Is Ed Woodward’s ego blocking the addition of a Director of Football at Manchester United?

Given the number of roles that Ed Woodward seems to have taken on at Manchester United, one would think that he has found the pill from the film Limitless. Not only does he play major roles in the various business and financial aspects of the club, however, Woodward also has the say on which players the club brings in, and also handles the contract extensions for current players.

Unfortunately, while it most likely would look good on a CV to have assumed so many roles, it doesn’t mean a thing if one juggles all the responsibility and end’s up with poor results in the end.

The executive vice-chairman’s dealings on the market have drawn criticism from fans. According to TalkSport, Woodward was on the hot seat this season during the dreadful performances the club endured under Jose Mourinho.

As reported back in October, Mourinho’s treatment of players such as Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford did draw criticism, but the primary target was not the manager, but instead Ed Woodward. With the blame now being targeted at Woodward, the recent trend of the director of football becoming a productive position in clubs throughout England has added more spotlights on the 47-year-old executive.

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Woodward’s ideal player when shopping around seems to have caused a lack of growth within the squad. Some would wonder if this is because of his financial backgrounds, as Woodward seems to have a tendency to look for a cheaper option to fill a position, even if it means going for an older player, who could potentially be past their prime if not nearing the end of it.

Some of the players that would be good examples of this habit are Zlatan Ibrahimovic for one, who United was able to secure for free from PSG. Ibrahimovic was able to make an impact at United in his defence, as he made 91 total appearances in his three seasons of involvement in Manchester, even while spending over 200 days in the 2016/2017 season, and 60 days in the 2017/2018 season on the injured reserve.

Another example is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who United secured for just over £8 million from Bayern Munich. Schweinsteiger joined United in the summer of 2015 and while he made 29 total appearances in all competitions, his first season accounted for a massive majority of the appearances, as he only made four appearances in his second season with the club, none of them being in the Premier League.

It has become a popular question amongst United supporters of whether or not the club will eventually put in place a director of football. Through his dealings in the transfer market, it is evident that Woodward has no clue of the importance of chasing down youth, instead of bargains.

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Even recently, with the reports of United potentially making a bid to get Antione Griezmann, Woodward that he doesn’t have much experience with the football side of the club. He seems to chase after the biggest names in the game, even if they’re in their upper 20s nearing their 30s.

This type of mentality can be lethal for a club’s hopes to rebuild and win titles, as instead of investing in players who can spend 10 to maybe even 15 years at the club, they end up with a two to four year fill-in player. However, for this to happen the players need to be acquired young, like Wayne Rooney was when he arrived at Manchester United.

While it is true that when a club has a young player that has the potential to become a star, they will make another club pay a hefty sum to acquire them. The math still favours paying the sometimes-exorbitant fees for a young prodigy, over still paying a good chunk of change on an older player who may only give you a few seasons and may be injury prone. 

A director of football knows the value of youth, and United supporters are beginning to voice their demands for the addition of one at United. The only thing that may stand in the way of the position coming to the club is Ed Woodward himself.

Whether or not he gives up his control over the players will come down to him willing to accept that he may not be the right man for that job, and to go back to possibly more behind-the-scenes roles that he also has. Either way, he was hired to do what was best for the club, and not for himself. It is the expectation of every United supporter, player, and member of the staff that he doesn’t forget that.

Written by Joel Dulka

Is it time for the Manchester United board to consistently trust their manager?

In a recent interview with beIN Sports, ex-Manchester United manager David Moyes shed some light on his torrid 10-month tenure as the club’s gaffer where he spoke about the club being really close to signing the likes of Cesc Fàbregas and Gareth Bale in the summer he took charge, and Toni Kroos in the next but as we all know, it was never meant to be.

Louis van Gaal’s first season at Manchester United saw the club heavily trusting the manager by signing six players which included the likes of Ander Herrera, Ángel Di María and Radamel Falcao (loan) and doing the same the next year with the club securing seven more including Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial and Sergio Romero.

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José Mourinho too, was backed by the board in the summer he took charge where all his four signings proved to be match winners in his first season. Interestingly, the mass exodus of the players between these four years made it clear that the board had to cash in on more players in his third season and fill in the gaps that were clearly existent in the squad.

In comparison, clubs like Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, and Real Madrid continue to consistently invest heavily on players at every opportunity throughout the season and improving their squads even further. With Manchester United coming quite comfortably in the bracket of one the biggest clubs in the world, one might wonder why this club is not doing the same and be on the constant prowl to secure these kinds of signings. Evidence of this is clearly being witnessed this season as well where all the above-mentioned clubs are doing fantastically well and strengthening massively.

