Manchester United are expected to hire a new sporting director under new investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
A report via The Daily Star over the weekend claimed that Manchester United are interested in Crystal Palace sporting director Dougie Freedman, as an alternative to much-discussed option Paul Mitchell.
We are here to dig a little deeper into Freedman’s record at Palace and his strengths and weaknesses.
Dougie Freedman’s strengths
Dougie Freedman has cultivated himself a strong reputation at Crystal Palace over the past six years, a club he represented during his playing days. Operating on a budget, he has been able to identify and sign a succession of rising stars including Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, and Marc Guehi.
Freedman is respected within the game and his transfer approach focuses on more than just talent, making character a key part of his strategy. This is somewhere United have gone wrong at times.
An unnamed agent told The Athletic earlier this summer: “Dougie is not only big on talent, but on mentality and attitude. He extensively checks out the people he’s going to sign beforehand.
“He tends to avoid players he might think are a big-time Charlie. He’s concise in his summary. He is very focused on the future and always wants the next player, the next big thing, people who are on the rise.”
The 49-year-old is respected by Palace boss Roy Hodgson, who has benefitted from Freedman’s work behind the scenes.
Hodgson told BeIN Sports this summer: “We’re in a majority of clubs. The minority are the ones who can pluck players at whatever price the club is asking. All these players [signed] are in a category that they probably weren’t in when the club bought them.
“The recruitment has been good. Dougie Freedman has done very well, I think the money has always been limited. It’s not been a question of just go out, there’s a blank chequebook, find a player you think the club needs. He’s had to do it within budget restrictions which the club has to respect and adhere to.”
Manchester United need to operate smartly in the transfer market. The £82 million spent on Antony and £73 million on Jadon Sancho are just two recent examples where the club has appeared to get it wrong.
Many felt United overspent when signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Freedman’s Palace in 2019, although this was the market rate for a full-back at the time, set by City buying Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy for higher fees.
Even when they did land that big fee from Manchester United, Freedman did not change tact, and took a restrained approach to the market, a patience the Red Devils have rarely held.
He was quoted by Sports Illustrated: “People know we have got a bit of money from the Aaron Wan-Bissaka deal so prices are inflated. Signings are going to be shrewd, wise and we’re going to wait for opportunities and when they come we will be as good as anybody to be in the ring but we have to be patient.”
Dougie Freedman’s weaknesses
The easy hole to point in Freedman’s record is that he has not yet had an opportunity at a club of Manchester United’s size, with the budget the club will be able to offer. Can he operate with the same success, in a world of top-end football where demands and scrutiny are different? Possibly, but it is an unknown factor.
One more glaring hole in Freedman’s record is his trouble identifying a signing a striker for Crystal Palace, which remains a weak point. During the past six years, since his appointment in 2017, it is an area the Eagles have consistently failed to get right. And it is an issue Manchester United will need to fix, as after this summer, Rasmus Hojlund will be the only one on the club’s books once Anthony Martial‘s contract finally expires.
At Palace, they leaned on veteran Christian Benteke, before taking gambles on Jean-Philippe Mateta and Odsonne Edouard, which have failed to work out, while Alexander Sorloth was another swing and a miss.
This summer he also attracted some criticism from Palace fans for buying Dean Henderson from Manchester United at £20 million because he represented a good investment long-term, despite already having Sam Johnstone, and other areas of the pitch being more glaring needs for a club with a limited budget.