Ole Gunnar Solskjaer two matches away from completing ‘core objectives’ this season

Manchester United reached the Emirates FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday evening after beating Norwich City 2-1 at Carrow Road, despite playing two-hours of football. Odion Ighalo took the lead for United, with Todd Cantwell scoring an equaliser and Harry Maguire scoring the winner in the 118th minute of the match.

United will be pitted against Chelsea in the semi-finals which will be played at Wembley on the weekend of the 18/19 July 2020 and will be seeking to overcome Frank Lampard’s team once again this season in a bid to end a three-year trophy drought. At the start of the season, Ed Woodward set Ole Gunnar Solskjaer some core objectives.

In two more matches, Solskjaer would have completed these core objectives that the executive vice-chairman of the club set. Solskjaer has a vision, which Woodward has bought into which includes playing attacking football and giving youth a chance, which is all part of the DNA at the club, something that fickle football Twitter supporters mock.

Solskjaer will need to win trophies at the club and has seemingly set his eye on them with United still in the hunt for the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League this season. Back in October 2019, Woodward spoke about Solskjaer’s objectives at United, of which there were three, at the time; attacking football, trusting youth and winning trophies. He said:

“Ole’s vision maps exactly to the core three football objectives we have. We must win trophies, we must play attacking football and we must give youth its chance.”

Of course, United will have to beat Chelsea to reach the final of the FA Cup, then beat either Manchester City or Arsenal in the final to complete the objective, which would end a pretty poor season for United. Solskjaer seems to have a plan to get United firing again and challenging for the Premier League title for the first time in seven years, so far at least. Woodward also confirmed that he back Solskjaer, saying:

“As I said before and I’ve said this many times – we remain committed to backing Ole to win trophies. That’s our core objective as a club.”

With the likes of Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood breaking through the academy this season and cementing their places in the first team with more youth on the conveyer belt heading to the first team and with United now playing much more attacking football, winning a trophy or two, whether this season or next will be an achievement for Solskjaer.

Louis van Gaal launches tirade at Manchester United for poor standard of players recruited – he has a point

Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has launched a tirade at the Old Trafford club regarding the broken transfer promises during his time as manager of the club. Looking back at the players that were signed, you can see what his complaints were about. United signed some expensive players during the period of the clubs history.

The Dutchman was sacked days after winning the clubs first major honour post-Sir Alex Ferguson, the Emirates FA Cup, two years after arriving at the Theatre of Dreams, with one-year remaining on his contract. He is focusing on United targeting ‘seventh-choice’ players during his time as the manager of the club.

Despite winning the FA Cup at the club, Van Gaal was only able to guide United to a fourth and a fifth place finish in the Premier League, which was an improvement after finishing seventh in the season of David Moyes. It was a period when the club seemed miserly in respect of transfers, especially with the players linked to the club at that time.

In Van Gaal’s first summer, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera had arrived at the club whilst the Dutchman was still managing the Netherlands at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind then followed with Radamel Falcao coming to the club on loan just before the closure of the summer transfer window.

The following summer, which saw the departure of Di Maria, at a loss, saw Memphis Depay, Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schnneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Anthony Martial arrive at the club. Out of all of those players, only Shaw, Rojo, Romero and Martial still remain at the club. Van Gaal, 68, spoke to Voetball International, saying:

“Manchester United didn’t have the quality needed to win the Premier League. They had an ageing squad, with ten players over 30 and five over 35.

“So I told the club I wanted to rejuvenate the side, and said which players I wanted to sign.

“But I didn’t get a single one of them. I ended up having to look in a different category, and had to adjust my limits.

“I didn’t expect something like this at the richest club in the world. They had a turnover of £600million, yet couldn’t buy the players they needed.

“You have to buy your first-choice players, not your seventh choices.

“Of course selling clubs also think about United: ‘If you’re so rich, you’ve got to pay the top price for our player.’ That was what happened in transfers.

“As a result I had to make do with players who were seventh or eighth on my wish list.

“We still paid too much for them – and I as the coach ended up being criticised and judged.

“When I left United I demanded they paid me every penny they owed me, as they had not kept their promises.

“The owners and directors had backed my vision for the club, which I set out in great detail. It is the same as I did with Barcelona and Bayern.

“I prepare discussions like this very well, and they often take long. I want everything to be clear.

“I interview the club’s people,, rather than vice versa. If we reach agreement, and they have the financial means, I spell out which players I want to sign.

“But if they then don’t deliver what they promised, they have to pay.

