Sir Jim Ratcliffe
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Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Three-Year Plan: Can He Fix Manchester United’s Issues?

Manchester United, one of England’s most decorated football clubs with a massive global following, has steadily declined over the past decade. However, the recent acquisition of the club by British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has renewed hopes for United fans worldwide. Ratcliffe, a lifelong United fan and one of Britain’s wealthiest businessmen, has laid out an ambitious three-year plan to restore the Red Devils to their former glory.

A Decade of Decline

Since the retirement of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, Manchester United has struggled to find consistency on the pitch. Poor recruitment and constantly changing managers have seen the club slip further behind rivals Manchester City and Liverpool. United last won the Premier League title in 2013 and the Champions League in 2008. The club’s performances in recent years starkly contrast to their trophy-laden years under Ferguson.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe summed up the problems at United over the past decade: “If you look at the 11 years that have gone since David Gill and Sir Alex stepped down, there has been a whole series of coaches. Some of them were very good, but none of them has been successful or survived for very long. You can’t blame all the coaches. The only conclusion is that the environment in which they were working didn’t work.”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Takeover

After months of negotiations, the Glazer family, which has owned United since 2005, agreed to sell a 25% stake to Ratcliffe for £1.5 billion in December 2022. Crucially, the deal hands Ratcliffe operational control over football matters at the club.

A lifelong United fan, Sir Jim Ratcliffe has made no secret of his desire to transform the club’s fortunes on the field. Ratcliffe stated his vision for United: “It’s not a light switch. It’s not one of these things that change overnight. The fans would run out of patience if it was a 10-year plan. But it’s certainly a three-year plan to get there. I think the key thing is our trajectory so that people can see that we’re making progress.”

Backing Ten Hag

A crucial part of Ratcliffe’s plan involves backing current manager Erik ten Hag. The Dutch tactician was hired in the summer of 2022 and has struggled to implement his playing philosophy. However, United’s form has improved recently, easing pressure on Ten Hag.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe made it clear Ten Hag will be given time to build a successful team: “We’re not going to go back and forth between the Jose Mourinho style and the Pep Guardiola style. That’s not the way we’ll run the club. Otherwise, you change all the time, we won’t do that. In modern football, you have to decide which path to follow and stick to it.”

However, failure to meet objectives could still jeopardize Ten Hag’s position. “We need to be as good as anyone else in the game at recruitment and we haven’t been,” said Ratcliffe. Better recruitment has been identified as a critical area for United to improve.

Reorganizing Recruitment

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has brought several new faces to overhaul United’s underperforming recruitment department. This includes poaching Manchester City’s Head of Recruitment, Omar Berrada.

“FFP [Financial Fair Play] is a new element in football and a really important part of managing a football club well. We will assess how much money we have available and use it well,” said Ratcliffe about improving United’s hit-and-miss transfer policy.

Dan Ashworth, Technical Director at Newcastle United, is also believed to be a top target to become United’s first Sporting Director. Sir Jim Ratcliffe said he found Newcastle’s £20 million compensation demand for Ashworth “silly” and confirmed he would do what it took to land his top targets.

Revamping the Squad

An immediate squad overhaul is unrealistic due to Financial Fair Play limitations. But better recruitment over the following few transfer windows will lay the foundations for a successful team. Established players like David de Gea, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford could complement new signings.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe namechecked Liverpool and Manchester City as the “enemy”, saying he would like nothing more than to displace them from the top of English football. Closing the gap to the Premier League’s top two clubs is the minimum expectation over the next three years.

Ten Hag will also have to deal with the divisive matter of Mason Greenwood’s future. The young forward remains suspended by United over assault allegations. Sir Jim Ratcliffe did not rule out reintegrating Greenwood back into the first-team squad.

Redeveloping Old Trafford

Alongside improving performances on the pitch, Ratcliffe also has big plans for United’s iconic Old Trafford stadium. Calling the 114-year-old stadium “tired and in need of refurbishment”, Ratcliffe wants to build an entirely new stadium adjacent to the current site.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe believes investing in a new 60,000+ seater stadium to host major European finals could catalyze regeneration in Manchester’s deprived southern districts. United legend Gary Neville will advise Ratcliffe on the redevelopment.

No Quick Fixes

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has hugely ambitious plans for United. But he also cautioned fans that reviving the sleeping giant of English football will take time. Qualifying for the Champions League and winning trophies again would mark significant progress.

With his proven track record in business, Sir Jim Ratcliffe has the resources and insight to revive Manchester United. But a measured, long-term approach will be needed, not rash quick fixes. The next three years will be crucial in setting the club up for a return to its former glories.

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