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EXCLUSIVE: A complete guide of what Jason Wilcox will bring to Manchester United

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Southampton’s director of football, Jason Wilcox, looks likely to become the next technical director at Manchester United, but what will he bring to the table?

Wilcox, 53, moved to The Saints after spending 11 years at Manchester City, first as an academy coach and then eventually becoming the Academy Director at the Etihad Campus in 2017.

His move to Southampton to lead a cultural change following their relegation to the Championship in 2023 offered an exciting and challenging career change in which he has thrived thus far.

The former Premier League winner with Blackburn Rovers has been described as a “good character who loves to talk about football”, but it has been his intense period at Southampton, following his stint under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium, that has caught the eyes of those at United.

It only makes sense that Sir Jim Ratcliffe, his INEOS chiefs and new CEO Omar Berrada have targetted Wilcox to play an important part in their new regime at Old Trafford; however, many United supporters are unaware of what the former Manchester City man can offer the club.


Jason Wilcox: Familiar with ‘turmoil’ situations

Manchester City’s academy is known to be one of the most talented in Europe, and Wilcox was at the centre of dealing with those teams and players. Yet, his decision to move to St Mary’s after Southampton’s relegation displayed his character.

“He came in at a time when the club was relegated, so he was completely out of turmoil,” Alfie House, senior Southampton reporter for the Daily Echo, exclusively told UtdDistrict.

Whilst the Championship club are not flying high at the top of the table in England’s second tier, there have been extreme developments behind the scenes which can be easily linked to the problems that have been faced at Old Trafford in recent years.

Most importantly, Wilcox was able to quickly fix the issue of a changing game model within the club after Ralph Hasenhüttl and Nathan Jones’ polar opposite styles contributed to their Premier League relegation last term.

“I spoke to the bosses last year,” House added when questioned about Wilcox’s role since joining from Man City. “Dragan Šolak is the main owner, and he said to me the biggest mistake they made last season was changing the game model during the year.

“So they had Ralph Hasenhüttl playing a 4-2-2-2 press. They then brought in Nathan Jones and went long ball, which some fans liked, some fans obviously didn’t. But then they changed it back again.”

Jones was sacked after just 14 games, with just one victory in that time, and Southampton faced the drop weeks later. “Wilcox was basically just to align everything together again,” House explained. “You know, hire a completely new academy, hire a new manager, hire a new head of recruitment, hire a new backroom staff. He did everything in the summer.”

At Manchester United, one of the biggest problems post-Sir Alex Ferguson has been the ever-changing management philosophy. From David Moyes to Erik ten Hag, there has been no clear continuity in the decisions, and ultimately, the playing squad has never been fully adapted to the way that each manager wanted to play.

Dan Ashworth, who is set to become the sporting director once terms are agreed with Newcastle United for his exit, is one man who knows the importance of fixing this issue. Omar Berrada, the new chief executive and former City Football Group CFO, is another. Wilcox’s short history at Southampton has shown that he is another who recognises this and will aid United’s attempts to address the problem.


Jason Wilcox: Expertise in youth progression

Wilcox was one of the most important men at one of the most successful academies. And he certainly learnt a thing or two during his 11 years at United’s rivals.

One important role that he has played at Southampton since joining is aiding the club’s new style being filtered through the academy, something that is already bearing fruits in the first-team squad.

House detailed: “The one thing that you can see that’s happened already, and this is from the first team down to even sort of under-18s, under-16s, is that they do play pretty much exactly the same way, and you can already see the alignment in terms of the way they play.”

This overhaul was partly done through incomings, with the director being in charge of a huge number of changes, both for the first team and in the academy, over the last nine months. “It’s all been completely revamped from last season,” continued House.

Wilcox will not be the key man in charge of Manchester United’s academy, nor the playing style that filters through the club. Nick Cox is doing a brilliant job as the Head of Academy at Carrington, and it is also expected that Ashworth’s role will include all aspects of United, including the youth teams.

“I suppose coming to Manchester United, it would be very different because he’s not going to be designing the play style in his image. He’s going to be working for people above him,” expressed Hosue. “But I suppose he’s done that for Man City for 11 years, working from coach to academy director. He’s worked under people before. So it will be interesting to see what his role is at United if it happens.”

Yet, there is a level of expertise there which will certainly aid this department of the club. A man credited with developing the likes of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, and Cole Palmer will only be good news for those focused on the youth team set-up at United. Omar Berrada is one man who knows this after working with Wilcox at City during his entire tenure from 2011.


Why are Southampton aggrieved at Manchester United’s approach, and what comes next?

After the news of United’s approach for Wilcox broke on Monday evening, Southampton’s reported aggressiveness quickly followed. They were unhappy with the amount of compensation that The Reds were offering – which UtdDistrict understands is equivalent to one year of Wilcox’s current salary at The Saints.

“I think that there’s understandable frustration from the club,” stated House. “This isn’t the first time this has happened to Southampton. Every time they think they’re onto something nice, you know, someone comes and plucks, whether it’s their best player, Sadio Mane or Van Dijk. Joe Shields or managers like Mauricio Pochettino.

“So I think there’s just this frustration that they’ve been on a really good run this season. Things are starting to tilt a little bit, and I wonder if they feel that these sorts of distractions may have played a part in that.”

However, whilst there is a level of frustration at Southampton, House states that the club are willing to negotiate with United and will not stand in the way of Wilcox as long as they get the compensation that they feel is deserved.

“If Man United are willing to pay the price that Southampton need, then they’re happy to negotiate, they’re happy to accept the deal,” he said. “So they’re not going to just fob Man United off because they’ve annoyed them a little bit. They’re going to use that as a bit of leverage to say, look, you need to pay us the price that we’re going to pay.”

The numbers attached to Wilcox’s potential compensation will be nowhere near the reported £20 million that Newcastle initially demanded for Ashworth. From Southampton’s point of view, House says that the one-year salary offer “is not viewed as a huge amount of money”, whilst sources from United insist that there is hope that an amicable solution can be found. This situation appears to be slightly different from the intense standoff with The Magpies.


It appears that there could be a solution that could help both clubs, with United in desperate need of getting their men in ahead of the summer transfer window.

Wilcox has a speciality in terms of youth excellence, as shown by his history at Manchester City. However, the Southampton director of football has been a busy man across the board since taking charge at the Championship club, and the adjustments that he has made have been successful despite the troubles he faced at the beginning of his reign.

We all know that he will face bigger challenges when he joins the team at Old Trafford, but the director’s experience gained away from Manchester City in the last year has been extremely valuable and will only help United if they can get this move over the line.

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