“Despite all the disappointments at Manchester United, we still won the FA Cup.

“What I did with United was the greatest achievement of my career.”

At the time, supporters were quick to blame everything on the manager but looking back to my mindset at the time, it was clear that the club had a level of accountability for the problems that United faced. Despite spending around £300 million over two summer transfer windows, the quality of the said players was not quite there.

United are now seeing that signing players with inflated transfer fees and massive wages was not the correct business at the time, seemingly throwing money at the problem and expecting the money to do the brunt of the work. I have never seen bags of money running around a football pitch. Granted, Van Gaal had a lot of the responsibility too.

But, the club, who on hiring him had bought into his ideas and plans for the club, seemingly sold him short with miserly business and failing to sign the targets at the top of the spectrum of the manager’s transfer list. Only now are we seeing the club back a manager, the fourth one after Sir Alex Ferguson and probably the best man for the job now.

Ed Woodward is an ‘evil genius’ for sacking Louis van Gaal after FA Cup victory; Daniel Levy left ‘in the boot of a car’

Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has described the clubs executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward as an ‘evil genius’ after the Dutchman’s sacking days after lifting the clubs first major trophy post-Sir Alex Ferguson. Van Gaal had signed a three year contract with United and was sacked two years into it, despite winning the Emirates FA Cup, which was a big feat considering the state United were in.

The Dutchman, who before signing for United, led the Netherlands to third place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, was tipped to lead United back to glory after replacing David Moyes, who had been sacked the previous April after signing a six-year contract after Ferguson had retired. Van Gaal’s methods may have been strange but seemingly left a foundation, something that is still visible at the club today.

During his first season in charge of United, Van Gaal guided United to a fourth place finish in the Premier League – after the club finished seventh the season before, returning them to the UEFA Champions League after a season out of the competition. In his second season at the club, a fifth placed finish in the Premier League, on goal difference with Manchester City finishing fourth, left United in the UEFA Europa League.

Jose Mourinho was installed as the clubs new manager only days after Van Gaal was sacked, which started another ill-fated era at the club, despite the club winning the FA Community Shield, the Europa League and the EFL Cup under the Portuguese manager. Van Gaal though, does not blame Mourinho and seems to direct his bitterness towards Woodward, who has been problematic at the club. Van Gaal said:

“I blame Ed Woodward, my CEO at Manchester United, much more than Mourinho. In my view, Woodward is the evil genius.”

Many feel that Van Gaal was the right manager for United, perhaps at the wrong time. Some think he was the wrong manager completely. However, given the task that he took on, which was near enough impossible with the poor decisions at the very top of the hierarchy of the club, you can see why so many manager’s have failed at United from Moyes to Van Gaal and further on to Mourinho. Five and a half years of wasted decisions.

These three failed management reigns have left current manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a big rebuild. still having players from Ferguson’s reign and still trying to offload the deadwood, which was a plan for this summer but with the coronavirus pandemic, it could be further problematic for the club to get rid of the players they want to get rid of. Some day it might actually happen.

Before becoming United’s new manager after guiding the Netherlands to a third-placed finish in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Van Gaal was linked to Tottenham Hotspur. At the time, Spurs has sacked Tim Sherwood as their manager and were in active negotiation with the Dutchman to replace him. Van Gaal confirmed that Daniel Levy had even hidden in the boot of a car, seemingly trying to keep the deal quiet:

“Daniel Levy went to my house here in Noordwijk and left in the trunk, because Jack van Gelder [a local journalist] was outside.

“It took a long time and he actually gave Manchester United the opportunity to make an offer.”

United promptly got in and secured Van Gaal to a three-year contract on the 19 May 2014, before the World Cup had even started. Seemingly, Spurs had taken too long to get a deal done, Levy presumably counting his buttons and ensuring he had them all rather than getting business done. His loss, although Van Gaal might have wondered what would have happened at Spurs, if he had gone there instead.

I liked Van Gaal as a manager. He seems to be as mad as a box of frogs at times but I would not change him for the world. His press conferences were funny and he was not afraid to tell the poor journalists of the day how poor they actually were, which was a good thing. His period in charge of the club needed to happen, which has helped to get the plan into action today, teaching Woodward a lesson or two in the process.

Manchester United ‘end hunt for technical director’ as club is ‘delighted with recent transfer business’ – reports

Manchester United have reportedly ended their two-year pursuit for a technical director. Speculation grew rife when Jose Mourinho was sacked by the Old Trafford club that a director of football or even a technical director would be working with the next manager of the club. Sine Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was announced as the permanent manager of the club over a year ago, a technical director has not been appointed.

