Man Utd CEO selection is huge but last week proved bigger Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s challenge awaits

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Manchester United announced the appointment of Omar Berrada as the club’s next CEO

Last week should have been a quiet seven days at Manchester United with no matches and players given time away from the club. Yet, it proved to be anything but, as the relentless news cycle surrounding a sporting behemoth continued to whirl.

Five players left either on loan or permanently (Rhys Bennett, Maxi Oyedele, Alvaro Fernandez, Hannibal and Mateo Mejia), Anthony Martial’s agent spoke publicly to deny reports the striker has been frozen out by Erik ten Hag, United refuted claims Raphael Varane could face disciplinary action after his skiing holiday, the club released their alarming first-quarter financial figures, and the selection of a new CEO was confirmed.

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Fans can be forgiven for wanting matches back immediately, but the appointment of Omar Berrada will prove more significant for United than Sunday’s result in Newport.

It was confirmed late on Saturday night that the experienced executive will join from Manchester City at a later date, in what is largely seen as a coup for United. It also marks a complete break from the club’s previous policy, with the last two permanent appointments in this role being former accountants.

That says everything about United’s approach for the last decade where finances have trumped footballing operations. But Sir Jim Ratcliffe has made a conscious effort to demonstrate how he plans to shake things up from the outgoing regime.

Berrada's selection is the biggest indication so far. Not just is this someone with an extensive background in football management, but he played a key role at the best-in-class operator in the industry.

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Ineos’ purchase of 27.69 percent of the club may not have been ratified yet, but Ratcliffe has already proven how markedly different his approach at Old Trafford will be. Even attending the recent 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur was a drastic change from the Glazers, who have not been at a home game since 2019, while taking the time to meet supporters’ groups, club employees and local journalists contrasts with the Glazers’ elusive methods.

United were keen to highlight that the decision to appoint Berrada was made jointly by the incumbent owners and the prospective investors. That is true and even when he is an official shareholder, major non-footballing decisions will need to be confirmed by the Glazers, but even ignorant observers will see this appointment has Ratcliffe’s fingerprints all over it.

Even the accompanying statement acknowledged how on-field success has not been United’s priority. “The Club is determined to put football and performance on the pitch back at the heart of everything we do. Omar’s appointment represents the first step on this journey.”

It’s a remarkable admission from a club who for so long bullied their domestic competitors on and off the field. The latter has been true even in the immediate years after Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, but the financial outlook has changed and United are no longer commercial leaders in football's landscape.

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Even the Glazers’ decision to seek outside investment breaks with convention. Things are changing at Old Trafford.

The impact of Ratcliffe’s new-fangled methods may not bear fruit for many years to come, and early optimism does not always lead to long-term success… a few United managers can attest to that.

Berrada’s appointment was also unheralded. During months of reporting on potential executive arrivals the Spaniard’s name was never mentioned once, and the first rumours of his arrival emerged just hours before the news was confirmed at 9:30pm on Saturday. That is another reason for optimism and the leaked-fuelled circus that has surrounded United also has to end for the club’s sake.

Ratcliffe can change the messaging inside Old Trafford, but managing to stymie the 24/7 turbulence outside the club will be another matter altogether.

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