The Philadelphia Union held a press conference this morning to announce the hiring of Sir Alex Ferguson's longtime number two Rene Meulensteen. His role, while still somewhat ambiguous, is to be a consultant to the team while they continue to search for the right person to fill the role of Sporting Director. Meulensteen will help guide the Union through probably their most important offseason in team history. The team has only made the playoffs once, in 2011, in its five years of existence. Notoriously passionate fans have grown more than impatient as they look rials surpass and outspend them. Frustration is beginning to boil over at PPL Park and it appears that ownership has finally heard them. Majority owner Jay Sugarman did most of the talking, which is extremely rare. Most fans barely know what he looks like, so his essence meant the announcement truly was "major," as the team's press release stated.
Most of the fans' ire has been directed at minority owner/CEO/managing partner Nick Sakiewicz. Conventional wisdom says that he is involved in most if not all player personnel decisions, though he denies this. Regardless, fans believe he is the problem and have been more vocal this season in voicing their displeasure. It seems management has heard them and this announcement shows they know there must be clearly defined roles. This is where Meulensteen comes in to play. He has been spotted in and around the team since the summer and it was rumored he was the heavy favorite to be the next coach. However, Jim Curtin did a fantastic job as the interim manager in place of the fired John Hackworth. Curtin was officially named the team's third manager last Friday. Fans wanted a barrier between "Nicky Sak" and the personnel decisions and now they have one. Meulensteen will help determine the structure of the club and assess the overall operations. While it is unknown when they will officially hire a sporting director, Sugarman stated it would not be "weeks or years." Likely it will be a few months at least. Meulensteen will be involved until that point, perhaps longer. It is thought that Meulensteen is trying to grow his consulting business here in America and this is his first big job.
Union fans are happy because they don't trust Sakiewicz and it appears that Sakiewicz may have had personnel duties stripped from him altogether or at least significantly weakened based upon comments from Sugarman, who stated it was Sakieiwcz's job as CEO to "grow the business." While it remains to be seen how this will work, for now Union fans are happy knowing that someone has heard them and finally took action.