What would a potential Old Trafford walk out mean for Manchester United?

News has surfaced of a proposed walk out at Old Trafford in the 58th minute of Saturday’s Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. This follows weeks of criticism online and inside the ground against the Glazer ownership, with also a lot of blame attached to the club’s executive vice chairman Ed Woodward. 

When #GlazersOut or #SackEdWoodward trend on Social Media, or when anti Glazer chants are being sang by supporters, it certainly does well in spreading the word that the fans are unhappy with the running of the club, but it doesn’t hit those responsible where it hurts. Criticism has resulted in Woodward hiring a PR agency to improve his image, however, even the best PR team in the world would struggle to spin a half empty Old Trafford into a positive for him.

The club’s sponsors want fans inside the ground seeing their adverts and buying their products. Old Trafford has the biggest capacity in the most watched league in the world and this is therefore a huge reason why United gain so much revenue in sponsorship. Chevrolet and adidas are United’s two biggest sponsors, with adidas currently paying United £75 million per season. Would one of the biggest and most recognisable sports brands want to be paying so much for a sports team playing in front of thousands of empty seats?

Another outcome from a potential walkout would be the effect it would have on the manager and the players. In early 2016 Liverpool fans walked out of Anfield in the 77th minute to protest against a rise in ticket prices. Liverpool were 2-0 up in the game before the walkout, proceeding to thereafter throw the match away as Sunderland came back to claim a 2-2 draw. 

With United chasing points to reach a place in the top four, a similar walkout shortly after half-time could damage the players and result in a similar collapse on the pitch. Solskjaer has built up a strong relationship with the home support so seeing them disperse when the team needs them the most could also be a huge blow for him. Unfortunate as this may be, it has been too long since fans inside the ground made their voices heard.

A decade ago in the second half of the 2009/2010 season, the Green & Gold protest gathered so much momentum that David Beckham even picked up and wore a scarf thrown by the crowd after a Champions League Round of 16 second leg tie against AC Milan. Many rival fans tend to claim United fans are only complaining about the owners and Woodward because of a recent lack of success, but forget that at the time in 2010 United were going for four titles on the bounce and a third Champions League final in four years.

What most don’t understand is that frustrations are born from a lack of investment, a lack of planning and a lack of attention. Comparisons can be drawn from a decade ago, in the summer of 2009 United sold Cristiano Ronaldo and decided against signing Carlos Tevez, replacing them with Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen. The Glazer family believed that the genius of Ferguson was so great that he could win trophies even without them having to spend fortunes to replace players, and they were right. 

However, they didn’t plan for Ferguson’s retirement a few years later in 2013 and a lack of planning is still affecting the club now. In the summer of 2019, Romelu Lukaku was sold and Ander Herrera’s contract expired, yet United still haven’t replaced them, with the club yet to sign anybody in the current January transfer window. 

The Wolves game comes the day after the window closes and if key positions haven’t been filled, the atmosphere could only be even more toxic. Those that do walk out will walk out knowing that it goes much deeper than trophies, results and performances and that it would-be short-term pain for long-term gain.

Written by Alex Metcalfe

Ed Woodward has overseen Manchester United's decline and his time quickly running out

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?

Could signing Edinson Cavani be a genius move or another desperate failure?

Following the news that Marcus Rashford is set to be side-lined until at least March with a double stress fracture in his back, Manchester United are suddenly without their top goal scorer. Rashford’s goals have carried United this season, especially in the big games, and now he is set to miss vital league matches away at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur as United fight for a top four position.

Anthony Martial has an impressive strike rate of nearly a goal every two games with 11 in 24, while Mason Greenwood is nearly in double figures himself. However, it’s clear that the Reds need reinforcements. Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani has recently handed in a transfer request at the French champions and with his valuation seemingly cheap at around €20 million, United must consider taking a chance on the 32-year-old Uruguayan. PSG sporting director Leonardo recently confirmed that Cavani is unlikely to stay.

“We had a proposal from Atletico Madrid. We did not have a proposal worthy of the player’s worth (But) I’m not sure he will be here in February.”

Despite only scoring just two league goals this season so far, Cavani certainly has an impressive track record, unbelievably scoring over 100 goals in just three years at Napoli and scoring nearly 200 in nearly seven years in Paris, despite competing against the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappe for the limelight. Cavani was top scorer twice in both Serie A and Ligue 1 and not only brings a vast amount of club experience but also international experience, with over 100 caps for his country, scoring in the last three FIFA World Cups. 

His stats speak for himself and with the need for a striker and with the low transfer fee being bounded about, the deal seems on the surface a no-brainer. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his staff may be wary of Cavani’s intentions and if he would want to join. Whether Solskjaer would turn his back on his long-term cultural reboot to solve a short-term problem will be the deciding factor in the club making a move.