Now, what one might think is that the Manchester United board did try their best to sign the players that their manager demanded but, with the club earning the highest revenues in the world and the era after Ferguson needing an evolutionary process and not a revolutionary one (which David Moyes mentions in that interview with beIN Sports), the board should have had to consistently back their manager at every opportunity to secure results on the pitch.

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If not, why hire them in the first place, right? We can all shift the blame to the owners of the club not having a history of running their sporting teams in an astute manner and to the constant uncertainty of having a stable manager/coach but, the fact of the matter that will always remain is that this still is Manchester United Football Club! The levels of ambition between the top clubs are the same but somehow the Manchester United Board fails to consistently back their manager.

But if there is one thing that this club and its managers continue to excel at, it is their courage and determination to give their youth a chance to shine at every opportunity possible. The same cannot be said at the other top clubs and certainly not to the degree that this club always manages to do. Having said that, this alone does not do enough to bridge the gaps in the squad and for the team to perform at the levels they are always expected to.

No matter how well the club manages to do by the end of May, December 2018 should have been the wake-up call the board needed. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has exceeded all expectations given the squad and injury situations he has had to deal with. But, this outstanding run of form should not warrant any grade of complacency among the members of the board otherwise this summer too, is running the risk of being a disappointing one.

Written by Shyam Shanker

Are the Glazers just not meant for sports franchise ownership?

It’s safe to say that the Glazer family is not the most beloved family by Mancunians. However, they can rest assured that they aren’t the only population that have an unfavorable view of the Glazers. Fans of the American football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also had their fair share of issues with the family. 

Both clubs within the last 10 years have begun to struggle with business management, players, and coaching staff all beginning to perform well under par of what the fans have gotten used to. Under the Glazer’s both clubs have achieved league champion status, with the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl in 2003, and Manchester United winning the Premier league in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and finally 2013.

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However, one thing is similar about the start of the clubs’ declines, both have begun after the resignation of a long-time manager, or head coach in the Buccaneers’ case. For Tampa Bay, head coach Jon Gruden was the one coaching the team when they won the Super Bowl in 2003. He started with the team in 2002 and was let go by the team at the end of the 2007/08 season after a couple of rough seasons.

Since he was released, the team has not made it to the playoffs since and is on their fifth head coach. In the case of Manchester United, they are now on manager number four after Sir Alex’s retirement, and the failure seasons of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho. The major consistency in both clubs’ struggles is the Glazer family and their recent lack of inclinations to spend large sums on their investments.

It’s not that they don’t at all, but it is clear that in both of the team’s situations, they were hoping that they could somehow find a formula for a cheap, but successful team. Many can agree that maybe a manager or two wouldn’t have been fired if it wasn’t for the lack of a decent budget.

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Unfortunately for them and most importantly the fans, this money saving venture has not been successful, and both teams find themselves in the midst of a long period of rough and painful losing seasons. While the Glazer’s at one time did put their money where their mouth is and build a strong franchise.

Nowadays fans are questioning whether or not the family is cut out to be owners any longer. Especially in this modern world of exponential value growth on players around the world, being cheap just is not an option in any sport whatsoever.

Written by Joel Dulka

Manchester United linked to Monchi as bid to recruit a sporting director or a director of football needs to start hotting up!

Manchester United are reportedly looking to challenge Arsenal to bring in Roma sporting director, Ramon Rodriguez Monchi. It is said that the sixth-placed team in the Premier League have the advantage though because of manager Unai Emery already having a working relationship with the 50-year-old from his time at Sevilla, where the club won a hat-trick of UEFA Europa League titles.

United desperately need to add a sporting director or even a director of football to their ranks before the summer comes, otherwise it will be down to Ed Woodward to lead the club through the summer transfer window, which will show his ineptitude even more, if the last six years have not proven that he is incapable to think in the way someone who actually knew about football would. Under Woodward’s watch, United has spent more than £700 million on players, not actually buying what the club needed.

Woodward spent a lot of the time chasing those who were unattainable, most of the time seeing the said players use United to get better contracts or move to other clubs. Woodward was obsessed with Gareth Bale, who chose Real Madrid, Cesc Fabregas, who stayed at Barcelona another year before signing for Chelsea, even seemingly trying to lure Cristiano Ronaldo back to the Theatre of Dreams, with the Portuguese international using United years after year to get a new contract.

