Manchester have announced Omar Berrada from Manchester City as their new chief executive, in one of the first major developments of the Sir Jim Ratcliffe era at Old Trafford.
Richard Arnold departed United following INEOS’ deal to buy a 25 per cent stake in the club, and they have moved swiftly to secure his successor. Berrada arrives with a strong reputation, having played his part in City’s recent years of dominance.
We’ve compiled everything you need to know about Berrada, the man tasked with turning United’s fortunes around.
How Berrada got his break at Barcelona
Berrada was born in Paris to Moroccan parents. He moved to the United States when he was young and was raised there, but returned to Europe when he was 18 years old after dropping out of university.
“My first university experience was in the US but only for six months,” Berrada explained in a 2021 interview with EU Business School, where he graduated in Business Administration.
“I was going to do an engineering degree at a university in Massachusetts but I decided that it wasn’t for me. So in the middle of the school year, in December, I decided to leave and change. All I knew is that I wanted to go to Europe.”
He moved to Barcelona in part due to his love for the Catalan club, but his first job in the city was for telecommunications company Tiscali – before he made his way into the football industry.
Berrada got his in at the club he’d grown up supporting when Barcelona appointed Tiscali’s CEO as their chief marketing officer.
”I probably would have accepted to join Barcelona for free, so I was lucky they offered me a salary,” Berrada recalled when Tiscali’s CEO brought him along for the ride.
He stayed in his post at the Camp Nou until 2011, with his time at the club coinciding with the Europe-conquering glory days under Pep Guardiola. Berrada would later reunite with Guardiola at Manchester City, of course, alongside Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, although he was in a comparatively junior role at Barcelona and it wasn’t until his time in England that he’d work with them directly.
Man City’s behind-the-scenes restructuring has a distinctly Catalan flavour, having nabbed the masterminds of Barcelona’s imperial era, but Berrada actually arrived a full year before Soriano and Begiristain rocked up at The Etihad.
The Manchester City years
Berrada gradually rose through the ranks at City over the course of his 12 years at the club, and he was even touted as one day succeeding Soriano and Begiristain as the main man.
His first role was leading International Business department, which meant arranging their preseason summer tours and dealing with regional partnerships. After a year, he was promoted to Director of Partnerships, a role in which he began to work more closely with CEO Soriano.
Soon enough, Berrada established himself as Soriano’s right-hand man, dealing with the more day-to-day activities, and eventually he began to work with sporting director Begiristain when it came to player recruitment and getting signings over the line.
It’s widely been reported that he played an active role in signing Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018, the first of several signings he was involved in getting over the line.
In 2020, he was formally promoted to the role of chief football operations officer, which later saw him working hands-on to help deliver marquee additions such as Erling Haaland.
Inevitably, there’s the question of Man City’s 115 charges of alleged breaches relating to the Premier League’s breaking profit and sustainability rules. Those charges span from the nine seasons from 2009 to 2018, the last two years of which Berrada served as chief operating officer. But at present there are no suggestions that Manchester United’s new CEO is directly implicated in any wrongdoing.
Omar Berrada's beliefs in leadership are the polar opposite of Joel Glazer's beliefs in leadership.
Berrada's beliefs sound incredibly similar to Sir Jim Ratcliffe's beliefs.
🔺️Articulate a clear vision
🔺️Lead by example
— 𝘾𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙤𝙣𝙖 𝘾𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙨 – aka Larry 🇾🇪 (@Cantona_Collars) January 21, 2024
What’s been said
Sam Lee (The Athletic’s Man City correspondent):
“This is a pretty big loss for City (and a huge huge shock of course). I think everybody assumed he’d replaced Txiki one day. Or Soriano for that matter. Guardiola is obviously (imo) the one that has taken City up to the very top due to the on-pitch success but the off-pitch structure has played a big part (pending, you know…) and it’ll have to be strong for life post-Guardiola.”
Henry Winter (The Times):
Appointment of Omar Berrada is a major statement of intent by Ineos. They’re going for – and getting – elite operators. They’re also making a statement about the new culture under Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
“The Glazers are still around like a bad smell but the focus is back on football, not just commercial. The balance was wrong under the Glazers when the club at times seemed a megastore with a pitch attached. Commercial is important, it deepens playing budget, but it cannot be the main focus. Interesting to see whether shift sees a change in pre-season tours, corporate demands on squad etc.
“Emphasis on “performance” significant, too. Individual and collective responsibility to perform better. Investment in improving performance culture (Sir Dave Brailsford’s area of expertise). Encouraging day for United.”
Manchester United (club statement):
“The Club is determined to put football and performance on the pitch back at the heart of everything we do. Omar’s appointment represents the first step on this journey.
“As one of the most experienced football executives at the top of European football, Omar brings a wealth of football and commercial expertise, with a proven record of successful leadership and a passion to help lead change across the Club. He is currently serving as Chief Football Operations Officer for City Football Group overseeing 11 clubs across five continents and, prior to this, held senior roles at Barcelona.
“It is our stated ambition to re-establish Manchester United as a title-winning club. We are pleased that Omar will be joining us to help achieve that goal, so that, once again, United fans can see, in the words of Sir Matt Busby, the red flag flying high at the summit of English, European and world football.”
Unnamed Premier League executive (via The Athletic):
“He is a good, clean operator. He isn’t the biggest character in the room, but is organised and knows the details.
“He is calm in pressure situations and isn’t just well versed in football, he has a brilliant understanding of business. You always got the sense he was ambitious and wanted to be the main guy somewhere.”