MAN UNITED CONFIDENTIAL: Freedman's Fergie respect boosts his chances

MAN UNITED CONFIDENTIAL: Dougie Freedman’s respect for Sir Alex Ferguson makes him strong candidate for Old Trafford role, Latinos stay up late into the night for crunch clash plus club contacts rival over ticket gripe

  • Freedman has emerged as a contender for United director of football role
  • But he did once reject the advice of his former neighbour Sir Alex Ferguson
  • Pressure is easing on Man United boss Erik ten Hag: Listen to It’s All Kicking Off 

One of the intriguing aspects of whether United will replace John Murtough and bring in a new director of football is that one of the candidates, Dougie Freedman, has been mentored for many years by fellow Glaswegian, Sir Alex Ferguson.

The pair first met when Freedman’s Crystal Palace upset United in the League Cup at Old Trafford in 2011, and they became neighbours and friends the following year when he moved north to manage Bolton.

Freedman was hugely respectful, always referring to him as Mr Ferguson in the way Scots usually call their seniors out of respect, but the one time he politely rejected Fergie’s advice has worked out in his favour.

In 2017, having lost his jobs at financially-stricken Bolton and Nottingham Forest, Freedman found himself canvassed by Hearts to be their manager, only to a receive a counter-offer from Palace chairman Steve Parish to become their sporting director.

Fergie urged the younger man not to be dismissive of Hearts – ‘it’s a big club’ – but Freedman opted for a shift in career and headed south.

So well has he done recruiting the likes of Marc Guehi, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, new United investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Dave Brailsford have taken notice and put him on a shortlist if a change is made.

Dougie Freedman, friend and former neighbour of Sir Alex Ferguson, is in the running to become Manchester United’s ext director of football

Freedman has been mentored by legendary United boss Ferguson for several years

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Right man, wrong Mainoo

Kobbie Mainoo may be the man of the moment at Manchester United, but the teenager’s progress has been so swift that his own teammates are still catching up.

Sergio Reguilon posted a picture of himself with Mainoo on the team bus following Sunday’s win at Everton with the message: ‘Great game bro. I love you.’ 

However, Reguilon tagged a parody account on his X post and the error had to be pointed out to the on-loan United defender.

Mainoo earned universal praise for his Premier League debut at Goodison Park, once again showing an ability to take everything in his stride in United’s 3-0 win on Merseyside. 

The 18-year-old’s temperament was evident on the pre-season tour of the US and when he first came to the fore playing for the Under-21s in the EFL Trophy last season.

It resulted in a number of League One clubs approaching United to take Mainoo on loan in January, but it was already becoming clear that he was destined for the first-team squad sooner rather than later.

Sergio Reguilon tagged a parody account as he tried to congratulate Kobbie Mainoo following the young midfielder’s good performance in the 3-0 win at Everton

18-year-old Mainoo was excellent as United claimed a handsome win at Goodison Park

Bruno leads by example

Having earned praise for unselfishly allowing Marcus Rashford to take the penalty for United’s second goal at Everton, Bruno Fernandes scored points with Everton fans by stopping to sign autographs and pose for photos long after the final whistle.

Home supporters in the corporate boxes at Goodison Park shouted out to the United captain as he was doing a post-match interview with MUTV, and Fernandes obliged by going around each of them in turn.

Whether it will appease former United skipper Roy Keane is another matter altogether. 

Keane has been a leading critic of Fernandes’ leadership, and the Sky Sports pundit was scathing of Erik ten Hag for praising the Portugal star after he gave up penalty-taking duties so Rashford could end his 12-week barren run.

‘He’s giving toffee out there to Bruno for passing on the ball for the penalty. Absolute rubbish coming out with that,’ fumed Keane.

Bruno Fernandes led by example as he signed autographs for Everton fans on Sunday

Sinfield’s power of speech

The United players were said to have been genuinely moved by a powerful talk from rugby league great Kevin Sinfield OBE as he continues his Herculean efforts to raise money to fight motor neurone disease.

Sinfield, of course, has been inspired by the plight of his close friend and former Leeds Rhinos teammate Rob Burrow, and the defence coach for England’s rugby union team was at Carrington last week as part of coaching exchange.

The element of his address about supporting teammates is said to have struck a particular chord with the United players, some of whom were visibly emotional.

‘I had a brief chat,’ Sinfield told club media afterwards. ‘I don’t often get a chance to talk about my playing career, but some of the guys had some questions and certainly some interest in the work I’ve been able to do over the last couple of years with our team and, in particular, around Rob and the MND Association.’

Sinfield, who also spent time with Erik ten Hag and his assistant Steve McClaren, is already sizing up his next challenge as he takes on seven marathons in seven different cities over the course of a week, adding on an extra mile each day for good measure.