It is suggested in the media that United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward is please with the clubs recent transfer business which has brought Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes to the club with all four of the players proving their worth to the club since they signed on the dotted line. In Woodward’s mind, it would seem that he feels a technical director is no longer needed.

After speculation free rife about a technical director role at the club, the likes of Darren Fletcher, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra were all linked to the position. It was also reported that former Paris Saint-Germain chief Antero Henrique and Red Bull’s head of sport Ralf Rangnick were both sounded out by the club. It is clear that the club had no urgency to fill the position at the club, given that nothing has happened.

The Athletic has reported that United are taking a more considered view in regards to the position and will not rush to fill the vacancy because of recent stresses in the transfer market which will partly be caused by the coronavirus pandemic which stopped world football back in March. It was stated in the report that a guru to lead policy nor someone to take ownership of the manager are needed at the club now.

“It is safe to say that such a precise role is not on the agenda (at Manchester United) anymore.

“United do not seek a guru to lead policy for signings, nor will anybody come in to take ownership of who sits in the dugout.”

Both Woodward and Solskjaer now share the same vision regarding the clubs recruitment policy, which most of the time will target young players with ability that can be polished at the club, which is something that United have, most of the time, done well whilst doing it over a long period of time. Normally this is with academy players from the club but not always is that the case.

United spent around £70 million on Wan-Bissaka, 22 and James, 22 last summer – both of whom were not greatly experienced players in their position. Wan-Bissaka has been a breath of fresh air in the right-back position this season with James doing well on the left and right flanks, also playing further forward if needed. In the future, both players will fully establish themselves in Solskjaer’s United squad.

Not everything works according to plan though, even for clubs who have a director of football. United seemingly missed out on signing Erling Braut Haaland in January with the player heading to the Bundesliga to play for Borussia Dortmund instead of United. It may be something that is confirmed as a mistake or it will be something that enabled the club to sign another player or let one already at the club grow.

With Marcus Rashford out for a long period of time at the start of the year, United needed to move to find a replacement, otherwise the attacking line would suffer. Because of this, Odion Ighalo was brought in on a six-month loan spell from Shanghai Shenhua in China and the Nigerian striker has done well so far, despite the fact that football has been postponed for around two months now.

United seem to have renewed confidence in hoe their potential targets are being identified with transfer negotiator, Matt Judge finding the deals after talks with both Woodward and Solskjaer. United may still opt for a director of football role in the future but right now, there seems to be no need for urgency like there may have needed to be in the period directly after Mourinho was sacked.

Manchester United unhappy to play behind closed doors as football should have fans – other problems foreseen in Premier League resumption

Manchester United are not necessarily happy to play Premier League matches behind closed doors with the clubs executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, admitting that he is uncertain as to whether the season can continue during the coronavirus pandemic. United played their last match on the 12 March, beating LASK 5-0 in the UEFA Europa League.

Premier League chiefs are seeking to resume football as soon as possible and already seem to gave government approval, although there will need to be a lot more happen before a ball is even kicked again. Earlier on Friday, officials from all Premier League clubs were involved in a meeting with chiefs from the Premier League, talking about football returning.

It has been reported that the 12 June would be a possible date to resume the Premier League, which has 92 matches still to play to complete the season. It is suggested that matches will be played behind closed doors at neutral grounds, rather than clubs playing home matches – no club will be guaranteed to play at their actual home.

However, the Government would need to give the green light in order for football to start once again. Woodward revealed in a Fans’ Forum that he was not keep in matches being played behind closed doors as football should involve supporters, but at this moment in time, there is nothing that could be done for that to happen. He said:

“No decisions have been made yet but we think it is possible that the initial games, particularly the ones related to finishing or trying to complete this season, will probably have to be played behind closed doors.

“We’re not necessarily happy about that – clearly football requires our fans in the stadium for it to be complete – but public health must come first and… this is down to the Government.

“It’s important to get back to playing football and complete this season once it’s safe to do so.”

Friday’s video conference between to 20 shareholder clubs lasted around three and a half hours as they debated a whole range of issues. It is reported that all clubs remained determined to complete the 2019/20 Premier League season, if possible, as long as there was Government approval for it to happen.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to work this week after recovering from coronavirus, has suggested that the national lockdown will only be eased in stages and not before Thursday 7 May 2020. He also confirmed that the United Kingdom was over the peak of the virus and that we needed to continue to stop people being infected.

