously poor sellers on the transfer market over the past decade, with players bought for huge sums and handed gigantic salaries, only for the club to struggle to move them on down the line, putting United in a tight spot in respect of the Financial Fair Play rules when they want to spend on more new signings.

READ MOREThe entire Man Utd XI Ratcliffe can brutally axe to cut £85m from wage bill

In May 2019, the Daily Mail estimated that City had made £125.8 million in the previous five seasons through the sale of academy-bred players, with many of the biggest deals coming under Wilcox’s tenure as academy director.

And in his first summer transfer window at Southampton, he oversaw the sale of Romeo Lavia, who was sold to Chelsea for £50 million after just one season in the Saints first team, as well as the departures of others such as James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Tella, recouping £160 million for the recently relegated club.

Ratcliffe eager for Man Utd revamp

Man Utd co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe

That United are moving so aggressively to hire Wilcox now, rather than waiting until the end of the season, is a clear indicator of INEOS’ desire to revamp the club as quickly as possible. His previous working relationship with Berrada from their time together at City, it seems, fuels a belief within the club that Wilcox can effect instant change at Old Trafford.

Wilcox has reportedly tendered his resignation at St Mary’s in order to join United and the Red Devils are said to have offered a compensation package equivalent to a year’s salary for the Bolton-born director of football, which they believe satisfies a release clause in his contract.

But Southampton are refuting the existence of any such clause and are considering forcing Wilcox to serve a year-long notice period before allowing him to leave.

With their effort to appoint Ashworth similarly complicated by Newcastle’s compensatory demands, United will be keen to find a resolution in order to assemble their first-choice executive team.

But the fact INEOS are moving so swiftly and decisively to place proven, high-achieving decision makers in key positions of influence marks a stark contrast from the club’s Glazer ownership.

Ruthless, decisive and with a clear vision for future success – is this the new United way?