Ed Woodward replaced David Gill at the end of the 2012/13 season when both Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson retired from their roles with the Scottish manager winning his 13th Premier League title, giving rivals Liverpool some work to do, which seven years later seems to be working for them, unfortunately. Manchester United were heading into a new era, one that has not turned out how it may have been planned, if there was any planning at all? I would not be surprised if there was no planning at all.
David Moyes replaced Ferguson and Woodward was the one responsible for getting the deals done. United only signed Marouane Fellaini on deadline day that summer for £27.5 million, £4 million more than the fee the club could have paid earlier that summer. However, instead of getting things done, Woodward was chasing the type of players that he could not sign; Cesc Fabregas and Gareth Bale then trying to get Leighton Baines with Fellaini, offering less than both players were worth.
Ander Herrera was linked to the club that summer with a shambles of a story concerning three supposed agents stating that they represented United with a £30.5 million buyout clause needing to be paid. Funnily enough, that deal did not happen util the follow summer, which was just another piece of embarrassment for the club under the leadership of Woodward. He did leave the pre-season tour in Australia to deal with urgent transfer related business, which never resulted in much too.
United started to panic that summer and the real Ed Woodward was shown for what he actually is; a guy who just does not understand football but is great at commercial business. Danielle De Rossi was on United’s radar with a series of bids being rejected – the player having no intention of leaving Roma. Sami Khedira was then sought after with failed bids there too. It could only be described as a scattergun approach by the club. Mesut Ozil was rejected by United too, apparently.
It was clear that Woodward was not the right man to replace Gill but he needed a chance to get things right and the following summer could have done that for him. Even the return of Cristiano Ronaldo dominated the headlines for a number of summers, with a crowd funding page being launched and rumours that sponsors could have paid for the player. Of course, this was just make-believe as nothing happened but that did not stop the rumours – it sold newspapers and got clicks on websites.
The end of David Moyes and the continuation of more of the same.
Moyes was sacked in April 2014, almost three months after Juan Mata became his second signing, arriving from Chelsea in January 2014 for £37.5 million – a transfer record for the club at that time. Louis van Gaal became the new manager of the club after guiding the Netherlands to a third-placed finish in the FIFA World Cup in 2014, a good achievement with the team he had. That summer, Woodward managed to sign Herrera, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, and Angel Di Maria, a new record signing for the club at £59.7 million. Radamel Falcao also came in on loan.
United achieved UEFA Champions League football at the end of the 2014/15 season after a season out of European football. Di Maria left the club, losing £15.7 million with his signing for Paris Saint-Germain, the club he wanted to leave Real Madrid for originally. Not good business for United or Woodward. More signings came though that summer with Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The latter was a signing Woodward though he did well with, saying:
”When people see Schweinsteiger on the team sheet, that’s gonna send some shivers down their spine.”
Of course, that never happened and the clueless nature of Woodward continued. United won the Emirates FA Cup at the end of the 2015/16 season, the first major honour post-Ferguson but Van Gaal was sacked days later. Jose Mourinho replaced the Dutchman and received some backing to start yet another rebuild at the club. Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, a new record signing for United arrived that summer. It seemed different but it was more of the same.
United won the FA Community Shield, EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League that season, the best trophy haul post-Ferguson. United added Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku during the summer of 2017, seeming moving in the right direction with more needed, however, United finished second in the Premier League at the end of the season despite being 19 points shy of champions Manchester City. United needed the backing to build on that season.
It never came. Mourinho wanted a commanding central defender with Harry Maguire, Toby Alderweireld, and Kalidou Koulibaly linked to the club – none of the came. United signed Lee Grant, Diogo Dalot and Fred, clearly not giving Mourinho the backing he needed, which annoyed him. In December 2018, after a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, Mourinho was sacked with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer coming in as the interim manager of the club. Initially it saw United do well but that soon ended.
Mourinho sacked, Solskjaer arrives as new manager, Woodward still inept in the transfer market.