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Whilst the rumours about Monchi will be just that, it is expected that United will start to move forward in their bid to bring in executives who know all about football. The sad thing that would remain though is that Woodward and his cronies, the Glazers, would still have the final say over anything, which would probably be motivated by money and greed. United would be best suited getting rid of the Glazers, ensuring that Woodward went with them, but right now, that is near enough impossible.

Monchi is a very experienced man and knows what he is doing. I don’t think he would be a yes man, which would probably rule him out of the Old Trafford job. The worrying thing is that United had a capable person to do this job in Javier Ribalta who actually left his role as the head scout to become the sporting director at Zenit St Petersburg last summer. Imagine if United had thought of that a year ago when the thought of a director of football or even a sporting director was always rejected!

I would fully expect Monchi to head to Arsenal. Working with a manager he has worked with before. Knowing how Emery does things and it will be someone who will also get on with Emery, based on their previous working relationship. This story will probably turn into something like; “Manchester United miss out on Monchi as Arsenal sign sporting director instead,” which seems to be the case with the media of late. No facts, just pure speculation.

Success on the pitch does matter, Ed Woodward

“Playing performance doesn’t really have a meaningful impact on what we can do on the commercial side of the business.” I remember reading these words for the first time, just staring at my mobile phone for what must have been a full two minutes and thinking to myself “well, that’s that, that’s our club now might as well get used to it.” That was Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward addressing the club’s shareholders.

A lot has been said about ‘The United Way’ in the last five years and how it’s been lost, most of the blame being aimed at United’s now former managers. That blame has been without a doubt been misplaced. ‘The United Way’, if there really is one, can be summed up in two quotes from my point of view, one from Sir Matt Busby which goes; “At Manchester United, we strive for perfection and if we fail, we might just have to settle for excellence.”

The second is a quote from Sir Alex Ferguson; “The most romantic club in the history of world football, and that would never change.” Two men that have built Manchester United in their image, an image built on hard work, unparalleled football and ultimately winning.  It’s now 2019 and that image has fallen into obscurity and Ed Woodard’s playing performance quote provides more than enough proof of that.

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United used to be a club that strives to win trophies and anything less for the fans was deemed a failure. For Ed Woodward and the Glazer family, success has a very different meaning. Success for the United hierarchy is attained by maximising profits, made possible by a top four finish and with it the financial bounties that UEFA Champions League qualification brings with it. Where’s the evidence in that?

Major investment (not by the Glazers but from the club’s own money) on player recruitment has come about in seasons where the club has missed out on the top four, and in the last three years, United have only invested 19% of their turnover on recruiting football players. Want an even more depressing statistic? According to Swiss Ramble, in the last ten years, United have only invested 32% in player recruitment whilst Liverpool and Manchester City’s investment stand at 54% and 64% respectively.

The fact this season saw the least investment in years (United have invested £8 million less than Bournemouth have this season) after finishing second and reaching the Emirates FA Cup final speaks volumes about Woodward’s priorities and targets. I’d write down how much the club has spent on the debt brought about by the Glazer family, but I don’t think any of us can handle that level of disappointment.

Hiring Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to have eased the pressure off Woodward from United fans, with the Norwegian bringing back the much-needed stinging counter-attacking football the United squads of old were notorious for and winning eight out of eight matches. The Solskjaer appointment was a rare masterstroke for Woodward, a manager the fans could never hate and an excuse to miss out on spending in the January transfer window.

No permanent manager, no permanent signings, another entry to the ever-growing book of ‘Glazer Economics 101 – How to make your club work for you’. Whilst the Solskjaer appointment has taken the heat of Woodward and the Glazers for the time being, what comes next will either see him exonerated and (partially) forgiven or even more hated by the United faithful. The next managerial and director of football (if that ever comes to pass) appointment must be perfect, no more excuses.

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Whilst I feel that Solskjaer might be a shoe-in for the manager’s job (if not fans might just riot), the Director of Football or Sports Director position remains one shrouded in mystery. It’s obvious to everyone and their aunt by now that Ed Woodward should sooner be trusted with the entire US nuclear arsenal than with managing another transfer window at United.

Too often have agents for players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann and Gareth Bale used United and Woodward to secure a better contract at their clubs and Woodward fell into their trap by pursuing them and missing out on other targets which could have proven the difference for United. The catastrophe that was last summer’s transfer window and failing to sign any defensive recruits proved to be the final straw for many and with good reason too.