Premier League clubs are hoping that they can resume some sort of training from the 18 May with the target to restart matches less than a month later. Obviously, this is not be something that we have ever seen before and it will not be ideal. Sooner or later though, things will need to start again but only when it is safe to do so.

Woodward also wonders what will happen to nest season because of the halt in the current season. Will there be a delay to next season? Will it be played behind closed doors also? What will be impact be for sponsorship deals? Domestic cups? There seems to be a lot of things to sort out as the Premier League, Emirates FA Cup, UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League are all needing to be played this season. He said:

“We’ve got to have clarity on what the future holds. What will happen with the remainder of this season?

“What is the impact on next season? Is it behind closed doors or in front of fans? What’s the impact on broadcast deals, sponsorship deals? What’s the impact on domestic cups?

“We don’t yet know what’s going to happen with regards to the FA Cup. We’re obviously still in that in the quarter-finals.

“What’s going to happen to that next season if the season is truncated a little bit to squeeze in Premier League games? Does that have a knock-on on domestic cups? There are many, many moving parts.”

Former United player, Class of 92 graduate and co-owner of Salford City, Gary Neville seems to be clued up on the resumption of football too. He has many of his own questions to ask about the safety of football resuming in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The 12 June may be the best part of six weeks away but Neville asked:

“Who is going to stand up of any prevalence and say it’s safe for football players to play football?

“I’m waiting to for that individual to stand up and put their name on a statement that they’re going to give football clubs cover for healthy and safety against their employees, the football players, going back to work.

“I’ve asked the question of my doctor; will you give me medical cover so that I can put my players back in training, and he said quite categorically said no.

“I’m not quite sure which doctor is going to give that medical cover, it’s going to have to come from the government.

“I’m not sure which government minister is going to say it’s safe for football players to go back out in the next few weeks.

Obviously, Neville has some very important questions about football returning. What will happen if one player tests positive for the virus? We all saw what was happening back in March as Mikel Arteta tested positive for the virus days before his side was due to face Manchester City. Football was then postponed until early April, then postponed again. Neville continued by saying:

“We saw what happened the last time the Premier League announced they were going to continue playing football pre-lockdown.

“As soon as Mikel Arteta announced he had the virus, it was shut down straight away.

“What’s going to happen in a few weeks’ time when a player gets coronavirus or, God forbid, goes into intensive care, it’s just going to fall over again.”

I would love to be watching live football again, preferably with fans in the stadiums. However, that is not something that will happen any time soon, possibly not in 2020 either. The environment needs to be safe for all players. I understand a plan needs to be formulated. The lockdown will inevitably end at some point in the near future, so perhaps an overreaction is not necessary, yet?

Manchester United executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward has sought clarity over Premier League restart

Manchester United executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward has sought clarity from the Football Association (FA) and the Premier League with regards to the proposed restart of the 2019/20 season following the coronavirus pandemic which caused world football to cease almost two months ago.

The framework for the Premier League to be restarted has been approved by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson after his return to work after recovering from the virus and the associated disease. This will include crucial plans for widespread testing of all Premier League players, which will need to happen if the return to the sport is going to be safe.

On Friday, there will be a league meeting which will see all the plans laid out with representatives from all 20 clubs currently in the league. This comes in the same week that the French government cancelled all sporting events in the country which ended both Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 with Paris Saint-Germain being confirmed as the French champions again.

It would seem that what happened in France has led Woodward to ask some of his own questions regarding the proposed restart as any person in a high capacity as any club would do, ensuring that all players, coaches, the manager and all other associated staff were going to be safe. Woodward, at a recent Fans’ Forum, was quoted as saying:

“We’ve got to have clarity on what the future holds.

“What will happen with the remainder of this season? What is the impact on next season? Is it behind closed doors or in front of fans?

“What’s the impact on broadcast deals, sponsorship deals? What’s the impact on domestic cups?

“Also, we don’t yet know what’s going to happen with regards to the FA Cup – we’re obviously still in that in the quarter-finals.

“What’s going to happen to that next season if it’s truncated a little bit to squeeze in Premier League games? Does that have a knock-on on domestic cups?

“There are many, many moving parts. It is not necessarily going to be business as usual for clubs this summer.

“It feels somewhat inappropriate to see speculation about transfers for hundreds of millions in current circumstances.”

United were in good form before the coronavirus pandemic stopped world football and were unbeaten in 11 matches, scoring 29 goals, conceding twice, and keeping nine clean sheets. This saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side pushing for a top four position in the Premier League to earn UEFA Champions League football next season.