Before Mourinho was sacked and Solskjaer came in as the interim manager, Woodward was already being criticised by many with articles published talking about the decline of the club and the fact that Woodward had not managed to match what Gill did for the club. His transfer approach seemed to be clueless, especially saying and doing silly things like leaving Australia in the summer of 2013 for urgent transfer business which came to nothing and coming out with comments like;
“We can do things in the transfer market that other clubs can only dream of. Watch this space.”
Solskjaer did not utilise his first January transfer window although Fellaini left the club during that time moving to Shandong Luneng with United reportedly getting £10.5 million. He was rarely used by Solskjaer in his short spell as the manager at that time anyway. However, he should have been replaced in the summer but that did not happen. Herrera left the club as a free agent signing for Paris Saint-Germain and he was not replaced either. This has become costly because of the injuries to Pogba and Scott McTominay. It is clear for anyone to see United need strengthening.
In the summer, Solskjaer’s first transfer window, he signed Daniel James from Swansea City, Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace, and Harry Maguire from Leicester City. All three players have seemingly hit the ground running this season with James doing more than Alexis Sanchez, who came in at least 18 months before him (currently on loan at Inter Milan), despite being on a staggering weekly wage, if reports were correct.
This shows that Woodward does not have a clue what he is doing leading a football team, an area he has little interest in and little knowledge. The guy is out of his depth when it comes to conducting deals from which United will be seeking to upgrade their playing staff – he seems to chase the big names, not actually landing many of them; Febregas, Bale, Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Raphaël Varane and others. Now, despite United needing to replace two midfielders who left in 2019 let alone the striker, Lukaku, who was not replaced either, it seems that hoping for the best is the best way United can survive.
With the fact that United were left short coming into the current season, you would have thought that ahead of the January transfer window, the club would have done the groundwork and sorted out some deals to be completed as soon as was possible after the window opened on New Year’s Day. However, here we are was five more days to go before the window closes and United are still being linked to Bruno Fernandes, along with stories suggesting Carlos Tevez, Islam Slimani and even Odion Ighalo, formerly of Watford.
Can public relations save Woodward’s skin?
At a time whereby it is obvious that the Glazers have drained more than £1 billion from United over the years, not to mention the current debt of the club which stands at around £525 million (as reported back in September 2019), it makes you wonder what is going on. The amount of money spent on servicing debts each year is money wasted as the debt does not seem to be getting much smaller and United are not competing in the transfer market, not in the way they should be. Over the past week, it was clear that Woodward had employed his own PR campaign to make him look better – he could find a cure for cancer and still be vilified. PR is not going to help him in the slightest.
Neil Custis of The Sun recently wrote about Woodward not being to blame for the shambles at United as the Glazer’s are the ones who have let him and the management down. Woodward must not have played a part in it at all. There has been a good few journalists out to save Woodward’s bacon but most of the fan base are not going to let it wash. The club is a laughing stock right now and something needs to give. Given the valuation of United, which stands at about $3.8 billion, according to Forbes, it is unlikely that anyone will put that amount of money, or more forward to buy the club, giving them the license to do what they like and take yet more money out of the club.
The obvious way to solve the problems at United is for Woodward to admit that he does not have the knowledge to run the footballing side of the club. A director of football, a sporting director or even a technical director needs to be brought in for them to be given total control of football matters with Woodward either leaving the club or taking charge of the commercial side. United got to where they once were because of football and without that, there would not be a commercial side. That needs to be displayed to the Glazers, who just seem to care about how much money they can make.
With talk of a mass walkout against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on Saturday, plus the discontent shown on social media for both Woodward and the Glazers, the supporters of the club could make it very uncomfortable for them, even if they promise the earth, which has started to come out in the media about the club looking to improve their scouting operation, which is something I find hard to believe considering the number of scouts currently used by the club.
I would imagine, that when the time comes for season ticket holders to start the renewal process, there will be reports coming out of the club about the things they will be looking to do, which for the last few years has been something they have done. It all seems like a scam. Why say you are going to do something, then not do it. After Mourinho was sacked, United, through the media, suggested a director of football would be employed. Solskjaer was made permanent manager and nothing. Then rumours again, to nothing, again. Perhaps they don’t take it seriously at all. When the money has gone, who will be laughing then?