Other than Woodward’s mishaps in the transfer market, United’s wage bill is also suffering, almost hitting the £300 million mark second only to Barcelona. The contracts situation is also a dire one at United with Anthony Martial and David De Gea both on the last year of their contracts and this time there’s no extension. Whilst Woodward’s success on the commercial aspect of United, selling the name to every other company in the galaxy, he needs to remind himself that he is not a football man and that United is a football club and not a marketing agency and that their success is measured in trophies, not sponsorships.

Written by John Grech

Ageing deadwood and why the Marouane Fellaini contract set a dangerous precedent at Manchester United

Ask any Manchester United supporter where things started going wrong for the club and you will likely get one of three answers: When the Glazers took over, When Ed Woodward was put in charge of running the club or When David Moyes succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson as manager. Believe it or not all three answers are correct as one led to another and to another and thus the decline of everybody’s favourite football club.

Whatever the answer there is another question that is worth asking and that is: If you had to choose one person who epitomises the downfall of United more than any other who would you choose? Surely one name would be more prevalent than any other and that is none other than the towering Belgian known as Marouane Fellaini. Now indulge me if you will as I take you back in time a short while to a point where Manchester United fans were happy and eager to see what the future would bring.

It was Summer of 2018 and United finished second in the league behind a very dominant Manchester City and regardless of the points deficit the fans had something to cheer about, it appeared as though the club was finally on the up again at the hands of one Jose Mourinho. There were other factors in play as well, the World Cup was clearly coming home and more importantly the aforementioned Belgian’s contract was expiring that very Summer and there was interest from a number of clubs.

Manchester United fans were very optimistic and hopeful that finally the man, signed on the last day of the transfer window in Moyes first and only season, would leave the club. Lacking mobility, being one elbow or slide tackle away from causing the team to concede a penalty or to somehow lose the battle for a header in his own box to a man a foot shorter than him, many fans wanted him gone. He was after all everything wrong with the club at that time.

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When he was brought on you could hear the audible sighs from the crowd as he was subbed on for one of two reasons, to defend a 0-0 draw or 1-0 lead against lower opposition the team should have brushed aside with ease, or to go up front and have the ball lumped up to him in the hope that he would connect and score the winning goal. And sometimes he did, which endeared him to a lot of fans who saw him as a useful squad option.

However, the prospect of him leaving and the club bringing in someone else was simply too good a plan to resist. Fast forward to June 29th and the news came that Fellaini had been handed a two-year contract. Fans were dismayed and confused, as he was 30 years old and historically speaking the club had only renewed the contracts of players 30 and over for one year with an option the club could take up if they wish.

Ryan Giggs, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Michael Carrick and more, had all signed one-year contracts and their renewals were done on a yearly basis only. So why was this player, who wasn’t fit to lace the boots of the others, somehow seen as good enough to warrant such a renewal? One word, desperation. It’s no secret that Ed Woodward has been more miss than hit at his job when it comes to transfer targets and with his refusal to back Jose Mourinho by much in the summer, he clearly thought to renew Fellaini for two years, or lose him and have to replace him, was the more prudent option.

At the time it was believed to be a dangerous precedent and that brings us to today. Reports have come out in the last few days that Juan Mata has been offered a new contract, a one year contract as per our usual offerings. However, per reports, he wants to have the same contract as Fellaini, a two-year contract to ensure he gets to keep the wage he will pick up for longer.

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I don’t think any fan would blame Mata as what person wouldn’t want assurances of their future and know they will be financially secure for longer than he would be otherwise. And from what is seen Juan Mata is a genuinely nice guy so this can’t be seen as him taking advantage or wanting the money, as other players do. It’s just a man seeing another offered a certain contract and saying to himself, ‘Hey, I should have that one too, I’m a much better player.’

The reason this is a bad thing is due to the fact that Mata is no longer the player he used to be and whilst he is a good squad option it would be much better for another, younger, faster, more in shape player to take that mantle. The club has a player just like that, one who polarises opinion, although that is more to do with him having fun and enjoying life, and that man is Jesse Lingard.

If you look at the player’s side by side and compare statistics for the current season you could argue that there is no difference between the two with their offensive statistics looking very similar, and it is more evident when you look at goals and assists with both players having 2 assists and Lingard scoring four compared to Mata’s two. Lingard has played just over 300 minutes of football more as well.

