The Red Devils have faced criticism in the past for lagging behind their rivals, but a recent embrace of technology has come just at the right time
Manchester United have been accused of falling behind their Premier League rivals when it comes to recruitment in recent years, both at youth and senior level.
Within the first team, multiple big-name new signings have been brought to Old Trafford at huge expense, only to fail to live up to the hype thanks, in part, to the lack of a clear strategy.
Former manager Jose Mourinho famously aimed a thinly-veiled dig at the way the club bought its players, saying he would rather work with “five very close scouts than over 500”.
Questions have been asked of their academy’s recruitment too, with a number of young players from the local area choosing to join other clubs despite United’s record of developing teenage talents.
A recent embrace of scouting technology, however, has allowed the Red Devils to play catch-up – and it could not have come at a better time given the current situation brought about by Covid-19.
Once it became clear that the pandemic would have a huge significance on the working patterns of the club’s staff, United made it clear they would not be furloughing any of their employees, and certain members of staff who were unable to work from home were encouraged to volunteer in their local communities.
And while many of the roles behind the scenes at a multi-billion pound football club can be performed from home, traditional methods of grassroots scouting have, for obvious reasons, become impossible.
The change in United’s thinking began with the club’s scouting network across Europe, South America and Asia being tripled in size over recent years. This was not necessarily done in an effort to bring in more talent, but instead to ensure that United are across all potential rising stars.
“We’ve expanded our recruitment department in recent years and we believe this now runs in an efficient and productive way,” executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said in 2019. “Player recommendations and decisions are worked on by this department and by the first-team manager and his staff, not by senior management.”