United were also on the verge of securing a place in the last eight of the UEFA Europa League, beating LASK 5-0 in their last game before football was sidelined, seemingly putting them in the draw for the next round. United have also been tipped to be competitive in the transfer market this summer, which was previously downplayed by Woodward. He said:

“It’s always a top priority for us to strengthen the team and build on what Ole is very clearly achieving in terms of bringing us back to the top.

“But we’ve got to have clarity on what the future holds.

“Clearly, it’s true we are fortunate to be in a strong financial position compared to many clubs, but we are not immune from the financial impact of what this virus is doing.”

Perhaps Woodward’s questions will be answered on Friday in the meeting with the Premier League, which could start the process for the players returning to training and gearing themselves up for restarting the season, which is something that could be problematic with the country seemingly divided. Rumours suggest a restart from the 8 June 2020.

Jadon Sancho could have a similar effect to that of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United

Manchester United target Jadon Sancho has reportedly agreed almost every deal of a transfer from Borussia Dortmund back to Manchester, albeit the red half not the blue half, according to reports in the media. Based on this, it has made me think about the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo and whether the 20-year-old’s arrival could have a similar effect to Ronaldo almost 17 years ago.

This season, despite it being interrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, Sancho has made 35 appearances for Dortmund, scoring 17 goals and assisting a further 19, playing 2,791 minutes of football in the Bundesliga, the UEFA Champions League, the DFB-Pokal and the DFL-Supercup. Ronaldo was two years younger when he moved to United and in his final season at Sporting, he played 31 times, scored five goals and five assists.

United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, has been trying to sign a world class Ronaldo-esque player for some time now. Back in the summer of 2013, post-Sir Alex Ferguson, Woodward tried to lure a number of stars to Old Trafford, including Ronaldo himself, a rumour that came back during each transfer window that followed. United have brought in some big names, none of really brought anything like Ronaldo did in 2003.

Sancho could be the player that Woodward has been dreaming about signing, despite making many mistakes along the way, in the form of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and most recently, Alexis Sanchez. The 20-year-old is already a star in the making and after establishing himself in the Bundesliga, the Premier League beckons for him.

The 20-year-old England international predominantly plays on the right-wing for Dortmund but has played on the left-wing and as an attacking midfielder. United need a player on the right-wing, as no matter how many times it is tested, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and Daniel James have not quite cut it there. United need something better, not that James is a failure, he’s done well stepping up from the Championship to the Premier League this season.

Statistically, Sancho offers 1.8 shots per game, 1.9 key passes, and 2.4 dribbles, which is good for a player of his age. Obviously, this may not be something he transfers immediately at Premier League level and may need the time to settle. Compared to what is already at the club, Sancho would be an improvement, especially on the right-wing, which has been a problem area for United for what feels like forever.

United could well be two or three players away from building a team that is capable of achieving something on the football patch. For seven consecutive seasons now, United have failed to launch a title challenge, finishing second during the 2017/18 season, some 19 points behind the reigning Premier League champions, Manchester City. The following season, United capitulated, finishing sixth resulting in Jose Mourinho being sacked in December 2018 and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replacing him.

With the arrival of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Daniel James, and Bruno Fernandes during the 2019/20 season, plus the temporary addition of Odion Ighalo, United seem to be building something. With Paul Pogba rumoured to be signing a new long-term contract at the Old Trafford club, Solskjaer could well be building something special, which may set the club back on track to achieving the impossible, at least for the past seven seasons.

If United manage to sign Sancho, which seems to be hotly tipped at this moment in time, plus an addition in defensive midfield and possible an out and out striker, perhaps United will be better suited to mounting a title charge against current Premier League leaders, Liverpool, who look set to confirm their status as champions as soon as football restarts. If Solskjaer cab do this, I am sure he will be backed by those who have an agenda against him.

An in Depth Look at Major Signings made During Ed Woodward’s time at Manchester United

Since Ed Woodward replaced David Gill in 2013 as executive vice-chairman at Manchester United and effectively took charge of the club’s transfer dealings, it’s safe to say there has been a mixed reaction from the fans of the club. Some see United have spent nearly £1 billion since 2013 and think there is no way a club spending that much can be struggling with transfers.

Others see how a large portion of these transfers did not work out as well as the club would have hoped and point the blame at the man in charge, Ed Woodward. In this article, big money signings made under Woodward will be ranked and the overall transfer strategy will be analyzed, concluding with the answer to this question; Is it time for Ed Woodward to relinquish transfer responsibilities to a Director of Football? 