The problem with statistics, however, is that more often than not they don’t tell the whole story. And the whole story is that Lingard is much more suited to an attacking team who depends on pace and agility, something Mata is no longer suited to. I know what you’re thinking, speed isn’t everything because if it was Usain Bolt would be the number one target for every club in the world. However, by watching games it is evident that Lingard brings a lot more to the team than Mata.

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Now I know what you’re thinking and that is that you didn’t come here to read a Jesse Lingard puff-piece, so you’ll be pleased to know that’s over and that I merely made the comparison to show why offering Mata a two-year contract is unnecessary due to the option they already have at the club. This is why giving Fellaini the two-year contract back in June set a dangerous precedent, because now every player who is over 30 will be wanting the same deal and the club will be stuck with a group of players who can no longer do the job the club needs them to do, and they’ll be stuck paying high wages and be unable to bring anyone in.

Realistically who is going to buy any of the players the club has when their legs are gone and their wage demands will be high enough that other clubs will be unwilling to meet them. Currently, at the club, there are three players, not including Mata, whose contracts are expiring in 2019 and who will be 30 by the start of the 19/20 season: Ashley Young, Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia.

Of those three Valencia and Young are already over 30 and Herrera will be 30 by the start of next season, although Valencia has a one year option on his contract already meaning if the club activates that option he will be up for renewal at the end of the 2019/20 season. Young and Valencia are both wingers converted to fullbacks whose best days are long behind them and, just like Mata, their legs are gone. Antonio Valencia even admitted that he has to ice his knee every single day due to an injury.

With each game both of them play every United fan can predict the sequence of events that both players will move along: they pick up the ball near the halfway line, they play a one-two, dally with the ball for a few seconds and then whip in a cross that either hits the first man, goes straight to the keeper or goes over everybody and out for a throw-in or goal kick. As the saying goes, ‘The definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and again and expecting different results.’

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It’s fair to say that both players should no longer be at the club and near the first team, they should be squad options at best and I’m sure many fans would much prefer the likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and other young players to be the squad options instead. Herrera, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish and whilst not the best player in the team he does bring a ferociousness that not many others bring, like a pit bull, the dog not the musician.

Looking at him and everything he puts into the team you’d think he was a born and bred Manc as he bleeds United. He is most definitely a fan favourite but he should still be given the one year contract other players of his age were given to ensure that he doesn’t overstay his welcome. They aren’t the only players either, as the club has a few who are advancing in age, such as Alexis Sanchez and Nemanja Matic, the former of whom who is on a very high wage if reports are to be believed. Once their contracts are up will they also be wanting a two-year renewal instead of the usual one-year option?

This is why Fellaini being given what he wanted, a two-year contract instead of one, has set a huge precedent and Manchester United fans shouldn’t be surprised to see their ageing players all being given the same contracts. If that does happen, and it is seemingly likely, then don’t go expecting too many new arrivals until the deadwood is shifted because the wage bill will simply be too high to justify new players on the payroll.

Written by Craig Holland-Greenfield

Manchester United need a Director of Football more than ever after Ed Woodward’s mishaps

Manchester United have needed a Director of Football at the club for a number of years now. Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, around £716 million has been spent with the team led by three different managers. During the David Moyes season, United spent £64.6 million. During the two years Louis van Gaal spent as the manager, £253.9 million was spent. In the two and a half years Jose Mourinho spent as the manager, a total of £397.6 million was spent.

When you look at that amount of money which has been spent in nearly six years, it makes you wonder why this United squad has struggled largely, need leadership in defence and still lack quality in various positions on the pitch. This is largely down to Woodward as he has been signing players that different managers have asked for. If there was someone at boardroom level that understood the game and what the club actually needed, it makes you think that the money might have been spent wisely.

Out of the 25 players who have been brought into the club, some of them being free agents, one being a loan spell, there are just 17 players left at the club and some of those could well depart in the summer. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Radamel Falcao all left the club for no fee, although Mkhitaryan was a swap with Arsenal for Alexis Sanchez. Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, and Morgan Schneiderlin left for a loss of £27.7 million. Daley Blind left for a profit of just £100,000.

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For years now, there have been some questionable signings which could have been haled with a Director of Football at the club. The role of the position is to look at the footballing factors at the club and oversee the signings for the various areas that need to be filled or even strengthened, amongst other things. Having a manager doing this, in which United have had three permanent managers, has left even more confusion as United still have players from each era, still many from Ferguson’s.

