Exclusive Jonathan Johnson column: What Man Utd can expect from Sir Jim, new Real Madrid deal imminent & more

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What Manchester United fans can expect from Sir Jim Ratcliffe

We’re seeing Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS move closer to purchasing a 25% stake in Manchester United, but as much as fans of the Red Devils might not want to read this, their ownership of Nice hasn’t been a huge success.

We have to recognise that when INEOS came in they had a very ambitious project to challenge PSG at the top of Ligue 1 and they haven’t done that. They haven’t really made any kind of progress domestically or in Europe, so it’s been a very frustrating period for the club’s fans.

Ratcliffe’s continual flirtation with clubs in England has also been a source of frustration to the Nice fan-base, as it’s not just Manchester United he’s shown an interest in, but also Chelsea and Liverpool in the past. Had it just been Man United, given his childhood support of the club, then I think fans might have been a bit more understanding, but given that there’s clearly been a long-running interest in buying a Premier League club, I think the Nice fans have tired of it.

More recently, Nice have made some encouraging changes – they’re the only team unbeaten in Ligue 1 and they’re going very well under highly-rated new manager Francesco Farioli. They’ve got a couple of real gems in their ranks as well, but overall you can’t paint a picture of Ratcliffe’s reign and make it look like a success. It’s been largely a tale of frustration and wasted potential.

It looks like we could see Paul Mitchell brought in as sporting director at United if the INEOS deal goes through, and it’s no surprise to see him being linked with a big Premier League job after leaving Monaco.

Even if things didn’t go quite as well for him at Monaco as he perhaps would’ve hoped, I do rate Mitchell. He did a very good job of streamlining a very bloated squad, and also did well to strengthen that connection with their Belgian feeder club Cercle Brugge.

In terms of form and achievement on the pitch, Mitchell probably didn’t quite deliver what was hoped for, with the club being out of the Champions League undoubtedly a failure. They’re doing better this season, so it could be argued that that’s some redemption for Monaco after the foundations laid by Mitchell.

Mitchell’s time at Monaco isn’t everything though, as he has other work he can look back on proudly, particularly with RB Leipzig, and I’m not surprised he seems set to return to the Premier League. He’s been linked with the likes of Chelsea and Newcastle in the past and he remains one of the top names in that line of work.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Mitchell took on an even bigger role than just sporting director, perhaps in a multi-club environment with a role at Nice as well as United. Let’s see how that works out, but overall his appointment is a bit of a no-brainer for United, who have room to improve in terms of their recruitment and the overall structure of the club – I think that’s the kind of challenge he’s been looking for for a while.

Eduardo Camavinga close to well-earned Real Madrid deal

Eduardo Camavinga is close to signing a new contract with Real Madrid in a deal which should be officially announced quite soon. He’s certainly had an interesting development at the club since his move from Rennes in 2021.

Eduardo Camavinga in action for Real Madrid

He joined at such a young age, but Camavinga hasn’t just been there to make up the numbers – he’s proven himself more than adept when trusted in his preferred midfield position, and he’s also developing as a left-back, which has been really intriguing. He’s been used there for Real Madrid and increasingly for France as well, because that’s an area which, within the French talent pool, there actually isn’t as much quality in the two full-back areas as there is in midfield or indeed any other position on the pitch.

I think Camavinga has developed well in both roles, so I think it clearly points to a big future in the national team, wherever he ends up playing in the long-term.

Camavinga’s new contract has been in the works for some time, with further details here from Fabrizio Romano, and it’s well deserved. He wasn’t a proven player yet when he joined, but he’s got a couple of titles under his belt and I think has earned himself a new deal to reflect his growing importance to the team.

He looks completely at ease in the environment he’s in, so hopefully once this new deal is signed he can continue to focus on developing, as it seems he’s in the best place for that at this moment in time.

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