Not only have the club seen many superstar names fail to live up to expectation over the years but if Cavani was to join and not perform, he would be on a long list of South American players who haven’t made the grade at Old Trafford. There are also concerns over Cavani’s attitude that may worry figures at the club. In January of 2015, Cavani was fined by former United centre half and then Paris Saint-Germain manager Laurent Blanc for missing a mid-season training camp.

Cavani has also previously clashed with Neymar over penalty duties. His miss against Lyon in 2017 after he had grabbed the ball from the Brazilian resulted in a dressing room bust up. There’s no doubt that although Solskjaer has said he may be tempted into targeting players on a short-term basis, he will still want any players brought into the club to have the right attitude.

If the Reds were to go for Cavani, he could either be inspirational like Ibrahimović or unsettling like Angel Di Maria. Even though he could be a trouble maker, he is in no uncertain terms a top-class striker and with just a week remaining in the transfer window, United are certainly now desperate for one.

Written by Alex Metcalfe

The Second Wave of Manchester United’s ‘Galacticos’

In the years preceding the summer of 2016, a major issue that was cited as contributing to Manchester United’s downfall was a lack of characters in the dressing room. The departure of vocal leaders such as Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, had a stark impact on the morale of the dressing room. However, in the summer of 2016, Manchester United continued their ‘Galactico’ transfer policy, in spite of its previous failure with Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao.

Jose Mourinho was appointed as manager, a charismatic and ego-driven manager, who could be seen as a managerial ‘Galactico’ signing. Following the arrival of the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba were the imminent arrivals, both of whom possessed the leadership qualities that were previously missing at the club. 

The signing of the Swedish striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was the first of Mourinho’s elite stars. The towering Swede arrived at Old Trafford with a sensational goal record. In his time at Paris Saint-Germain, Ibrahimovic netted 113 goals in 122 games. Furthermore, the self-titled ‘Lion’ had won league titles at five of his previous seven clubs. The CV of Ibrahimovic, combined with his infamous leadership skills, meant that the Swede was the ideal signing for a dejected and goal-deprived Manchester United squad.

Furthermore, the fact that Ibrahimovic arrived on a free transfer, meant that any qualms surrounding his age were counteracted. In spite of his ego-driven sentiment, Ibrahimovic didn’t disappoint. On his professional debut for the ‘Red Devils’, Ibrahimovic powered home a header at Wembley in the FA Community Shield, which proved to be the decisive goal for Manchester United.

Furthermore, Ibrahimovic began his league career for United in spectacular fashion. In his first two Premier League games, Ibrahimovic bagged three goals, including a spectacular long-range effort on his league debut. However, following his spectacular start, Ibrahimovic encountered a slight dry period for United, only scoring two goals in his next nine appearances.

In spite of his brief goal-scoring struggles, Ibrahimovic excelled in the following months. Following breaking his goal-scoring duck with two superb goals against Swansea City, Ibrahimovic went on to score an astonishing 20 goals in his next 20 games. In the midst of his astonishing goal-scoring streak, Ibrahimovic provided a vital last-minute equaliser against arch-rivals Liverpool, as well as propelling United’s UEFA Europa League progress by scoring a hat-trick against Saint-Etienne.

In spite of these vital goals from Ibrahimovic, his most memorable moment in a United shirt came against Southampton in the League Cup final. Not only did ‘Ibra’ fire United into the lead through a stupendous free kick, but he also scored an 87th-minute winner, almost single-handedly winning the silverware for United. But unfortunately for both the player and the club, the Swede’s season was about to end prematurely.

On the 20 April 2017 in a Europa League tie against Anderlecht, Ibrahimovic landed awkwardly from an aerial duel, and in the process acquired an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury. This devastating injury ended Ibrahimovic’s season and to a large extent his United career. While Ibrahimovic did extend his stay at United, the impact of his injury had taken a toll on the forward.

Following some brief cameo appearances in December 2017, Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed United for LA Galaxy. In spite of the devastating end to his United career, Ibrahimovic was undoubtedly a resounding success for United and Mourinho. In the 2016/17 season, Ibrahimovic provided 28 goals while playing a vital role in United’s clinching of the League Cup, the Europa League and the Community Shield. But for Ed Woodward it provided a poignant message, Galacticos could be successful.

Following the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Manchester United splashed out a world record £89 million on Paul Pogba. Similarly to the summer of 2014, the signing of Pogba for a United side lacking Champions League participation was seen as an extraordinary acquisition. With four Serie A title to his name at the age of 23, the Frenchman was viewed as the hottest midfield prospect in Europe.

Due to his previous stint at United and his friendship with players such as Jesse Lingard, the general consensus was that Pogba would settle in fairly comfortably at United. However, the 2016/17 season was a mixed season for the midfielder. Statistically speaking, Pogba only provided eight goals and five assists in the Premier League and the Europa League. In addition, Pogba came under repeated criticism for his ego-driven off-pitch persona, which came to the fore in the launch of his ‘Pogmoji’ brand on the day he conceded a penalty against Liverpool.