If you think about Woodward’s first summer transfer window at United, Moyes was seeking many different players to keep the reigning Premier League champions on top of their game. The return of Cristiano Ronaldo was mentioned in the media, as was the club seeking a new central midfielder. Cesc Fabregas, then of Barcelona was chased with the club getting nowhere. Thiago Alcantara was another that did not arrive. Then on deadline day, Marouane Fellaini arrived with the club paying £4 million more than they could have.

If a Director of Football was in charge, they would have not spent the summer chasing a player that was never going to come. Woodward also chased Gareth Bale, who moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid that summer. It makes you wonder what went through Woodward’s mind? Perhaps he thought that none of the players he was after would turn the club down. You even had the fact that Ronaldo used United to get more lucrative contracts in Madrid years later. Woodward that!

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The moves in the transfer market never seemed to get any better. The recruitment was questionable. Memphis Depay was a talented player in the Netherlands but didn’t quite cut it in the Premier League under both Van Gaal and Mourinho. Some say he’s doing well in France, but it is not exactly one of the most competitive leagues in the world. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin both mainly failed at United and Angel Di Maria just did not fit in at all and seemed to blame everyone but himself for that.

You would imagine that someone with footballing knowledge would have been able to give support or opposition to the signing of certain players, ones that a manager had requested. Having some knowledge may have led to the club deciding not to make a move for players, which may have happened last summer when Mourinho was blocked from signing a central defender with those the club were chasing suggested to be no better than the players already at the club, which was how Woodward briefed the media.

When you look at the state of this Manchester United squad, which does have many talented players, you also see the deadwood at the club and the positions that do not seem to be strengthened by players who are good enough to play at this level. United desperately need a player for the right-wing position. You can blood youth in with players such as Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and even Mason Greenwood but if there is no experience to learn from, in that position, it may not be helpful.

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Ed Woodward is great at bringing in the money. The club has many partners and sponsors which seem to generate a lot of money with United emerging as one of the richest clubs in the world, although it seems they may have recently been toppled by both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Keeping Woodward in charge of bringing the money instead of spending it is probably the best option for the club right now.

United have been linked to many Director of Football candidates with Andrea Berta the one most recently linked to the Old Trafford club. The club seemed to deny that they were looking for a Director of Football some time ago but as soon as Jose Mourinho left the club, the speculation was rife once again. Gone are the days of single managers at club running everything from the top to the bottom. Football has changed and United need to get with the times and adapt in the same way as other clubs.

Manchester United now have a new route but the destination may still be the same

Manchester United did on Tuesday morning what they had done twice before since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as the manager of the club, sacked another manager. David Moyes was sacked in his first season as United manager, despite having a six-year contract. Louis van Gaal became his successor, himself being sacked just after winning the Emirates FA Cup in May 2016, the first major honour for United since Ferguson retired. Jose Mourinho was appointed days later, and two and a half years later, was himself sacked.

There have been lots of embarrassing things which have happened with United since the end of the 2012/13 season, which saw United win their last Premier League title. Moyes was not properly backed in the summer transfer window in 2013, the club scrambling late on deadline day to pay £4 million more for Marouane Fellaini, based on the fee they could have signed him for earlier that summer. There were suggestions of big names coming to the club. That never happened.

When Moyes was sacked, just after Easter in 2014, despite rumours of his sacking coming during the Easter weekend, it was a low blow by United. The football was dire and the morale was at an all-time low at the club. It was a sacking that needed to happen. However, the way in which it was done was poor by the club, especially when you would expect more from Manchester United. That said, Van Gaal’s sacking was not done properly either, finding out a rumour minutes after he lifted the FA Cup.

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It makes you wonder what the club is thinking about, seemingly allowing rumours to be leaked hours or days before a manager is sacked, failing to realise that the said manager will find out about these rumours, which is the wrong way to conduct business. The football under Van Gaal was not the greatest either, and I agree that he needed to be shown the door, but deserved much more respect, as did Moyes. This third sacking was not expected, not today anyway, so lessons may have been learned there.

At this moment in time, Manchester United is a club that is rotten from the top to the very bottom. There does not seem to be any desire from the owners, the board or the executive vice-chairman to guide United to the pinnacle of European and World football. There is a desire to make as much money as possible through advertising though, which is where this is starting to go terribly wrong. United is a football club but seems to have been turned into a business, which also plays football.

