Who is Christopher Vivell? Man Utd's new recruitment guru explained

In an era when sporting directors and recruitment figures are becoming as celebrated as players, Manchester United have added yet another high-profile figure to their executive team.

Christopher Vivell, formerly Chelsea’s technical director, has joined the club on a short-term basis as their director of global talent — the first time the club has appointed someone to this role.

Since INEOS’ minority investment went through in February, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the petrochemicals company’s founder, Sir Dave Brailsford, INEOS’ head of sport, and Jean-Claude Blanc, INEOS Sport’s CEO, have been making sweeping changes to United’s leadership team.

Dan Ashworth, one of the most well-known sporting directors from his spells at the Football Association, Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United, has not long been in the door at Old Trafford.

Omar Berrada, the club’s new chief executive hired from City Football Group, starts on July 13, with Jason Wilcox, formerly of Manchester City and Southampton, having began his role as technical director in April.

And now United have appointed Vivell, with the potential for his position to be made permanent.



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At United, Vivell will report to Ashworth and has been tasked with recommending the best available talent for the men’s first team.

The players he recommends will need to fit into the club’s game model, while he will also be responsible for highlighting younger players who can fit into the Premier League side’s pathway development plan.

Vivell, like Ashworth, has not long finished his gardening leave, having left his role as Chelsea’s technical director in July 2023, only seven months after he was appointed.

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Vivell, right, with head coach Domenico Tedesco when the pair were at RB Leipzig (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The 37-year-old German became Chelsea’s first technical director since Michael Emenalo resigned in November 2017 — Petr Cech held a similar role but under the ‘technical and performance advisor’ title — as part of a wave of hires by incoming co-owners Clearlake Capital and Todd Boehly.

Their attraction to Vivell was obvious. His success in Germany as part of the Red Bull multi-club group spoke for itself — and is a reason United were equally keen to add him to their executive team.

Vivell started his career at Hoffenheim in 2010, working across video analysis and scouting, before leaving for Red Bull Salzburg in 2015 to become their head of scouting. He became their head of recruitment three years later.

Arguably the biggest coup for Salzburg during his time in Austria was the signing of Erling Haaland from Norwegian side Molde in 2019.

At the time, Haaland was one of the most sought-after prospects in football, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recommending him to Manchester United. Haaland ending up in Austria was an achievement for Salzburg’s recruitment team.

“The big clubs wanted him too,” Vivell has since said. “But they wanted to do a loan programme, which neither his father nor Erling wanted. That’s why we managed to bring him to us.”

Salzburg also signed Benjamin Sesko, Dayot Upamecano and Karim Adeyemi during Vivell’s time there. From Salzburg, Vivell joined sister club RB Leipzig in August 2020, becoming their technical director, which meant he was responsible for recruitment and scouting across all age groups.

Ralf Rangnick, Red Bull’s former director of football and current Austria national team coach, and Lars Kornetka, Rangnick’s coaching assistant and renowned video analyst, were mentors to Vivell.

And it was Vivell’s track record, along with his experience of working in a multi-club model, that led to Chelsea recruiting him. In a joint statement released after his arrival, Boehly and Behdad Eghbali said: “We are delighted Christopher is taking up this important leadership role at the club. His work in Germany and Austria speaks for itself. We are confident he will continue on his impressive trajectory here at Chelsea.”

Almost immediately, however, there were teething problems — and they were never fully resolved, leading to Vivell’s early exit after less than a year.

The appointments of Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley as Chelsea’s co-sporting directors in February 2023 led to a change in structure behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge, meaning Vivell was pushed into a different role.

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Vivell, left, with Joao Felix and Paul Winstanley in 2023 (Joupin Ghamsari/Chelsea FC/Getty Images)

Vivell was known to be doing some work around Strasbourg, the French club Chelsea’s owners bought a majority stake in, and reported to Stewart and Winstanley. The reshuffle meant his influence had waned.

Vivell thought he was coming into Chelsea to be a technical director, establish relationships between departments and oversee key aspects as part of a new project. Instead, his role proved substantially different from the one he was pitched when hired and it made sense for both parties to go in a different direction.

In July 2023, only seven months after joining, Chelsea confirmed Vivell had been placed on gardening leave.

Vivell had to spend 12 months on gardening leave, meaning he has joined United and returned to work at the earliest opportunity.

Berrada was central to Vivell’s appointment at United, having previously got on well with him when doing business together in previous roles.

Erik ten Hag, United’s manager, also knows the club’s new director of global talent, with Vivell trying to bring the Dutchman to Leipzig before he left Ajax for Old Trafford.

Even though he has joined United on a short-term contract, he could extend his stay and, when you consider his seven years working for Salzburg and Leipzig, it would make sense for INEOS to lean on his expertise.

INEOS already owns Ligue 1 side Nice, as well as Lausanne-Sport in the Swiss Super League, and will no doubt be looking to use their multi-club model to maximise player trading.

With Berrada starting next week, Ashworth now in his sporting director role and Ten Hag’s contract being extended to 2026, United have a new structure in place.

And if Vivell proves to be a success in the new position at Old Trafford, there is every chance he becomes a long-term fixture at United.

Additional reporting: Laurie Whitwell.



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(Top photo: Vivell in 2022; by Jan Woitas/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

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