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Opinion: Manchester United’s summer rebuild is in danger of falling apart

Manchester United had high hopes of entering the summer transfer window this year and continuing their rebuild of the Old Trafford club under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The coronavirus pandemic will be used as the main excuse for the club not spending a lot of money this summer, which was hinted at by the clubs executive vice-chairman during the lockdown in a call with investors. It is excuses like this which will bring a smile to the faces of the Glazers, who have taken major sums of money out of the club in their 15 years of ownership.

Swiss Ramble has confirmed recently that in the past five years, United has spent £209 million in the Glazer’s ownership structure which consists of £120 million in interest in debt secured to the club and £89 million in dividends. If you go back 10 years, the club has spent £838 million in financing, which consists of £488 million in interest, £251 million in debt repayment and £99 million in dividends. It is painful to read that this amount of money is being used to sustain an ownership that is not positive for the club, despite the amount of money brought in commercial revenue.

It is alarming that United are a club kept in debt all because the Glazers did not want to purchase the club with their own money. There is a lot of animosity when you talk about the Glazers. Some supporters are happy as the club has endured a lot of success during their ownership; winning – five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, four League Cups, six FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Europa League and one FIFA Club World Cup.

United have suffered just four trophy less seasons under the Glazer ownership of the club, which sounds positive but if the Community Shield were to be removed, as it is not a major honour, it would mean that United have endured six trophy less seasons under the Glazer ownership. Sir Alex Ferguson won 14 of the 19 trophies won in the past 15 years, David Moyes won one, Louis van Gaal won one and Jose Mourinho won three. Post-Ferguson, you can see the ownership taking it’s toll on the club.

Post-Ferguson, United have employed four managers; one (Moyes) was sacked after nine months in charge, despite being given a six-year contract at the club. His successor, Van Gaal, signed a three-year contract but was sacked after two years and then Mourinho was brought in on a four-year contract and sacked two and a half years into it. Each manager was provided with funds to sign players, but the wrong players were signed by the club. Moyes was not backed properly and had his own faults.

Van Gaal recently talked about not landing any of his top targets at the club and Mourinho always seemed frustrated heading into his third season at the club, not getting the central defender that he wanted. Now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the manager of the club, steering the club into another direction, which seems to be different from his three predecessors. Talk of a rebuild of the club was rife. Solskjaer has a desire to bring in young and hungry players – building a team that Ferguson would have been proud of leading. However, in terms of achieving that, there are many limits.

Moyes was allowed to spend £64.6 million, signing Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata. Van Gaal spent £253.9 million, signing Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao (loan), Sergio Romero, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay, and Anthony Martial. Mourinho spent £397.6 million, signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku, Lee Grant, Diogo Dalot and Fred. This is a total of £716.1 million spend in just six seasons post-Ferguson.

Solskjaer has signed just six players in his time as United manager. The Norwegian has spend £222.7 million signing Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, Odion Ighalo (loan), and Donny van de Beek. This is almost as much as Van Gaal had at the club and just over half of what Mourinho spent. In terms of players still remaining at the club from Solskjaer’s three predecessors, there are 12 out of 25 players still at the club – the rest being sold or released. If Solskjaer is to make a success out of his management at the club, he will need to be backed by Woodward and the Glazers. This summer, that may not happen.

United have gone from July 2014 when Woodward literally said; “We can do things in the transfer market that other clubs can only dream of. Watch this space.” To a place whereby the club is looking to blame the coronavirus pandemic for its financial insecurity, despite the club taking out a £140 million loan to sustain their financial viability during this turbulent time. Woodward, reported by the BBC, told investors;

“Nobody should be under any illusions about the scale of challenge facing everyone in football and it may not be ‘business as usual’ for any clubs, including ourselves, in the transfer market this summer.

“As ever our priority is the success of team, but we need visibility of the impact across the whole industry, including timings of the transfer window, and the wider financial picture, before we can talk about a return to normality.”

Despite signing Van de Beek this summer from Ajax, Solskjaer has yet to see any further signings for the first team despite being linked with a left-back, a central defender, a right-winger and perhaps a striker. The main target was said to be Jadon Sancho this summer, which has rumbled on throughout the summer. More recently, Sergio Reguilon was linked to United, which continued for a few days only for the player to be linked to Tottenham Hotspur instead, which seems to be the story of United right now. The ownership is happy to keep earning money for them to pocket but in terms of investing in this team, for the future, little is happening.

Solskjaer was expected to get rid of some of the dead wood at the club this summer with Chris Smalling linked to AS Roma, the club he was loaned to last summer. However, Roma has now signed Marash Kumbulla instead, leaving United with yet more egg on their face this summer, having at least six players that offer nothing to the club and seemingly happy to keep them for another season. The summer transfer window is not looking very negative for United with little hope of the club spending £108 million on Sancho, or close to achieving anything else.

If the club does not back Solskjaer and his plan, they will see yet another manager find it hard to do his job with the players at his disposal, which in turn will end up with either the manager leaving the club or being sacked, only for another to come in, be promised the earth only to find that as long as the bare minimum is achieved, the money will keep rolling in for the owners proving that the club has absolutely no ambition to win the biggest honours in football, which funnily enough, would bring in a fair amount of money for the club if that was to happen. In business, you have to speculate to accumulate, but this inept ownership and higher management seem to be happy with social media impression rather than winning honours on the pitch.

Written by John Walker

Old Trafford has been stagnating under the Glazer ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Alex Metcalfe

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?

