Omar Berrada is making the move from Manchester City to Manchester United, bringing his business expertise to help rebuild the team.

Omar Berrada is making the move from Manchester City to Manchester United, bringing his business expertise to help rebuild the team.

There seems to be a connection between Omar Berrada, the soon-to-be chief executive of Manchester United, and the legendary musician John Lennon from the Beatles.

This is according to Berrada himself, the Paris-born Moroccan who was a boyhood Barcelona fan. His poaching from Manchester City by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the 27.7% United owner and controller of football policy, has been a shock to the champions’ hierarchy and is viewed as a coup in the industry.

During an interview with the EU Business School, Berrada mentioned a quote from Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” – “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” – while discussing his decision to transfer to the Barcelona campus for one year and ultimately staying in Catalonia for 13 years before joining City in 2011.

The original decision was based on the desire to “watch quality football” at Barcelona while completing his degree in 1999. During his first job at telecommunications company Tiscali, he met his future wife. This eventually led to his recruitment as the head of sponsorship for Barça in 2004. On his second day, he was made aware that Catalan was the club’s “official language” and he took the initiative to learn it.

After seven years, Berrada was recruited by City to lead their international expansion efforts. In 2016, he assumed the role of chief operating officer and when United hired him in January, he was already serving as the COO for the 12 teams within the City Football Group.

Berrada’s unexpected move to a rival team in the same city was a shock, according to a source who is familiar with the executive team at City. Berrada played a crucial role in developing the highly efficient operations at Etihad Stadium, but according to Stefan Borson, a former financial advisor for City, he now faces a daunting task at United.

Borson first mentions the challenge faced by Berrada in handling a variety of people in positions of power, including Ratcliffe, Brailsford, Blanc, and the six Glazer siblings, who are controlled by the majority owners Joel and Avram, both executives based in Florida.

Sir Dave Brailsford (right) and Erik ten Hag (centre) talk to Sir Jim Ratcliffe

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The main difficulty lies in the numerous individuals and viewpoints involved in decision making, according to Borson. Berrada has taken on the role of CEO, but there are also two executive co-chairs, which is uncommon. It is uncommon for a CEO to have to answer to two people, especially when they are not physically present in the UK. In addition, there is another layer of leaders in Ratcliffe, Brailsford, and Blanc.

Ratcliffe has made a significant decision without Berrada’s significant contribution, as Berrada is currently on a gardening leave before his expected start in the summer. This means that Berrada will have to watch tomorrow’s derby from a distance. Ratcliffe has selected Dan Ashworth to oversee the football department, pending negotiations with Newcastle United to agree on compensation.

The Observer has learned that Berrada was informed of the plan to bring on Ashworth while in talks with Ratcliffe and the Glazers about possibly becoming CEO. This coincided with Berrada’s own belief on who should succeed John Murtough in the role.

Ratcliffe’s camp has also stated a wish to make United’s home a “Wembley of the North” by revamping Old Trafford or building a new stadium on the site. “Look how visible Ratcliffe is already,” adds Borson.

Dan AshworthView image in fullscreen

It appears that he is having a conversation with Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, about the stadium. He is in the process of hiring a director of football, which will likely happen before Berrada begins his position. Ashworth has been promised significant decision-making authority. This situation does not make it easy for Berrada to have the highest level of authority. It is a challenge, but not impossible, and he was aware of this before accepting the role.

Multiple observers at City have noted Berrada’s capabilities in efficiently managing these tasks. He is known for being personable but also firm, with extensive knowledge in transfer processes and player agreements. He also demonstrates an understanding of potential revenue opportunities and the complex network of staff, facilities, and members that comprise a club.

When first driving City’s non‑football business, the deals Berrada brokered included a multimillion pound contract in 2014 that made Nissan a global partner. He later became responsible for the club’s structural operations before moving into the rarefied air of football operations, first for City then CFG.

Berrada has been compared to David Gill, United’s chief executive for 10 years until 2013, who worked alongside Sir Alex Ferguson during the club’s most successful decade in which six Premier League titles, one Champions League, one FA Cup, three League Cups and the Club World Cup were claimed. Here, though, Berrada has a further challenge identified by those with a knowledge of both clubs.


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The chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, at City allows the chief executive, Ferran Soriano, the sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, and Pep Guardiola, one of the top managers of our generation, to lead the club without interference. Berrada is not entering a well-established system, but rather faces the task of essentially rebuilding United from the bottom.

Borson advises to actively listen to all members of the organization for a period of one to three months, disregarding any preconceived notions. This will allow for an unbiased understanding of the current state of the club.

Alex Ferguson and David GillView image in fullscreen

There is widespread conversation about the chaos at United. It appears that they are facing issues at every level. It is crucial to figure out these underlying problems, as they cannot be resolved if they cannot be pinpointed. I would communicate with everyone from entry-level to high-ranking employees.

A person with extensive experience working with both City and United believes that Berrada accepted the position for various reasons. These include the chance to improve United’s performance, the attractive salary and bonuses, and the limited growth potential at City, unless Begiristain and Soriano left.

Borson agrees with this statement. “It’s an obvious decision. [He] is joining United at the most opportune time in the past 40 years, perhaps.”

As mentioned by Berrada: “Push yourself to leave your comfort zone, as it will lead to personal and professional growth.”

Fans are eagerly anticipating to see if Berrada can successfully revive a once-great club that has struggled since Ferguson’s departure. One crucial challenge will be improving their efficiency in the transfer market, as their previous progress has been slow and lackluster.

The months-long and ultimately fruitless pursuit of Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong in the summer of 2022 is one example in a long list of bungled moves. Compare this with City and, say, the few days required to land Jérémy Doku from Rennes last August. Part of the problem is how United’s sluggishness means their targets are leaked.

According to Borson, anyone who is dissatisfied or feels mistreated will likely speak to the media. Berrada must take action to address the situation. He must assert his authority and make it clear that there is a new direction for us. In the future, we will see the extent of Berrada’s influence.