Twelve players signed from 2013 to present day have been selected for this pool of players to be analyzed. New signings that have not yet played a full season like Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes have been excluded. Defenders have also been excluded as Woodward seems to refer back to the coaches when deciding on defensive acquisitions, as evident by Louis van Gaal signing Daley Blind or Jose Mourinho signing Victor Lindelof. Woodward seems to focus on more marketable positions, such as forwards, so this article will be focusing more on these players. Starting off with number twelve…

12) Angel Di Maria

Number twelve and eleven on this list could very easily swap around but the Argentine has just grabbed last spot due to his poor attitude. A deadline day signing to mark the end of Louis van Gaal’s first transfer window, Di Maria arrived with a plethora of promises but left with little more than a miraculous chipped goal against Leicester City to his name. After one season that was marked with clashes with Van Gaal and problems adjusting to the league, Di Maria had enough and left for Paris Saint-Germain. A lot of money wasted for very little in return. 

11) Alexis Sanchez

Oh what could have been with Alexis Sanchez. His time at Arsenal was fantastic, scoring 60 Premier League goals for the Gunners but his time at Manchester United has been the polar opposite. Not only have his performances been dire for the most part, his arrival upset a lot at the club. Taking in the highest wage at the club, Sanchez’s arrival allegedly upset the wage structure. This made resigning individuals such as David De Gea more difficult. His arrival also pushed Anthony Martial out of the starting eleven despite the Frenchman being in fine form. It begs the question, was Sanchez signed because Mourinho wanted him or did Woodward just want to beat Manchester City to a player?

10+9) “Scheid” midfield

Great examples of players bought for one manager that did not fit the next, the midfield pair of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger were huge indicators of Woodward signing players without long term planning in mind. Both players were good professionals during their time at the club but never locked down places in the squad when Van Gaal was sacked. The pair went from first team members of Van Gaal’s squad to almost no appearances under Jose Mourinho. They were eventually sold to Everton and the Chicago Fire respectively. 

8) Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Again, an example of a great player signed that did not fit the style of the coach. A Mourinho midfield relies on physical presence and hard working individuals that work both sides of the game. Mkhitaryan is more of a luxury player that can have moments of brilliance but in Mourinho’s set up just looked lost most of the time. He was eventually swapped to Arsenal for Alexis Sanchez, which is a transfer deal both clubs will want to forget ever happened. 

7) Fred

Fred has become one of United’s best players this season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, he is placed at only number seven on this list as representation for the disaster of a window that ultimately led to Jose Mourinho’s sacking. To close the gap of 19 points on Man City, Mourinho was given Fred, who would need a year to adapt from the Ukrainian League to the Premier League, a young prospect at fullback in Diogo Dalot and a reserve goalkeeper in Lee Grant. Poor planning and execution by Ed Woodward and the squad is paying the price for that window to this day. 

6) Romelu Lukaku

Another ‘galactico’ type signing made by Ed Woodward that does not indicate any sort of long term planning by him. A striker that can hold up the ball well was crucial for Mourinho’s system but Lukaku is much more effective when he is facing the goal. Woodward then replaced Mourinho with Solskjaer who likes a more technical striker. Lukaku himself did well, scoring 28 goals for the club in the league but is another indication of poor planning by the club’s higher ups.

5) Ander Herrera

A true professional and fan favorite during his time at the club. Ander Herrera is a rare signing almost all United fans can agree on being a success at the club. He was also signed before the arrival of Van Gaal so it is safe to assume he was a Woodward signing. Credit where credit’s due, Woodward got this one right. 

4) Anthony Martial

Another fan favorite, Anthony Martial has had his ups and downs at Manchester United but when he’s been on form, he’s lit up Old Trafford. In the current squad, only Marcus Rashford has scored more for the club. However, his signing again exposes a lack of planning by Woodward. Van Gaal said on numerous occasions Martial is one for the next manager, referring to Giggs, yet Woodward never gave Giggs a chance and appointed Mourinho. Martial would eventually fall out of favor with Mourinho.

3) Juan Mata

A true professional and some would argue the best post Sir Alex Ferguson signing, Juan Mata has been a class act. Mata was one of those players that if he’s available, you sign and that is just what Woodward did. No complaints with this one. 

