Liverpool and Manchester United truth is clear to see even as Gary Neville gets his wish

Things appear to be changing at Manchester United. Jim Ratcliffe is wasting no time putting plans into place and among them are hiring Newcastle’s Dan Ashworth as a sporting director.

It does, in fairness, look like the Old Trafford side is making some smart decisions this time around. Ashworth is a clever man and he would not be pushing to leave St James’ Park for a project that he didn’t believe in. The Athletic reports that Ashworth has now been placed on gardening leave after making clear his desire to jump ship.

“The Glazers don’t play football but when you think, for the last 10 years, every Manchester United manager has operated without a sporting director and head of recruitment, it’s madness,” Gary Neville said live on Sky Sports on Sunday. “Forget negligence, it’s just madness.

“Ratcliffe has come in and appointed [people] but that is staggering [that is hasn’t happened earlier]. It would never happen at any other club. What we’re seeing now is normality. It is a sensible thing to do and there is a new energy about the place.

“The turn in fortunes has coincided with Ratcliffe coming in. It has been an about-turn. What Ratcliffe has done is come in and say to all of them, ‘Look, I’m looking at every single one of you lot’.”

But while Neville was getting excited to some extent after Manchester United edged to a victory over Luton Town this weekend, the reality remains clear compared to the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City. The gap in the Premier League remains large even if the right steps are seemingly being taken.

As former writer Josh Williams posted on X/Twitter over the weekend: “Man Utd just faced 20 shots in a Premier League game for the eighth time this season. Liverpool have faced 20 shots twice since Klopp was appointed in 2015.”

Erik ten Hag’s side has the revenues and economic potential, should it be properly realized, to really re-establish itself as a very elite team in the world. Even just doing an average job behind the scenes would make it unstoppable compared to most clubs because of the sheer size of the institution.

But the simple fact of the matter is that there is a long way to catch up. Manchester United has never had a sporting director before and while Liverpool is currently seeking one, it has at least been ahead of the curve with its structure.

If Manchester United can lure Ashworth from Newcastle, his role will involve doing something similar to what he did with the England national team. It would essentially be a case of building what clubs like Liverpool already have.

On and off the pitch, Liverpool, Manchester City and others are streets ahead of the Old Trafford side at the moment. Thanks to a long-term strategy from the top of the club down, Liverpool is well-placed to carry on competing.

Manchester United can only do one thing at a time and slowly play catch-up, but the scale of the job is still enormous. For now, at least, the brutal reality at Old Trafford is that it still has a long way to go before those leading the Premier League will be worried. Neville has begun to get his wish, but it is going to take a while before that comes fully to fruition.



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