In spite of the criticism Pogba received, his opening goal against Ajax in the Europa League final was arguably the most important goal of United’s season. The Europa League triumph of United not only obtained silverware but also meant that United gained qualification for the Champions League in the 2017/18 season. 

In the 2017/18 season, United and Pogba got off to a flying start. The ‘Red Devils’ won six of their first seven games, scoring twenty-one goals in the process. Pogba provided two goals and two assists in the four games he played in United’ extraordinary run, emphasising how crucial the Frenchman was to United’s purple patch. However, in a UEFA Champions League encounter with FC Basel, Pogba limped off with a hamstring injury and faced six weeks on the sidelines as a result.

In the wake of Pogba’s injury, United was defeated by Chelsea and most surprisingly of all, Huddersfield Town. The impact of Pogba on United’s performances was illustrated by the fact that with Pogba, United picked up 2.75 points per game, and without him the picked up 1.85 points per game. Following a difficult festive period in which United dropped points against Burnley and Leicester City, the relationship between Paul Pogba and Mourinho began to deteriorate.

Following an on pitch dispute between the pair in a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, Pogba’s ‘unstoppable’ status was erased. The most notable example of this came in United’s 2-1 home defeat to Sevilla, which as a result knocked United out of the Champions League. As opposed to starting the club’s record signing, Mourinho chose to include youth prospect Scott McTominay in the side, a decision which ultimately came back to bite Mourinho. This decision planted the seed for a monumental fall out in the following season.

Following a FIFA World Cup victory with France, Pogba was made vice-captain of United by Mourinho. This was seen as a potential turning point in the relationship between the pair. However, following Pogba’s public criticism of Mourinho’s tactics, the so-called ‘Special One’ stripped Pogba of the vice-captaincy. In addition, a training ground row between the manager and the player signified that their relationship was broken beyond the pair.

In Mourinho’s final months in charge, Pogba became a regular inclusion on the substitutes bench. The exclusion of Pogba from the side did nothing to help United’s results, and Mourinho was sacked as a result of United’s poor form. The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw a resurgence in Paul Pogba’s form.

The resurgence of Pogba helped United to win eleven out of their first twelve games under the Norwegian, and many saw this as a turning point in the Pogba’s career at United. However, following a rapid downturn in United’s and Pogba’s form, the Frenchman once again faced an onslaught of criticism. In spite of a mixed season, Pogba obtained a commendable 13 goals and nine assists in the Premier League. 

Following his public announcement of his desire to leave the club, it seems that three years on from his return to United, Pogba will depart once again. The dilemmas surrounded Pogba have emphasised the risk of signing ‘Galacticos’, due to the ego that comes with an elite signing. While Pogba’s United career has seen him win two trophies, and deliver some exceptional goal returns, specifically in the 2018/19 season, there appears to be a lingering feeling that he could’ve achieved much more at United.

While Ibrahimovic’s ego was backed up by on-pitch performances, Pogba has been seen by many as a hindrance on the club’s progress. In comparison to the ‘Gaalcticos’, the 2016 wave of Galacticos has been considerably more successful. The relentless goal-scoring endeavours of Ibrahimovic resoundingly trumped the performances of Radamel Falcao, with Ibrahimovic scoring seven times more goals than the Colombian.

While Ibrahimovic was undoubtedly a success, Paul Pogba’s level of success is more questionable. While the Frenchman’s performances have dwarfed those of Angel Di Maria, the Frenchman’s conflict with Mourinho, as well as his inconsistency on the pitch has been a source of frustration for United. Out of the four Galacticos signed from 2014 to 2016, only one of the elite stars has performed to the expected standard. However, the United Galactico era was drawing to a close following the summer of 2016, but the final Galactico was to be more devastating than the previous four combined.

Written by Alexei Braithwaite

Manchester United to appoint a technical director within a fortnight – reports

Manchester United are reported to be desperately seeking a new technical director and hope to appoint someone into the position inside the next fortnight. Talk of this materialised back in December 2018 after Jose Mourinho was sacked. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought in as the caretaker manager, then was appointed in a three-year contract and talk of appointing a director of football seemed to die.

Then, speculation of a sporting director or a technical director materialised, which in turn added hope to the fan base that executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward had finally seen that bringing the club structure into this modern era was finally happening. This then suggested that the appointment could be made before the summer transfer window opened.

That did not happen either. In fact, all talk of this new role to be appointed at the club stopped and it was forgotten, until now at least. The likes of Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand had both been speculated in the media as being contenders for the technical director at the Old Trafford club, which has seemingly come to light once again, with United’s desperation a major factor in the reporting. It is true or is it just another slow news day?

It is suggested in the report that a technical director could be appointed at the club before the squad embarks on their pre-season tour, which starts in Perth, Australia against Perth Glory on the 13 July, following with another match in the city against Leeds United four days later. United will then be involved in the International Champions Cup in Singapore, Shanghai and Cardiff, facing Solskjaer’s former club, Kristiansund in between the final two matches of the summer.

