Manchester City are ahead of United in almost every sector and that is also the case in comms.
Those who know Omar Berrada says he is comfortable in the limelight, so he is bound to have revelled in the attention he generated on Saturday night.
City were first to react to the news Berrada was crossing the city divide. The champions quickly framed a flattering narrative even though United had poached a time-served and vital employee. City conceded they are sorry to lose Berrada but it is validation they are the best-in-class at football operations.
United have pulled off a rare coup and had an open goal. They missed it. A puff of smoke did not emerge from Old Trafford until 9.30pm on Saturday, not an optimum time for online news and possibly too late to make first editions.
READ MORE: United explain Berrada appointment
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Berrada speaks with the MEN
Their 187-word statement does mark a significant departure at hierarchical level. While Ineos await regulatory approval, co-chairmen Joel and Avram Glazer remain the power brokers. United sources say there was “consultation” with Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
But this is Ratcliffe’s appointment. He has not settled for an in-house Glazer stooge and instead head-hunted someone synonymous with success rather than failure.
Collette Roche, the United chief operating officer, has admirers. But as the old fanzine Red Issue once said, Roche “oversaw the descent of Manchester Airport from one of Europe’s best in the early 2000s to a £-obsessed embarrassment (sound familiar?)”. The new chief executive had to be an external hire.
However much some may stress this is technically a Glazer move, it is not remotely theirs. Read the statement back. Do you think they approved the second paragraph?
“The club is determined to put football and performance on the pitch back at the heart of everything we do. Omar’s appointment represents the first step on this journey.”
Berrada is a bullish move that earned a bullish statement. “It is our stated ambition to re-establish Manchester United as a title-winning club.
“We are pleased that Omar will be joining us to help achieve that goal, so that, once again, United fans can see, in the words of Sir Matt Busby, the red flag flying high at the summit of English, European and world football.”
Joel nor Avram will have a clue that “keep the red flag flying high” are lyrics in one of the most poignant United chants. The “our” in “It is our stated ambition” is the Ineos Group, not the Glazers. The statement is more Failsworth than Tampa.
United supporters should be encouraged. The days of the Glazer rule are all but over, irrespective of their stakeholding. The plaques bearing the words ‘The Glazer Family’ that are attached to the leather-padded seats in the Old Trafford directors’ box should be unscrewed.
The compliant culture of David Gill, Ed Woodward and Richard Arnold has come to an end. Arnold jumped before he was pushed late last year.
Ineos had to prioritise United’s structure ahead of another summer rebuilding the squad. Berrada will report into Jean-Claude Blanc, the Ineos sporting chief executive, and the next arrival has to be a sporting director with Sir Dave Brailsford as their line manager.
Ineos need new faces to give United a new image, rather than one of continuity. Berrada is an ambitious addition and so would Dan Ashworth if he can be prised from Newcastle United.
When the Manchester Evening News interviewed Berrada in September 2020, he stressed, “We spend smartly.” Ratcliffe’s only quotable quip on United is the “dumb money” they have spent.
Berrada’s Twitter history includes sharing articles titled ‘Manchester United: how did they get into this mess?’, ‘Report claims Manchester United overpaid by £24m for Ángel di María’ and ‘Quietly, Manchester City are beating United at the generation game’. The most recent was dated October 2015. United are still in a mess, still overpay and City beat them at most games.
How apt that in a season where United have lost more games than they have won one of their finest days came in a week where the first team is not playing. The academy triumphed 1-0 in the mini derby at Carrington on Saturday morning.
Then there was some Saturday night fever with the Berrada news.