JEFF POWELL: Manchester United need to make Sir Alex Ferguson their director of football

The powers that be at Manchester United can’t see the wood for the trees.

Too many cooks are spoiling the broth.

They are so close to the problem that they fail to recognise the answer staring them in the face.

It is time for the iconic Sir Alex Ferguson to become director of football at Manchester United

There is no one better equipped to take the role and help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer than Ferguson

There is no one better equipped to take the role and help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer than Ferguson

Go with whichever cliche you like. They all apply to the masters of this particular universe.

Not least this one: The elephant is in the room. Although this magnificent beast is not so much in the boardroom at Old Trafford as sitting next to the directors at most matches.

It goes by the name of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson has been forced to watch on helplessly during United's losses to Liverpool and City

Ferguson has been forced to watch on helplessly during United’s losses to Liverpool and City

It is nothing less than preposterous that the greatest football manager of all time is not being asked to impose his unsurpassed wealth of knowledge and galvanising force of personality against the slump now besetting the club he loves.

It is absolutely ridiculous that the task of reasserting United as one of the mightiest powers of the global game is being entrusted to a gaggle of good old boys and middle management suits.

While it would be asking too much of Ferguson to return to the stress of full-on duties, no matter how complete his recovery from that life-threatening brain haemorrhage, surely he is the man to bring oversight to a much-needed salvage operation.

Has there ever been anyone better equipped to ease himself into the role of Director of Football than Fergie? The over-riding remits of that position are to assist the manager to trophy-laden success with the first team and help identify and recruit the stars to make that possible.

The all-time great has tried not to show that he is squirming inside due to the club's failures

The all-time great has tried not to show that he is squirming inside due to the club’s failures

Middle management suits have also been handed control over United (left, Ed Woodward)

Middle management suits have also been handed control over United (left, Ed Woodward)

Yet according to most accounts Sir Alex is barely, if ever, engaged in such discussions, while that position itself is occupied by – er – John Murtough.

John who, the fretful supporters ask? Apparently Mr Murtough is quite well liked by the players at Old Trafford but he is more an establishment figure. 

Once in charge of player development at the Premier League, whatever on earth that may mean, he was promoted earlier this year from his job as joint head of Academy and recruitment with United’s women’s team.

Below him come ex-player Darren Fletcher as Technical Director, then somebodies called Mick Court as technical chief scout, Matt Judge as director of transfer negotiations and Justin Cochrane as head of first team player development. 

United's Football Director is John Murtough (left), well-liked but more an establishment figure

United’s Football Director is John Murtough (left), well-liked but more an establishment figure

Two more of the Old Trafford faithful, Mike Phelan and Michael Carrick, as well as Kieran McKenna are the first team coaches.

Worthy gentleman, no doubt. But while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs all the high-powered help he can get, Sir Alex sits watching humiliation by Liverpool and damage limitation surrender to Manchester City… while trying not to show how much he is squirming inside.

Should the great man be called upon at this time of crisis, when even this Saturday’s visit to Watford looks fraught with anxiety? Frankly, it’s a no-brainer. 

But don’t just harken to me. Ask Bryan Robson, who eulogises Fergie in his splendid movie Robbo: The Bryan Robson Story which goes on release at Manchester’s Home Cinema next week then on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and Blu-Ray. He answers: ‘The question is why not? The Gaffer has so much more to offer’.

Solskjaer needs all the high-powered help he can get and has sought Ferguson's advice before

Solskjaer needs all the high-powered help he can get and has sought Ferguson’s advice before

Would he come back? ‘I think so now,’ says Robson. ‘He deliberately steered clear when Ole was appointed. He didn’t want to be a heavy presence on any new manager. But I see signs he would give his input now if asked.’

There are suggestions that Solskjaer has sought Ferguson’s advice no more than three or four times in his three years in charge.

If he feels somewhat intimidated by the maestro’s presence he needs reminding that Fergie embraced the legend of Sir Matt Busby and had no hesitation in picking his illustrious predecessor’s brain. 

What he would never have done is call a meeting of senior pros to advise him on where to go from here, as Solskjaer is reported to have done this week.

The looming departure of Woodward may make it easier for Ferguson to gain some influence

The looming departure of Woodward may make it easier for Ferguson to gain some influence

It is understood now that Sir Alex was influential in persuading Cristiano Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford and he is known to have made a recent visit to the training ground as the pressure on his latest successor intensifies.

The impending departure of fan-hated chief executive Ed Woodward might make it easier for Fergie to return to a position of influence. 

Meanwhile, as Solskjaer faces potentially more challenging fixtures at Chelsea and against Arsenal following the trip to Watford, Murtough labours on under this facet of his job description: ‘Superior to the various team managers and working day to day with Ole to align recruitment and other strategies to ensure the first team has the first class operational support it needs to succeed.’

That sounds like corporate speak designed to reassure the Glazer family in their American way of doing business. As Robson says: ‘The Gaffer’s way of winning was by effing hard work.’

Ferguson is the solution, not the problem, and he may be open to returning above Solskjaer

Ferguson is the solution, not the problem, and he may be open to returning above Solskjaer

Anyway. How’s that high-falutin approach working out right now, gentlemen? 

It is fun imagining how Sir Alex would have reacted to any attempt at such supervision. And fond as he is of his former players among the current staff, he would not shirk from pruning them if he deemed that necessary.

Robson is as appalled as myself to see and hear Ferguson being described by more than one critic as ‘that old man’ casting a baleful shadow of Old Trafford ‘who should be got rid of.’

Like Ronaldo – without whose goals their most dynamic captain ever reminds United they would currently be ‘out of the Champions League and in the bottom half of the Premier League’ – Alexander The Great is not the problem. He is the solution.

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