It is said that the technical director will work alongside Solskjaer to pinpoint transfer targets and complete deals with Woodward approving deals, rather than overseeing them. If true, this is the first step to someone who understands football to start something at the club, which provided it works out, would be a great start in something happening which could see Woodward oversee the things he is good at and has interest in – bringing in the money.

United have been linked with more than 60 players so far this summer and have only signed Daniel James from Swansea City but are still hotly linked to Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Sporting Lisbon midfielder, Bruno Fernandes. United will require more incoming players this summer if they are determined to right the wrongs which have been made over recent years so a footballing man in the role is very important.

Only time will tell if this is yet more speculation in the media or whether United have finally admitted that it was not really the managers; David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho who caused all of the problems at the club during the past six years. Woodward and the clubs owners, the Glazers are also culpable for the lack of investment, funding and structure in bringing United back to the pinnacle of football.

Will Ferdinand or Fletcher be involved in helping the manager solve United’s problems in the future or will it be someone else? In time we will find out.

Love United Hate Glazer: The statistics behind the sentiment

“There’s no value in the transfer market”The words that Sir Alex Ferguson uttered on multiple occasions during his tenure serving under the Glazer’s stewardship. A similar sentiment was continuously conveyed by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, following the purchase of their outlandish Emirates Stadium.

Both of these veteran managers had their hands tied by the powers that be, with Wenger especially even getting some of the blame for Arsenal’s lack of activity in the transfer market. In financial terms, Arsenal’s inability to invest following their transition to the Emirates is slightly logical. The total cost of constructing their new home was a staggering £390 million, which in the current economic climate would amount to £554 million.

It’s therefore understandable that Arsenal’s dealings in the transfer market were limited, following the 2006 rehousing of their club. However, in United’s case, the lack of investment in the eyes of many, is down to the perceived financial restraints imposed by their infamous owners. 

The widespread consensus among the Manchester United fanbase is a very poignant one: the Glazer family have inflicted debt upon the club, while providing scarce amounts of Sterling to bolster United’s squad. The bad news for the Glazer family is the financial statistics largely support this notion. In relation to debt, United’s debt stood at £0 in 2003, when the club was still owned by Martin Edwards. Just two years later, following the beginning of the Glazer era, the debt had astronomically risen to £558.9 million.

In the following four years, United’s on the pitch endeavours were close to perfection. In the period from 2006 to 2009, the Red Devil’s won three consecutive Premier League trophies, as well as the most desired trophy in club football: the UEFA Champions League. However, in 2009, the sale of United’s star asset Cristiano Ronaldo, well and truly burst the bubble of success. In the seasons preceding the Portuguese’s departure, the winger’s performances were stupendous.

In the 2007/08 season, Ronaldo scored an outrageous 42 goals, helping United to win the two most coveted trophies; the Premier League and the Champions League. Furthermore, Ronaldo obtained the award for the best player on the planet, the ‘Ballon d’Or’. While Ronaldo’s departure hit Sir Alex Ferguson’s on-pitch endeavours hard, the transfer ignited a chain of events that decimated the reputation of the Glazer family.

Manchester United received a world record £80 million from Real Madrid for the Portuguese’ services, and in the days following speculation was rife over who United would sign to replace their star asset. The investments that followed, were to tarnish the Glazer’s reputation forever. 

In spite of obtaining £80 million from their star player, United spent a measly £27 million in the market. The arrivals of Antonio Valencia for £17 million, Gabriel Obertan for £3.6 million, Mame Biram Diouf for £4 million and Michael Owen on a free transfer, was met with disbelief by United fans and mockery by fans of rival teams. The net spend of United totalled up at a profit of £69.36m, a figure which was an indictment on the perceived questionable motivations of the owners. 

Furthermore, the 2009 annual earnings of Manchester United stood at €366.24 million, meaning just 7.3% of the club’s earnings were injected into the transfer kitty. However, the contrasting investments of their immediate Premier League rivals papered over the cracks at United. Liverpool forked out £18 million on a questionable signing in Alberto Aquilani, in an attempt to plug the gap in midfield created by Xabi Alonso’s departure to Real Madrid.

The only notable acquisition made by Chelsea was Yuri Zhirkov, a commendable signing, but not the type of signing that sent shivers down the spine of United fans. This meant that there wasn’t an overtly catastrophic effect on United, illustrated by the fact they obtained a respectful second position the following season. While Chelsea and Liverpool’s transfers were uninspiring, there was a big long-term threat to United’s dominance much closer to home.

Their revamped rivals Manchester City, poached one of their star players, Carlos Tevez. This signified the first significant shift in financial power between the two Manchester clubs, and it only added to the woes of United. While United’s on-pitch performances didn’t suffer significantly in the following season, the Glazer’s PR did. A constant throughout the 2009/10 was the presence of green and gold attire, to represent the origins of Manchester United, Newton Heath.

