John Murtough is copying Michael Edwards’ Liverpool FC transfer approach at Manchester United – Tyrone Marshall

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John Murtough must be getting used to seeing people linked to what is essentially his job at Manchester United. The football director has been in power for a little over a year but every time a major name is mentioned for an Old Trafford vacancy the demand for change amongst supporters is insatiable.

Murtough was an unfashionable appointment, having been part of the furniture at United since 2014 without making many headlines, proving quietly effective in helping to establish the women’s team and make improvements at the academy.

But he lacks the profile and record of some of his peers now he’s been moved to the role of football director and after nine years of disappointment, United fans are accustomed to fearing the worst.

READ MORE: United stance on Michael Edwards and John Murtough

The drawn-out pursuit of Frenkie de Jong is being used as a stick to beat Murtough with now and it does feel like his first summer with overall responsibility for recruitment will be defining, given he’s taking his lead in terms of targets from Erik ten Hag .

In the past few months Paul Mitchell, Dan Ashworth and now Michael Edwards have been linked with jobs at Old Trafford. United have left their football structure open-ended, accepting there could be more appointments in the future, but the reality is that when it comes to football decisions at the club Murtough is now king.

That does not leave a role for Mitchell, Ashworth or Edwards, who have all fulfilled that role at big clubs. They’re not going to accept a position in the shadows, working under Murtough, even if United wanted to appoint them, which club sources insist they don’t.

Since Richard Arnold’s anointment as Ed Woodward’s successor in February, Murtough has seen his position grow in stature, handed more responsibility by a chief executive who will take a hands-off role when it comes to football decisions. The decision to appoint Andy O’Boyle as Murtough’s deputy is a sign his role will narrow to purely first-team affairs now.

Murtough’s appointment in March 2021 was greeted with some skepticism at the time, partly because of his long association with United since joining under David Moyes, and also because he has never courted a public profile. Until recently he could have taken a seat in the Old Trafford directors’ box without a lot of supporters knowing who he was.

But in their long search for someone to head up football operations, United tended to steer clear of recruitment specialists who had boosted their own image with a media-friendly persona, talking up their achievements, such as Monchi and Mitchell.

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The irony is that list probably includes Ralf Rangnick, who boosted his own image through interviews and was never quiet in proclaiming his achievements and selling his own vision, and who turned out to be a flop when he came to Old Trafford.

United were cautious about those candidates who sold themselves in public and also insisted the role was about more than recruitment, but it’s clear Murtough’s focus is now heading in that direction.

Edwards, the architect of the squad Jurgen Klopp has taken to success at Liverpool, is the latest to be linked with a role at United, and although he won’t be coming to the club, there are some similarities between him and Murtough. Both want a low profile for starts, Edwards is unrecognizable to a lot of Liverpool fans, never mind the public football in general, and he has let his work do the talking for him.

Murtough is friendly and engaging in private but has little interest in courting publicity, even in a job that comes with significant pressure. He just wants to get on with the work.

Edwards’ success at Anfield was built on the use of data. He began his career in football as a performance analyst and in his early career at Liverpool he overhauled the club’s use of data analysis.

As part of United’s recruitment overhaul this summer, they are shifting their own focus on to data. There has been a streamlining of the scouting operation and the club are seeking to strengthen their own data analysis under Murtough.

None of this is evidence that Murtough will be as successful as Edwards was, but then six years ago, when Edwards was appointed sporting director at Liverpool, nobody really knew who he was either.

United are finally catching up to the changes in recruitment that other clubs have had in place for years. Murtough is at the vanguard of that and he’s going nowhere for now, but this summer is still going to be crucial for him.

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