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“No-brainer…” – Jason Wilcox explains £40m decision that can save Man United’s big problem



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Jason Wilcox has recalled one of his “no-brainer” decisions that helped make £40 million, and it could save Manchester United from one of their biggest problems.

Wilcox, 53, has officially joined United as the technical director with immediate effect after a compensation fee was agreed with former club Southampton.

The former Premier League winner with Blackburn had moved to The Saints nine months prior at the end of the 2022/23 season to become their sporting director.

He joined from Manchester City, where he earned a deserved reputation as one of the best academy leaders. Wilcox became the Academy Director at the Etihad Campus in 2017 after initially joining as a youth coach in 2012.

Credited with developing some of the best talents to come out of City’s academy setup, one of Wilcox’s best moments came when United’s rivals were contemplating releasing a 16-year-old player.

Cole Palmer, the current joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League, was highly rated in the academy set-up at Man City, but his size and strength were major concerns for many and conversations were had over releasing him.

Wilcox vetoed the decision, and around five years later, Palmer departed the club in a £40 million deal to Chelsea. Some fans are even questioning that amount now they are seeing him shine at Stamford Bridge.

Wilcox relates the decision he made to when he had earlier released David Brooks and did not hold any grudges against those who had the opposite view at the time.

“I released David, and he was a similar player to Cole in that he was very talented and a little dot,” Wilcox explained, as per Telegraph.

“I never saw at the time what I see now in David Brooks because I was learning. With Cole, I’d learned from that experience. It helped inform my decision on Cole.

“It’s not detrimental to any of the academy staff who had that opinion on Cole, it’s that they were probably where I was when I released David Brooks.

“Cole was small, we didn’t know how big he was going to get and he’s surprised everybody there. He’s 6ft 2in now. No one would have seen that.

“But he had elite characteristics – an amazing vision and awareness and level of desire. He was just really clever in his play, saw things that sometimes the coaches weren’t even seeing. With players like him, you need guidelines but can’t put too tight a straightjacket on them. You don’t want to overcoach these players.

“For me, it was a no-brainer he stayed. I wanted to see what the next two or three years looked like for Cole. There was no risk for me. I just wanted to make sure we were going to be in control of his development and not someone else.”

It was a decision that ultimately paid off and Wilcox helped City continue to aid from their academy, either on the pitch with Pep Guardiola’s side, or generating a large fee for a talented player.

Wilcox will join a club with an elite academy at Carrington, where several players are closing in on their first-team debuts.

According to Fabrizio Romano, the 53-year-old will have a role working on player recruitment and also a focus on the academy.

One thing the Reds have not been successful in has been generating profit from their academy talents. Anthony Elanga, James Garner and Angel Gomes are just three players to emerge from Carrington to play in the top league in Europe, but United earned a combined £30 million for those players.

Gomes left the club on a free transfer and is now excelling for Lille in France. Wilcox’s “no-brainer” decision to keep Palmer, alongside his other successes, could help United fix this problem.