2) Paul Pogba

A polarizing figure at United but Paul Pogba on his day is one of the best players in the English Premier League. His signing was not only great on the pitch for providing fans with moments of magic but his signing showed Manchester United could still attract players, even without Champions League football. His signing appeared to be the catalyst for a new, successful era but other factors at the club let that prospect down. His frequent clashes with Mourinho again beg the question, did Woodward force a player onto the coach that the coach did not want?

1) Zlatan Ibrahimovic 

The leader of Jose Mourinho’s 2016/17 side, Ibrahimovic did what he set out to do and conquered England. The biggest star, along with Paul Pogba, that United had signed since Ferguson retired, Ibrahimovic scored 22 goals in a season that saw United win three trophies. He wasn’t here for a long time but on a free from PSG he sure did make the reds excited. 

Is it time for Ed Woodward to relinquish transfer responsibilities to a Director of Football?

After analyzing big money transfers made by Woodward, it is concluded that yes, it is time to get a Director of Football to oversee transfers. As mentioned throughout the article, Woodward’s transfer strategy is not much of a strategy. He often signs big name players that do not make logical sense for the current coaches or future of the club. Players fall out of favor with coaches on occasion but it seems to happen quite often at United, especially with big transfers. Woodward has a lot on his plate with the commercial side of running the club. Appointing a football man that can oversee transfer dealings and long term planning for the club will benefit United more than having Woodward do everything.

Written by Nicholas Blaustein

Old Trafford has been stagnating under the Glazer ownership

Manchester United’s home Old Trafford has long been England’s premier club stadium. The ‘Theatre of Dreams’ has the biggest capacity for a club side in England at 76,000, but the stadium has not been redeveloped at all since the North West and North East Quadrants were filled in during the 2005/06 season.

Planning for the Quadrants was put in place before the take-over of the club by the Glazer family, and they have not put forward any plans while owning the club to increase the capacity further. In the time since, Manchester City have expanded their capacity in the South Stand to fit 55,000 inside the Etihad and this week Liverpool have put forward more consultation plans to increase their Anfield Road end, taking the overall capacity of Anfield to over 60,000.

On this evidence it’s clear that United’s rivals are not only ahead on the pitch, but also off it. Old Trafford from a distance looks rusty and lob sided, due to the fact that the South Stand, renamed The Bobby Charlton Stand in 2016, has only one tier, compared to the opposite North Stand’s three. Behind the South Stand is residential houses and a railway line used by fans every game, these being the biggest logistical issues regarding adding new tiers.

It would cost reportedly 200 million to add 10,000 extra seats, however, with United being one of the richest clubs in world football, money should be no issue. It has been stated that there is also the technology available to not have to build over the railway line. However, the expansion would mean limited additional corporate facilities and this shows how the Glazers operate, if there is little room for corporate opportunities, the interest will not be high. 

Over the years the number of channels now broadcasting matches has resulted in a substantial increase in TV money coming into the club, and the significant amount of sponsors the club has too now adds millions a season. Simply put, matchday revenue no longer makes the club the most money. The Glazers are rarely seen at Old Trafford, so it would come as no surprise that the matchday experience means little to them. Their lack of care for the ground could be seen before last April’s Manchester derby when the roof leaked before the game.

Managing director Richard Arnold stated in 2018 that expanding Old Trafford would be a multi-season challenge and there wasn’t a certain way of doing it without rendering United homeless. However, the club needs to move forward in some way as other clubs are catching up either through ground redevelopment or by moving to a new ground completely. In the years that the Glazers have owned the club, Arsenal and Tottenham have moved into impressively modern new grounds, while Everton and Chelsea are also planning to move in the near future.

Moving away from Old Trafford would be troubling for most fans, but the way the ground is being allowed to rot under current ownership means United are being left in the past. It seems like it won’t take many more years until the ground no longer has the highest capacity in the country. Under the ownership of the Glazers, the Theatre of Dreams is being slept on, and something will have to change.

Written by Alex Metcalfe

Manchester United have ‘important opportunity’ to continue the rebuild this summer; what could that mean?

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has suggested that this summer will be an ‘important opportunity’ to continue the rebuild of the club. It has perhaps led to thoughts suggesting that the club will back the manager, currently Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to continue the rebuild, bringing in the players the club needs to put the club in the right direction to head back in the right direction to glory.

Over the past seven seasons, Woodward has been responsible for the arrival and departure of three different managers; David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho with Solskjaer the fourth manager in his time at the helm of the club. In terms of sponsorship and the commercial aspect of the club, Woodward cannot be faulted but in terms of spending that money, despite £684.16 million net being spent by the club, he has done badly.