Kevin Sinfield spends time with Manchester United’s coaches at Carrington last week

Sinfield with his former Leeds Rhinos team-mate and friend Rob Burrow as he prepares another marathon feat to raise funds to tackle Motor Neurone Disease

Utd’s ticket gripe with Liverpool

United have raised concerns with Liverpool over their ticket allocation for the crunch clash at Anfield next month, Confidential understands.

Liverpool’s ongoing renovation work on their new Anfield Road Stand, which will be partially open for the game on December 17, has led to a significant reduction of the number of tickets United have been given.

The club queried why their allocation was ‘considerably lower’ than expected after being informed by Liverpool that they would receive just 2,427 safe standing seats.

United were told the expansion of Anfield, and the resultant reduced capacity, was the reason and their allocation was ‘in line’ with what other clubs have been given this season.

While others have received similar to United, Arsenal got 2,511 for their game at Anfield on December 23. Typically, away sides at Anfield can expect hundreds more.

Liverpool’s insistence that they have ‘worked extremely hard to do everything possible to secure more seats for away fans’ will have undoubtedly been met with scepticism from United supporters and even people at the club, given the history of both sides cutting allocations for visiting fans.

United and Liverpool are engaged in a row over ticket allocations for the game on December 17

Late-night Latinos

Don’t tell Erik ten Hag, but Confidential understands that United’s Brazil and Argentina players were up through the night watching last week’s game between the two countries and messaging each other.

Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro are out of action until January as they recover from injury, but Antony and Alejandro Garnacho may have been a little bleary-eyed at training the next morning.

The match didn’t finish until the middle of the night after crowd trouble at the Maracana delayed kick-off by half an hour before Argentina inflicted a first-ever home World Cup qualifying defeat on their big rivals.

Onana and Fernandes going strong

Thirteen games in and already Andre Onana and skipper Bruno Fernandes are United’s only ever-presents in the Premier League this season.

However, fans shouldn’t be alarmed that an apparent lack of consistency in team selection will automatically affect results.

Between 1995 and 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t have a single player who featured in every league game – and United won six titles during that period.

With player rotation on the increase during the Premier League era, becoming an ever-present over a full campaign is harder than winning trophies. 

Bruno Fernandes and Andre Onana remain United’s only Premier League ever-presents

Harry Maguire is the only outfield player at United this century to have started all 38 games in a season, in 2019-20.

Patrice Evra (2009-10), Robin van Persie (2012-13) and Juan Mata (2015-16) also featured in every game but some were off the bench.

Onana will hope he can complete the full set of matches this time. It’s easier for goalkeepers and David De Gea managed it on four occasions.

It would be a huge feat for Fernandes but his stamina is legendary. Research shows no player in the world was on the pitch for more minutes of elite football between September 2022 and 2023, with the midfielder clocking up 6,666 minutes for United and Portugal.

Cameroon keeper’s helping hand

Onana had to fly home early from Cameroon last week after picking up a minor injury on international duty, but his charity work in the capital Yaounde goes on.

The III Surgeon Mission, a healthcare initiative set up by between The Andre Onana Foundation and Spanish non-profit organisation Bisturi Solidario, has announced that it has carried out more than 200 life-changing surgeries on children and adults in need.

United goalkeeper Onana said: ‘I am proud to witness the positive impact we have made together with Bisturi Solidario. This mission reflects our shared commitment to making a tangible difference in the lives of those who need it the most.’

Galton’s waiting game

United are yet to tie down Leah Galton to a new contract with the forward attracting interest from other clubs.

Galton’s current deal expires at the end of the season, though United have the option to extend that by an extra year.

The forward was the club’s joint top scorer in the 2022-23 campaign and is keen to stay, but is not short of admirers elsewhere.

United have yet to tie Leah Galton down to a new contract amid interest from rivals

Galton is in the same boat as Mary Earps was last season. The goalkeeper had her contract extended by an extra year in the summer, but could leave for free at the end of the current season if the club fail to agree new terms.

Earps, who was the subject of a record bid from Arsenal, has recently changed agent. The Lionesses No.1 became the first goalkeeper to win the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year after her heroics at this summer’s World Cup.

United kids in league of their own

More of United’s youngsters spent time at EFL and National League clubs as part of the academy’s innovative pro-experience programme.

Different to a loan, the initiative has seen around 10 of United’s Under-17 to Under-23 players spent time at other clubs this season including Barrow, Forest Green Rovers, Portsmouth and Blackpool.

It gives the young players the chance to experience a senior football environment by observing preparation for first-team games and travelling with the match-day squad.

It also gives the players, who have to present their experiences to United’s academy coaches on their return, a chance to prove themselves ahead of any loan moves in future.

‘We are always looking to be innovative in order to provide the best experiences for all of our boys,’ said United’s academy head Nick Cox. 

‘The opportunity enables players to learn new behaviours and witness first-hand the standards of a first-team environment.’


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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