Manchester United are right back where they were after Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager nine years ago. Five managers have taken the job on since and have struggled to live up to his immeasurable legacy.
While he has been the toughest of acts to follow, there have been so many bad decisions made behind the scenes at the club that have held back his successors, leading the club to regress and hit the reset button on a frequent basis - Groundhog Day if you will.
It has been confirmed that Erik ten Hag will be the latest manager to take on this almighty challenge from next season. He arrives with a strong coaching philosophy and silverware, but he will undoubtedly need support as the revival of Manchester United cannot be achieved single-handed.
By saying he needs support, it doesn’t just refer to the players on the pitch actually performing to the level that Manchester United demands. It's been clear for a long time that there needs to be a clear vision shared on the pitch and in the boardroom so that everyone at Old Trafford is pulling in the same direction. Current interim boss Ralf Rangnick will be moving upstairs into a consultancy role and there is already a sense that he and Ten Hag are going to be great allies, but they will need reinforcements to help get Manchester United back to where they want to be. They currently have technical director Darren Fletcher to support them, but there is a crying need for assistance in the recruitment department.
It is believed that the pair are pushing for United to appoint Monaco’s Paul Mitchell as their new head of recruitment. He has a wealth of experience in this job role which is integral for the footballing side of club operations to run smoothly. He is believed to be wanting away from Monaco this summer and United cannot allow this opportunity to pass them by. This is a position that the club needs to fill urgently with the right person to supervise United’s rebirth. Mitchell has a glowing CV and should they be able to lure him to the Theatre of Dreams, he will likely be United’s best piece of business this summer.
As a former Manchester City youth player, Mitchell went on to play for Wigan Athletic and MK Dons at senior level with several others on loan. He spent four years with the Dons, becoming captain when he joined them permanently in 2005 after a successful loan spell. But when his career was brought to an end in 2009 after he struggled to battle back from an injury, it didn’t take him long to find his true calling.
In 2010, when MK Dons appointed Karl Robinson as manager, the club created a recruitment division and tasked Mitchell with leading it. Remember when the Dons notably signed former England international Alan Smith? That was Mitchell. After two years he moved on to Championship club Southampton in the same role, with the Saints achieving promotion to the Premier League in Mitchell’s first year at St Mary’s. Following the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino in 2013, Mitchell assisted the Argentine build up a solid reputation in the top-flight and when the manager moved over to Tottenham Hotspur, Mitchell quickly followed to continue their professional relationship.
It is hardly surprising that he eventually fell out with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and he subsequently left the club. His next position was over in Europe as headed the recruitment team at RB Leipzig where he spent a further two years before joining Monaco in June 2020.
You may wonder why the 40-year-old is so highly thought of in the game, but the evidence is in plain sight. When you see his transfer record at each of the clubs he has been involved with you will see some of the stellar signings that have been made under his watch. At Southampton, he was the man able to bring Sadio Mane to the south coast for just £10 million - and what a career he’s gone on to have.
One of his greatest attributes is having a keen eye on talent in Europe and not just in the UK. Mane was the first of his shrewd pieces of business but the crown jewel of his captures has to be Son Heung-min for Tottenham Hotspur for just £22 million, and we all know what a bargain he turned out to be. But more recently Mitchell was the one to bring French attacker Christopher Nkunku to RB Leipzig, who is having an unbelievable season in 2021-22 and has also been linked with a move to Old Trafford.
While Manchester United fans will like the pedigree of players Mitchell has the ability to attract, they know that much of their current problems emerge from the defence. They’ll be pleased to know that Mitchell is not just an expert in scouting attackers. At Southampton and Spurs, he was vital in bringing Belgian Toby Aldeweireld to both clubs, while he took Kieran Trippier to north London who went on to fill the void left by Kyle Walker when he joined Manchester City.
The links will likely be more than just wishful thinking. He’s a man from the area, the current boss and soon-to-be consultant Rangnick knows him from their time together at Leipzig and the club recently announced that current scouts Jim Lawlor and Marcel Bout are leaving at the end of the campaign.
If United want to avoid all the mistakes from the past nine years repeating themselves they need to get this appointment right at the first attempt and right now, there seems to be no one more qualified than Mitchell. Should United succeed in bringing him in, it will provide the fans with a huge lift and fill them with confidence that critical changes are being made behind the scenes to help United return to its former glory.