United have signed 30 different players since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season and 18 of them still remain – the majority of those between the summer of 2016 and the January 2020 transfer window. Many of the other players to have been brought in were either sold on at a loss or left as free agents. Many of the players have not worked out, which could be said for some of those that still remain at the club. Speaking about the rebuild, Woodward said:

“Our focus is on bringing in a combination of experience and the best young players with potential to develop further, fusing graduates from our academy with high-quality acquisitions.

“Our recruitment process focuses on analysis and selection of players over the course of a season, with a view to the following summer transfer window.

“As part of the rebuild we see this coming summer as an important opportunity.”

Solskjaer’s team, despite taking one step forward and two steps back at times this season, are still in contention in the UEFA Europa League, the Emirates FA Cup and despite dropping to eighth in the Premier League this weekend, as United did not play, they are still too distant of top four still with an opportunity to break into the UEFA Champions League places for next season. Woodward continued by saying:

“We remain in contention in the Europa League and the FA Cup, as well as for Champions League qualification, so there is still lots to play for.

“However, as a club and a board, we do recognise that we are not yet where we want to be. It is the overwhelming priority of everyone at the club to get us back to regularly challenging for Premier League and Champions League titles.

“Although progress may not always be smooth, everyone across the club is focused and committed on playing their part in helping achieve those aims.”

United have been a shambles of a club in the past seven years, seeing the U18s lack development, which seems to have changed in the recent seasons, the U23s relegated from the Premier League 2 Division One and working their way to promotion again in their second season in Division Two to signing some of Europe’s top young talents in Hannibal Mejbri, Mateo Mejia, and Dillon Hoogewerf. United have also done a lot of work in the background and continue to be linked with a Director of Football. Woodward continued by saying:

“Significant work has already been done – and investments made – to strengthen the academy and we’re pleased with the progress being made behind-the-scenes to ensure we have the right players, the right infrastructure, and the right culture to sustain long-term success.

“Similarly, there has been extensive work on our recruitment process, with considerable investment in scouting, data and analytics.

“The recruitment department is working to a clear plan and philosophy, along with Ole and his coaching staff.

“We had consistently taken the view that – because January is not an optimal time in terms of availability of players – we would only buy in January if players we had already targeted for the summer became available and we were pleased that this strategy played out with the signing of Bruno Fernandes.

“Bruno Fernandes and the players we brought in last summer are evidence that our process is the right one. There has been no shortage of investment in players over the past few years, with over £200m spent since Ole became manager; our aim is to ensure that we continue to achieve consistency in quality of recruitment.”

United have some great commercial elements which continues to drive revenue into the club. However, the hierarchy need to understand how it needs to be spent so United can move into the 21st century and actually start to move forward in terms of development. Whilst United have won two FA Community Shields, one Emirates FA Cup, one EFL (Carabao) Cup and one Europa League trophy, the Premier League is something that has always gotten away. Woodward concluded by saying:

“Off the pitch, it is important to note that the commercial elements of the club are geared to ensuring we have a self-sustaining model which supports investment in the playing side.

“Meanwhile we continuously look for ways to improve the experience of fans – from the £11 million investment to transform facilities for disabled supporters at Old Trafford, improvements in security, engagement with fan groups around stadium atmosphere or a potential rail seating trial, to ongoing reviews of match day catering and beverage provision.”

Obviously, as we have seen in recent years, Woodward is very good at talking about the future and giving the impression that things will soon change. After Mourinho was sacked, there were rumours of a Director of Football, which never materialised and now similar rumours are back, albeit carrying a little weight – although that means nothing. Could this be another false promise to get season ticket holders to renew in time for next season, giving them something to look forward to which may not come?

Or could it be that Woodward and the Glazer’s have all of a sudden realised that everything could soon fall apart if they continue to treat the supporters the way they have done since they took over the club, which has been even more obvious since Ferguson retired. United need something to go right to rebuild the club in the right direction. Supporters have become toxic on social media, moaning about anything and everything, which is problematic, for them more than the club, in my opinion.

This summer, things need to be done correctly by the club, backing the manager and ensuring the club gets rid of the players that have no future, of which there are many. These players will need to be replaced with the spaces in the squad filled after those who left in the summer were not replaced. United have a talented squad, especially when you delve into the academy but in terms of experience, leadership and ambition, within the squad, it is lacking and needs attention. Could this be the summer that Woodward actually delivers?

copyright: JW