This protest at the Glazer’s ownership hit its peak in March 2010, when former United star David Beckham wore an anti-Glazer scarf following a Champions League tie at Old Trafford. The fact that even Beckham, a global phenomenon backed the anti-Glazer movement was seen as a significant moment in the protests.

However, ultimately the protests were ineffective, and the momentum died down. A minority of fans had gone to the extent of forming a new football club, named FC United of Manchester. The formation of this new entity represents the level to which fans felt United’s identity had been betrayed. 

In the closing months of 2010, the Glazer’s reputation was damaged even further. In the annual financial statistics published by Manchester United, the debt surrounding the club had risen to £777.9 million. Statistically speaking, this was a 39.1% increase in United’s debt. This damning statistic embodies the immoral nature of the Glazer ownership, and the pejorative impact the American owners had on United’s finances.

While United’s finances suffered, the success of the squad continued. The 2010/11 saw United clinch their 19th title, overtaking their adversary in Liverpool. Just two years later, United were Premier League champions again, by a romping 11 point margin. However, their emphatic title win was overshadowed by the departure of their illustrious manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Equally damaging to United was the exit of the Red Devils’ chief executive, David Gill.

As a result, Everton manager David Moyes was appointed as the first post-Ferguson manager, and Ed Woodward was promoted to the position of Chief executive. These two devastating departures came to the fore in September 2013 when David Moyes obtained only a singular signing, the Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini. A combination of a lack of transfer activity and the perceived incompetence of both Woodward and Moyes resulted in a disastrous seventh-placed finish for United, their lowest for 26 years.

In the aftermath of a car crash of a season, questions were once again asked regarding the lack of investment from the Glazer family. However, upon the arrival of Louis Van Gaal, United spent big in the window. A total of £175 million was injected into the squad, with big name signings such as Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao representing a real statement of intent from United.

This was a drastic increase in the financial power the Glazers provided, however, the motive surrounding it was questionable. It could be argued that challenging for titles wasn’t the Glazer’s motivation, but instead obtaining a place in the Champions League. This is due to the financial reward a place in the Champions League provides, illustrated by the fact that qualification for the group stage instantly generates €15 million.

Furthermore, United’s commercial revenue is helped by participation in the Champions League. The notion of the Glazer family settling for Champions League qualification was emphasised by the patterns of spending in the Jose Mourinho era. In Mourinho’s first season in which United did not qualify for the Champions League, £166 million was invested in the market, with United even breaking the world transfer record to sign Paul Pogba.

However, two years later, following a respectable second place finish, Mourinho was only provided with £74 million. This was in spite of United’s desperate need for a centre half, which Mourinho passionately outlined on many occasions. As a result of United’s failure to purchase a centre-back, Mourinho grew increasingly disillusioned and departed the club just four months into the season. The lack of a centre half’s arrival also confirmed to the notion that Ed Woodward was purely interested in signings that generated sponsorship revenue, which was emphasised by the pursuit of Raphael Varane.

The evidence of the last 14 years of the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United suggests there is a tangible need for change. The ‘#GlazerOut’ movement has gained significant traction in recent weeks, and the sentiment behind it is entirely justified. While the Glazer family is at the helm, it seems inconceivable that United will challenge for illustrious silverware such as the Premier League and the Champions League.

While United’s arch-rivals Manchester City and Liverpool are obtaining the most coveted trophies, Manchester United are falling into an abyss of mediocrity. The anti-Glazer movement must continue to be substantial, otherwise, the soul of Manchester United may be irreparably damaged.

Written by Alexei Braithwaite

Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice ignored as Ed Woodward wants to restructure the club his way – a direct route to even more failure?

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has reportedly ignored the advice that Sir Alex Ferguson has given him regarding the restructuring of the Old Trafford club this summer. It hardly looks like the restructuring of the club is going to be what supporters thought. Imagine ignoring the advice given by a guy who literally turned the fortunes of the around from 1986.

Ferguson won a total of 38 trophies for United in his near-27 year career as manager of the club. Back in December 2018, when Jose Mourinho was sacked days after that 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, it was suggested that the club were to appoint a Director of Football, or a Sporting Director or even a Technical Director – however, after more than six months, nothing has materialised.

It is suggested that Ferguson recommended Steve Walsh in a consultancy role to help mastermind any changes needed to the club structure, which has been reported in the media on Tuesday. Walsh found the talents of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and N’Golo Kante as head of recruitment for Leicester City before leaving to become the sporting director at Everton two years ago – leaving the role last summer.

The fact that Walsh is a football man would have been a step in the right direction for United, any football man would be a better option rather than letting Woodward rule the roost in a sport he has little interest or knowledge in. Things like social media impressions, retweets and likes, along with the success of a mobile phone application seem to excite that man, not what happens on the football pitch.

