Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos team intend to give data a prominent role in the club’s revamped recruitment operation after being impressed in meetings with Manchester United‘s in-house team of number crunchers.
Ratcliffe intends to oversee a major overhaul of football operations when his 25 per cent stake in the club is ratified, potentially creating a crop of new executive roles and shaking up the way transfer decisions are made.
The club have already appointed Manchester City’s Omar Berrada as chief executive in a move that illustrates Ineos’s desire to get the “best in class” and close the door on a disastrous transfer strategy in which they have spent more than £1bn without seriously challenging for the Premier League title.
And in a sign that Erik ten Hag’s grip on transfer decisions is set to end if he is still at Old Trafford this summer, Ineos want to bring data into decision making – just as they have at Nice and in their other sporting endeavours such as their succesful America’s Cup team and the two-hour marathon challenge.
At Nice they picked unheralded Francesco Farioli, then manager of Alanyaspor, to take over as manager this summer based mainly on a detailed data analysis of candidates. The 34-year-old has done an excellent job, with Nice currently second in Ligue 1.
“Data is part of the DNA at Ineos so it’s no surprise it’s going to be a big part of what they do at Manchester United,” a source told i.
It is understood that Ineos director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford held productive and positive meetings with key members of Manchester United’s data department last month as part of his preliminary audit of the club’s football operations.
“They really spoke Sir Dave’s language,” a source said. “There is a real natural kinship there and Ineos is very big on data so it’s a very important area for Sir Jim and Sir Dave.”
United fan Dominic Jordan is the club’s first director of data science and has previously said he expects data to be “transformational” at Old Trafford.
The club have made no secret of the fact they want to be world leaders in the area and head of data operations Chris Shumba recently told the BBC they are on a “mission to build the best data platform in sport, not just football”.
But some in the analytics world are sceptical about how central it has been to the club’s recent transfer decisions, with deals in the Ten Hag era tending to lean heavily on the personal preferences of the manager. Ten Hag pushed for the £82m signing of Antony and £47.2m signing of goalkeeper Andre Onana and neither has paid off yet.
The Dutchman is unlikely to get such a free rein in the close season – if he survives an Ineos overhaul which is likely to see major changes in the club’s football operation. United are understood to be keen to lower the age profile of their signings, with Everton’s Jarrad Brainthwaite and Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise on their radar.
New part-owner Ratcliffe and his lieutenants have been a visible presence at the club since the investment was agreed. The message is it will be “all systems go” when they get the expected green light from the Premier League.
The club are expected to appoint a new director of football shortly although sources insist the much-vaunted audit of football operations has not yet begun and will only commence when the deal is properly ratified. It could take up to six weeks.
As i revealed last month, the club could yet decide to bring in a head of recruitment and a new sporting director with more control, although talk of appointing Paul Mitchell appears to have cooled.
“We’re still very much in the structural assessment phase of things. I don’t think they have settled yet on what the roles will be and how they will all work together,” a source told i.
It is understood that ratification of Ratcliffe’s investment in United is unlikely to arrive this week as the Premier League “dots the i’s and cross the t’s” of the £1.3bn deal.
But the owners and directors tests are expected to be completed well before the end of the month, which will usher in the next, fascinating phase of the joint Glazers and Ineos era.