Without football, there would be no business for the club. That is something that needs to register in the minds of the owners and Woodward. But I will not be holding my breath. Mourinho became the manager of the club in May 2016, signing a three-year contract, which would have ended at the end of the current season. However, after rumours of Paris Saint-Germain being interested in Mourinho, Woodward extended his contract in January 2018 until the summer of 2020, with the option of a further year.

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At the time of Mourinho’s contract extension, Woodward, quoted by the official Manchester United website, said:

“Jose has already achieved a great deal as Manchester United manager and I am delighted that he has agreed to extend his commitment until at least 2020. His work rate and professionalism are exceptional and he has embraced the club’s desire to promote top quality young players to the first team. He has brought an energy and a sense of purpose to everything that he does and I am sure that will continue to bring results for the fans and the club.”

Fast forward just a few months to the summer transfer window. There were high expectations from every United supporter. United had just finished second in the Premier League, 19 points adrift of Manchester City. There was work to be done. United signed Diogo Dalot, Lee Grant and Fred. It was an experienced central defender that was needed at the club with links to Toby Alderweireld said to be the most reliable. United never brought in anyone else.

To top that, Woodward seemingly briefed journalists as to the reasons why he did not back Mourinho, suggesting that the player the Portuguese manager wanted were no better than the ones the club already had. The logic right there seemed amazing. You could tell that an accountant made the decision, not a footballing man. Yes, United did achieve the second-best defensive record in the Premier League last season, but this season, with the same players, the club have conceded more goals so far this season, than all of the last.

It makes you wonder what the owners and the board want to achieve at the club. Do they want to make United one of the world’s best football clubs once again? Would they rather sellout the club by bringing in far too many sponsors which generate money, which seems to disappear in interest repayments with the debt not actually shrinking much, also allowing the owners of the club to be paid massive dividends based on the shares they own? Manchester United is nothing without football.

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Jose Mourinho had a defensive approach to matches. He has had that throughout his career as a manager. However, some of the best attacking football has been seen in some of his teams. David Moyes had his own problems too. The ‘what would Jagielka do’ phrase was something of a burden for him, as was getting rid of the successful backroom staff at the club once Ferguson retired. Louis van Gaal had his problems too, his philosophy was dated and was showing those signs at the club, despite a platform being salvaged from it.

Those problems aside, there has always been one destination for Manchester United, that is ruin. The Glazers had the club tethered to debt when they took over, not using a cent of their own money to buy the club. That debt was saddled to the club, with crippling interest payments having to be met each financial year. In September 2018, the debt secured to the club stood at £487 million, according to the Guardian. In 2005, the debt secured to the club stood at £525 million.

This means that less than £3 million a year, over the last 13 years, has been paid towards the debt. The cost of the said debt is around £24 million a year. In 13 years, to settle just £38 million out of the initial £525 million debt is deplorable. This means that around £312 million has been spent by the club just to service the debt, which is just over half of the debt the club was forced into just so the Glazers could but it.

No matter who manages the club, we have seen a picture post-Sir Alex Ferguson, that believe it or not, has shown the owners of the club are not all that interested in seeing it succeed. Earning a place in the UEFA Champions League is big business for football clubs but winning it is not all that big, in business terms, at least for the Glazers. Real Madrid won the competition last season, taking home £78.6 million in earnings. Liverpool, the runner’s up, taking £72 million. United got just £35.7 million.

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The destination, whatever anyone uses to dress it up, is always going to be a failure. During Ferguson’s reign, towards the end, there was never any value in the market, despite other clubs finding value. There have been many signings which were not right for United, both during and after Ferguson’s reign. Under Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho, United have spent more than £716 million in the transfer market and the club is no better off by spending that amount. There is deadwood everywhere.

The next manager that comes in, whoever that may be, on a permanent basis, not the interim manager, will need to be backed by the hierarchy of the club. There are so many players who have continued to falter at the club, many of whom have seen all three managers come and go. Mourinho was not backed in the transfer window in the summer, seemingly hung out to dry by the board, which might have been based on the fact his team played boring football, I don’t know.

The fact remains, the board need to back the next manager to lead the club. They need to be given all of the tools in order to complete the job. Otherwise, it is going to end at the same destination once again. Manchester United need to progress. The likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, and Arsenal are streets ahead of them now. Even the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers are close to United right now, seven months after earning promotion to the Premier League.

copyright: JW