Woodward rejected Ferguson’s advice and would rather bring in a former United player to do the job that Walsh could have done. Ajax has former players in various roles at the club so the method is that could work at United, however, looking at it from my angle, it would seem that someone who few or no experience would need to be overseen by Woodward, who would obviously still make the decisions. This results in the appointment being meaningless, a position with no hope of change.

If you have a car that needs a new engine, you don’t replace the battery, put in new spark plugs and change the dip stick in order to do the same job. You just don’t do that. You change the engine or even buy a new car. Woodward seems to want to retain control of the entire club, which is the problem. In a financial manner, Woodward is great at his job. In a footballing manner, he has a lot to learn and an unwillingness to learn at the same time.

Woodward feels that a former player of the club would be able to carry out his restructuring of the club, which is to find young players with potential who could grow into players that would propel the club into the identity which has faded away over the last six years and is still disappearing. Rio Ferdinand has been linked with this role (or a similar one) in the media recently.

It is suggested in the media that Ferguson feels hurt about the way he has been frozen out by the club and was a mouthpiece for the club to seek to bring in Mauricio Pochettino after sacking Mourinho last year. It is also suggested that Richard Arnold and Matt Judge both backed Woodward, as they would, which leaves Ferguson feeling like he is not valued. You would have thought that after achieving the impossible dream, the master would be at least listened to.

If this does not work though, it will be on Woodward, Arnold and Judge, not Ferguson – so I guess that would mean that more fingers would be pointing at the ‘master of failure’, Ed Woodward, which might, eventually, result in him being relieved of his duties which is something that should have happened after the first bungled summer transfer window, let alone the five that followed. A seventh summer would no doubt add more bad press to Woodward’s reign – something which the Glazers should start taking notice of.

Manchester United: more than just a brand

When we attempt to envisage a footballing academy, people’s perception – whilst somewhat varied – generally equates to, more or less, the same conclusion: a group of incredibly talented young men, who have warranted the opportunity to test their skill set among the best. Ultimately, less than 1% of the annual academy entrants will join the professional Footballing ranks in the UK.

Despite this harrowing realism, which partners a child’s commencement on their road toward the professional ranks, there are many of the worlds top clubs who are famed for the development of generations of star names. Sitting among the elite of these clubs, you will find Manchester United.

United are very proud of their roots. Built on tradition and the fundamental fact that when one is good enough, one is indeed old enough. Further to this, the Red Devils boast a remarkable record when it comes to utilising their own: a record which started over 81 years ago. October 30, 1937 – Tom Manley and Jackie Wassall took the field in a 1-0 defeat to Fulham. Both players had come through the youth ranks at Old Trafford and to this very day, a youth team graduate has featured in every matchday squad. 

As a football club, United notably began scouting potential talent in the late 1930s. This particular feat would inevitably coincide with the formation of the historic ‘Manchester United Junior Athletic Club’ – which officially ascended into formation in the 1937/38 season. The stage had been set and it was from this moment, United would change the face of football development in England forever.

The system would inevitably lead to some of the very greatest names in the club’s history: Duncan Edwards, David Pegg, Roger Byrne – who all tragically lost their lives in Munich – as well the likes of the great George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Many more have graced the history books since the inception of this iconic facility and in modern terms, you’d be hard – pressed to find anything to trump the ultra-successful ‘class of 92’: a unique group of players who played an integral role in the clubs historic treble-winning season of 1999.

United, in the modern day, has seen a shift within its internal structure. A change of ownership has seen the priorities of the club sway toward a commercial manifestation. The emphasis laid on ensuring sponsorship deals and promotional standards remain key to future dealings for the football club. 

One particular conversation–held during United’s quarterly conference call with club shareholders in May 2018, mirrored this sentiment. The words of executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, echoed loudly throughout United’s global fan base.

“Playing performance doesn’t really have a meaningful impact on what we can do on the commercial side of the business.”

This particular mentality, often critically debated among the fan-base, has seen the club fall far from the perennial heights achieved during the Sir Alex Ferguson era. Since Ferguson departed Old Trafford, in June 2013, United have seen four different managers take the fabled hot – seat (five if you were to include Ryan Giggs brief stint as caretaker manager).

During this period, United have seen 26 different players signed – 11 of whom have already been moved on to pastures new. It is this very behaviour that has seen United’s identity questioned. A lack of leadership on the field – coupled with diminishing form and several sporadic seasons without participation in Europe’s premier cup competition – the UEFA Champions League.

Despite the growing disenchantment among supporters, a lack of freeflowing football within the historic ‘Theatre of Dreams’ and a meteoric fall, from Ferguson’s days of domestic dominance, United’s youth development continues to turn in the background. When considering the next generation of players, vying to follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned legends of the club, one need look no further than the Under 23s. 

Essentially the Manchester United reserve team, the players within this squad are playing for their opportunity to add to United’s growing 81-year record. Each year, the very best of both academy and Reserve teams are honoured, at United’s annual award ceremony. The prestigious ‘Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year’ – previously awarded to club legends Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs – is seen as the clubs fabled source of recognition toward the recipient of such.

