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Ed Woodward: Sinner to Saint in three short summers

It is becoming commonplace now that each summer should herald great change at Old Trafford. This one is no different in that instance, the difference comes from the effect it has had on the clubs operations.

Cast your minds back to the summer of 2013. David Moyes was just starting his short-lived career as manager of Manchester United following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, there was an air of uncertainty surrounding Old Trafford, change wasn’t something United fans had become used to and it was suddenly bestowed upon them. Not just at management level either, but in the boardroom. David Gill had too stepped down, paving the way for Ed Woodward to make the step up from executive vice-chairman into the Chief Executive role. It was new ground for all concerned.

If you search Ed Woodward 2013 in Google, you will see a torrent of abuse aimed at him. Dissent was rife, Woodward had hardly endeared himself to supporters with a catalogue of errors regarding signing players. Woodward entered his new role with an air of arrogance about him, an undeserved bravado for a man more accustomed to signing sponsorship deals than players. Loose lips were his initial downfall.

Cesc Fabregas was promised publicly – Woodward basically offered a guarantee he would sign. Fabregas did not join. Thiago Alcantara was another Woodward boasted about. As cocksure as he was about Fabregas, Alcantara instead decided Bayern would be a better location. Leighton Baines was subject of a failed attempt, as was Ander Herrera – a mix up of epic proportions involving fake agents (allegedly). Woodward’s ability to shoot his mouth off culminated in Guillermo Varela and Marouane Fellaini (for more expensive than he would have been two weeks earlier) on deadline day. Woodward had attempted to dig himself out of his hole on the twelfth hour with moves for Coentrao, Khedira and Daniele de Rossi, it was too late for that.

Woodward was experiencing teething problems that were, at the time, greater than those of the managers. His incompetency had cost United hugely, his false and undeserved arrogance had bitten him firmly on the behind. But this was about to change. On the 23rd January Manchester United had a bid accepted for Juan Mata, by the 24th January he was a United player. It was a move that seemingly came from nowhere. There had been whispers, but the usual Woodward bravado was missing, the bid seemed to be planned on the quiet, away from prying ears.

Woodward broke through the stigma that David Moyes wasn’t an attractive prospect to play for – a stumbling block experienced in the summer previous. This wasn’t expected to be an issue last summer. Louis van Gaal is a name everyone knows, what was expected to hinder United was the ramifications of the failings in 2013/14 – no Champions League football. This transfer window was to be a true test of Ed Woodward’s ability in charge of transfers.

It started brightly too, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera joined early doors, moves that had been flirted with but completed with minimal fuss in spite of public knowledge. Marcos Rojo joined from Sporting Lisbon is far more complicated circumstances. A stand-off between clubs held up the acceptance of the bid, and something of a snag regarding his Work Permit delayed things furthermore. But Woodward plowed through and delivered. Then came his crowning glories, and a real show of progress (and perhaps the reason he outlived Moyes at the club).

On August 25th United agreed a British Transfer Record fee of £59.7 million with Real Madrid for Angel Di Maria, he was announced a United player the next day. The deal which saw Daley Blind leave Ajax was done in the final weekend of the summer transfer window, and being confirmed on deadline day. And on deadline day, completely out of the blue, the loan signing of Radamel Falcao was announced. Suddenly the club that was becoming known as a sieve was operating in near secrecy. Catching people off guard with big name signings.

January was another low-key affair, as they so often have been, with just Víctor Valdés joining, from under Liverpool’s noses – always funny. And so we find ourselves in the present. Doubts still hung over the head of Woodward, previous failings casting a dark shadow wherever he went. This summer though, had a different feel to it. Suddenly the leaks dried up and there was a real silence from the club.

Memphis Depay was another sorted before the window opened, but the swift manner in which it was dealt with was more than admirable. Rumours were rife in the press. United were being linked with every man and his dog. But there was always the feeling that there were things going on behind the scenes. Woodward has showed his metal in the David De Gea situation – his stance may well end up in the Keeper staying another season. Then there was last week.

Matteo Darmian’s fee was sorted in the week, the deal was finalised Saturday. Morgan Schneiderlin had been flirted with throughout the summer, but somehow Woodward negotiated the deal in complete secrecy, including the medical (which still baffles me now). Then there was Bastian Schweinsteiger. Friday the rumbles started, early Saturday afternoon the agreement was announced and by Sunday evening a medical was completed. Woodward had pulled of a coup of massive proportions with everyone none the wiser.

He deserves untold praise for how he has matured into the role. From the juvenile claims in 2013 that should really have resulted in him losing his job, to leading the press on and signing whoever he wants behind the scenes in 2015 – the progress is there to be seen. There is the feeling surrounding him now that whoever the manager may be, Woodward can do the business. The memes of his head superimposed onto Superman’s body are seeming to be not far from the mark (well, perhaps they’re a bit absurd). With a reported £100 million left to spend, and just under two months of the window left it is anyone’s guess who Woodward can sign for United. Big things are expected. Fans wait with bated breath and an expectancy. All of a sudden, change has been a good thing.

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