Cycling Guru Dave Brailsford Set To decide Erik Ten Hag's Old Trafford Fete
When people hear the name of Dave Brailsford, they immediately think of the guy from the cycling team. Well, Brailsford is now far more than just the Team Principal of the Ineos Grenadiers. He is also the Director of Sports for Ineos, putting him in charge of the whole Ineos sporting portfolio, which will soon include the football operations of Manchester United.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s purchase of 25% of Manchester United is almost complete. The deal is subject to Premier League ratification only. This means that the future of the club – and Erik ten Hag – will shortly be in the hands of the cycling guru.
— Man United News (@ManUtdMEN) December 30, 2023
Ten Hag under pressure
Things are currently not going well for Manchester United. They are struggling in the Premier League, with bookmakers making them 250/1 to win the title. A bet on football with Paddy Power for United to finish in the top four is also a long shot at 13/1. To put those odds in perspective, the English Premier League odds on Manchester City to win the title are 8/11, and they are 1/80 to finish in the top four.
Who is Sir Dave Brailsford?
Sir Dave Brailsford first rose to prominence as the Performance Director of British cycling. Brailsford took up the role in 2003 and was an unparalleled success, leading the British cycling team to record-breaking hauls of medals at the Beijing (2008) and London (2012) Olympics.
Brailsford’s success at Beijing led to his appointment as Team Principle of the newly formed Team Sky cycling team in 2010. He led the team to Tour de France victories six times under the Sky brand between 2012 and 2018. When the team was taken over by Ineos in 2019, Brailsford continued in his role and oversaw yet another Tour win in the same year. In total, for both brands, Brailsford has seven Tour wins on his CV.
After quickly gaining the trust of Ineos CEO Jim Ratcliffe, Brailsford was appointed Director of Sport for Ineos in December 2021.
Sir Dave Brailsford oversaw a marginal gains policy during his time in charge of British cycling. This included small things like riders bringing their own pillows to overseas events to help them sleep better.
Brailsford is a firm believer that all these little things – mostly overlooked by rivals – add up in the long run. And in elite sports, where millimetres or milliseconds can be the difference between winning and losing, small gains are crucial. The chances are that when Ineos and Brailsford take over the football operations at Old Trafford, there won’t be immediate wholesale changes. That is not his style. He prefers to play the long game and will implement subtle changes over time.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Sir Dave Brailsford and Erik ten Hag pic.twitter.com/c2KRecdLjs
— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) January 5, 2024
But if Brailsford informs Ratcliffe that Erik ten Hag isn’t the man to help him implement the marginal gains, he will almost certainly be gone in the summer.
Should United fans be worried?
Brailsford’s role at Old Trafford will no doubt be compared to that of former England Rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward’s time at Southampton Football Club. This didn’t end well and was widely opposed by fans before it was even given a chance.
Dave Brailsford is more of a delegator, a reliable right-hand man that Jim Ratcliffe can trust. He’s a quiet operator in the background.
Brailsford will want the right man in charge to lead the team. But after he has his man, he is more likely to play a supporting role, rather than trying to interfere with footballing matters. This means it’s unlikely United fans have much to worry about.
And if Brailsford can bring the success to Manchester United that seems to have followed him around throughout his career, he will be a welcome face at Old Trafford, rather than someone the fans need to be worried about.