Four of the last five winners – Axel Tuanzebe, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood – are all available for selection and gnawing at the bit for their opportunity. They need look no further than toward frontman Marcus Rashford – he himself a winner of the award in 2015/16 – toward what can be achieved.

Considering the history and the overwhelming importance of this particular portion of United’s ethos – coupled with the first teams recent fall from grace – there has never been a more important time to stabilise a sector of a football club. Three years without silverware – for a side that, like the first team, previously held the perennial title challenger mantle, has seen manager, ‘Ricky Sbragia’ relieved of his duties. United fans wait eagerly for news of his successor.

It is obvious that Manchester United, from top to bottom, is in very strange waters. Uncertainty looms throughout the ranks of each age level and the historic reserve chapter is currently without a leader. For the fans, it is hoped that recognition of recent years of underperforming has been realised and that the appropriate action is being taken to stabilise any decline.

Regardless, a tradition of developing greatness has been etched into every blade of grass. Whilst recognising commercial necessity, United must not ignore their own identity.

Written by Shaun Connelly

Signing raw talent over ego for the long-term is the way to rebuild a club like Manchester United

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has seemingly targeted younger players with raw talent ahead of the summer transfer window in which he will be tasked with rebuilding the club in a bid to bring back the glory days. Whilst some supporters mock the system the Norwegian has started to adopt, there is some great sense in what he is doing.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, in which United last won the Premier League title, there has been little success. David Moyes won the FA Community Shield. Louis van Gaal won the Emirates FA Cup – the first major honour post-Ferguson and Jose Mourinho won the Community Shield, EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League.

During the last six years, United executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward targeted ready-made players; many of whom not actually working out at the club. The likes of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexis Sanchez just has not worked the way we all wanted it to. The squad has massively underachieved on the pitch which led to criticism of many high-profile players.

Solskjaer is motivated by success. Twenty years after helping United achieve the treble, he now finds himself in the manager’s hot seat having the opportunity to guide the club to success once again, if the right signings are made and that he is actually backed by the hierarchy of the club – which cannot be said for the likes of Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho.

In the past few weeks, along with the regular clickbait transfer links, United has been credited with a strong interest in Swansea City winger Daniel James, Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff and Stoke City defender Nathan Collins. This is a refreshing approach but many supporters, who have imagined United as a club that signs galactico players, after Woodward specifically targeted these, do not seem to be happy with the lack of big-name signings. If anything, it is something that has not worked so why would it now?

Manchester United is a club that has always looked towards youth to build teams. It may be an era that is long gone but the Class of 1992 coming through the ranks in the mid-1990s is one of the best periods of the modern football era and Solskjaer would like to recreate that. It was a period where United contributed at least five or six players to the England squad, also having players in the Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland squads.

It may be a gamble but surely, as focusing on big-name signings has dramatically failed in the past six years, Solskjaer’s approach should be celebrated. Just because a young player currently plays for Swansea, Newcastle or Stoke does not mean they are not good enough for a career at a big club. United has a massive scouting network but over the last six years, that has seemingly failed to spot the likes of Dele Alli, Andrew Robertson, James Maddison to name a few.

These three players added to the many more who have made themselves known in the Premier League and beyond should really have been spotted by United’s scouting network. Instead, they seem to be watching nearly every match in Portugal looking at a player who will cost £105 million minimum to activate his release clause (Joao Felix) who at 19, has yet to achieve anything big in the game. Some supporters would rather that gamble, seeing the club spend big bucks with a massive chance of failure rather than success.

Obviously, United will need balance in the transfer market. I am not saying they should buy unproven potential. They need experience in the ranks also. During the past season, United leaked 54 goals in the Premier League, their worst number of goals conceded since the 1978/79 season. The defence has no leader. David De Gea has been off the boil and United just endured a poor period of football after Solskjaer raised the bar initially, driving United towards a challenge for at least the top four in the league.

It is suggested by Andy Mitten that United are seeking a central defender, a right-back, a central midfielder, and a right-winger this summer. If Romelu Lukaku or Alexis Sanchez end up leaving the club, a forward is also expected. That may not be seen as enough by many but as long as the central defender has leadership ability and the right-back is not Ashley Young, it will be a bonus. Also, having a right-sided winger in the team would be great. Did you see the impact of David Beckham in the Treble Reunion on Sunday? How good was it to see a marauding winger putting in near-perfect crosses?

It is expected that Daniel James will become United’s first transfer under Solskjaer with Swansea suggesting it was a case of ‘when not if’ the move materialised but after the sudden death of his father, you can understand him taking time out with his family. Sean Longstaff has been advised to reject United with Kevin Kilbane suggesting the move would be a mistake. Also, despite Darren Fletcher recommending Nathan Collins to United, Stoke City legend Liam Lawrence has warned the player about a prospective move, stating that he will play more in the Championship than at United.

Obviously, there is a long way to go in the transfer window yet. Only domestic transfers can go through right now with international transfers able to be ratified from the 11 June. Solskjaer will be eager to get things sorted though. Perhaps those who are worried about the level of players United have been linked with should have some faith in Solskjaer, like they did with Van Gaal and Mourinho and sit back and relax. After all, what is a moan on social media going to do anyway? Will it change the transfer dealings at United?

Ed Woodward has pledged to provide the funds to rebuild Manchester United but actions speak louder than words

On Thursday afternoon, Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward pledged to use the clubs ‘financial muscle’ which would allow manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to rebuild the club after what can only be deemed as a terrible end to the season. This came after United’s quarterly financial figures were revealed.

After the poor end to the season, which seems to have carried on from when United beat Paris Saint-Germain in Paris, they had the chance to break into the top four and a 15 point target was issued by the manager in order to achieve that. It was never achieved. United finished sixth once again, meaning that UEFA Champions League football would not be something they would be involved with, however, playing in the UEFA Europa League would, starting on the 25 July is Watford win the Emirates FA Cup this weekend.

Obviously, this is not good enough for a team like United and they must be aiming for better. It would be safe to say that after more than £700 million had been spent in the six seasons post-Sir Alex Ferguson, after that kind of investment, the club should be in much better shape but large amounts of that have been wasted by ineffective management at the highest level of the club. That is down to Ed Woodward. As reported by Sky Sports, Woodward, speaking about the path of the club, said:

“After a turbulent season, everyone at Manchester United is focused on building towards the success that this great club expects and our fans deserve.

“Preparations for the new season are underway and the underlying strength of our business will allow us to support the manager and his team as we look to the future.”

Saying things to the media, investors and to the supporters is all well and good but actions speak louder than words. Back in December, after the sacking of Jose Mourinho, it was suggested that United would be seeking a director of football. Now, six months after that happening, nothing seems to have been set in stone and it would have been ideal to get that sorted by around March. The lack of planning here is destroying the club. The ineptitude is never going to change unless sufficient changes are made. Is Woodward holding onto the power as he would feel like a failure if he did not have it? If so, it is this reason why the club is failing massively.

Adding more details on how the club finished the season and what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had achieved at the club ahead of that night in Paris, which seems to have seen the poor standards of football follow, Woodward spoke in more detail about how things are being established behind the scenes. Of course, what we do not know is whether a director of football search has gathered pace.

There have been reports that Darren Fletcher would get a role at the club, the role of technical director was mooted in the media but that then turned into something along the lines of the player is wanted at the club but a role has not been offered and it would not be the director of football or technical director role. That said, we are no further forward in finding out what is going on. As reported by Sky Sports, Woodward continue by saying:

“The season that has just ended clearly didn’t end the way we hoped, finishing in sixth place and with a disrupted managerial change part way through.

“However, Ole and the squad battled back from mid-December to put us in contention to qualify for the Champions League next season, but ultimately we came up short.

“While the last few weeks were disappointing, we are delighted to have confirmed the appointment of Ole as our manager on a three-year contract and to have recently confirmed the key members of the coaching team.

“Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick, Kieran McKenna and Mark Dempsey will all be remaining at the club.

“Everyone at the club – the board, the manager, the squad and all the staff are resolute in our desire to get United back to the top of English football. We continually look to improve staff on and off the pitch to achieve this.

“The strength of our business means we have the financial resources to continue to provide a solid foundation for backing the manager and creating success on the pitch. This, as ever, remains our number one goal.”

The main point here is that saying things and doing things are two different things. If you intend to right all the wrongs that have been caused at the club after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, it is imperative that these words are followed with actions that will restore the supporter’s faith in Manchester United, suggest that there is a plan and it is being worked on in the right way. That the deadwood in the squad would be cleared and that it will be down to the manager and his coaching and backroom staff, not down to one of the owners of the club and their love for a specific player.

It was suggested in the media that Anthony Martial would be retained by the club this summer as he is Joel Glazer’s favourite player. I am not saying that this is true but if it was, what has this statement done to the club. Why would Martial need to break a sweat in the future knowing that he was the favourite player of one of the owners of the club? Why would he need to do anything more than he is currently doing? Could he get away with doing a lot less? Comments like this cause more damage than good. What will other players think? Will they want to try for this club? The entire situation is becoming even more toxic that I thought it could become.

United need to make some major statements this summer. That would be in getting rid of the underperforming players, no matter how much it cost them. Also clearing the club of the deadwood which has been at the club for a long time, players who have been given new contract and were not exactly deserving of them. That would make a statement. Then, bringing in the players who want to play for this club, will be extremely proud to wear the short of Manchester United and will dig deep when wearing that shirt, performing for themselves, their teammates, the club, the manager and more importantly the supporters of the club.

It is a massive job and I hope that Woodward has picked the right man to do it. If not, more questions are going to be asked of him and there is only so much abject failure that one man can get away with before he, himself, become disposable.

copyright: JW