Giant in slumber – What to expect from the new Manchester United?

“We’re Cardiff City, we’re taking the p***” That was the cry that rung around Old Trafford in the 88th minute as Manchester United were 2-0 down to an already relegated Cardiff. It was a song that summed up how the season had gone for The Reds and many fans were just glad to see the back of it. 

Mediocre football on the pitch coupled with a severe lack of the basic, essential qualities you need to win football matches, have been the deciding factor in the side finishing sixth place in the Premier League this season. 

Too many times supporters have seen abject, lifeless displays that simply do not fit in with the ethos of the club. While there is a duty to entertain, there is also a strict need to leave everything on the pitch in every game. Win, lose or draw, to fall so badly below the required standards of work rate and commitment isn’t acceptable and something this team has shown repeatedly throughout this campaign. 

While all this is going on, Manchester City were crowned Premier League Champions for the second consecutive season. Pep Guardiola’s team not only play an exciting, free flowing brand of football, they also work incredibly hard on and off the ball. The City players bought into what their manager had tried to show them right from the word go and are now reaping the rewards of that. 

United have slipped so far that they ended up finishing a whopping 32 points behind Manchester City. With the gap between the two teams being so great and with City showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, what should Manchester United fans realistically expect from the new campaign?

Players who want to be at the club would be a good starting point. At the start of the current season, United had 11 first team players out of contract in June. Some like Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw were convinced to sign new deals; however, it wasn’t plain sailing with all of them. Ander Herrera has announced he is to leave the club and others like Juan Mata and David De Gea have yet to be convinced. 

The fact so many first team players were at the end of their contracts at the start of the season could suggest a desire to move elsewhere. Manchester United have had the long-standing reputation of being the biggest club in the world, certainly the biggest club in England. Players are now seeing other clubs as more appealing options and United are finding it tough to tie the players they really want down to longer-term deals.

This presents the manager with a headache as he can’t plan a squad when he doesn’t even know what players he’ll have to work with in the immediate future. It’s a small change but having players who are 100% committed and buy in completely to what the manager wants can make a huge difference. 

A team is only as strong as the sum of its parts and if some parts aren’t functioning in harmony with all the others, it’s very easy for the whole team to break down. 

A coherent football philosophy is another aspect that should be expected next season. You can’t win every game as a club, nobody does that. Draws and losses are accepted provided supporters can see a clear direction as a result. The football identity of this current Manchester United side has been in limbo for a number of years now. Nobody can really pinpoint what they’re trying to achieve with their play style because the harsh truth is, nobody really knows.

Gone are the days of flying wingers putting crosses into the box. The days of swift, brutal counter-attacks are also a distant memory. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to stamp his own playing style on the squad. Fans will appreciate a side that has some form of cohesion on the pitch; even if it isn’t perfect from the get-go. 

A high press was attempted by Solskjaer and his staff when he initially arrived but that soon faded away as the fitness of the squad was called into question. The running stats make grim reading for some. Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku were both in the bottom five for running out of Premier League forwards. A full preseason will be vital if this is the style that the coaching staff wants to see from the squad moving forward. 

Manchester United is also a club that i used to competing for and winning the big trophies. These targets will have to be adjusted in the short term as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer moulds this team in his image. The gap between the top two in the Premier League is just too vast for United to consider toppling them in one season.

 No Champions League football either means the club will have to wait until at least the 2020/21 season for a return to European football’s top table. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The playing squad needs a monumental rebuilding job and easing their way back into contention seems appropriate this time around, instead of being thrust into the deep end and expected to win straight away. 

The final thing and perhaps most important thing to see for this summer and beyond is a clear and well thought out transfer strategy. The past six seasons have seen over £700 million spent on incoming transfers, many of who haven’t worked out and subsequently shipped out to other clubs. Attempting to copy the Real Madrid ‘Galactico’ model hasn’t worked with big names such as Radamel Falcao, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez all failing to deliver when so much was expected him them. 

Having a model based around players who actually fit the style of play you want, while fixing problem areas at the same time is essential if the club want to have a good transfer window this time around. It seems almost criminal that no right sided winger has been purchased since Ed Woodward has taken over control as executive vice chairman. This sort of neglect of the squad is part of the reason they’ve struggled so badly over the last couple of seasons. Supporters are intelligent enough to see this and will be patient with the manager and team if they see a genuine attempt at restoring the club to where they feel they should be. 

It will be a long road from here and won’t happen overnight, proper planning and dedication to making this work long term will be vital. Calm minds and some astute buys in this summer’s market might just be the tonic needed to get this giant of football back on the road to greatness once again.

Written by Joe Hinds

Imagine the work a director of football could have done at Manchester United…

Manchester United has been in this position before. A squad which has not performed as well as expected. Players coming in during transfer windows when there has been no real method or application for the signing, other than in a few cases, a rival was interested in the player.

The Glazers and Ed Woodward need to get United working on becoming a football club once again, not a commercial giant that plays football on the side. That seems to be what is happening and I must not be the only one who can see ahead of the situation that if United continues to be run in this way, the commercial aspect of the club will soon start to dry up.

Since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, United has had three managers who have fallen foul to the way the club is now being run. David Moyes succeeded Ferguson and was given a six-year contract, sacked ten months into his career at the Theatre of Dreams. In the summer of 2014, Louis van Gaal took the helm, spending two years at the club, winning the Emirates FA Cup, seeing himself sacked hours later.

Then, days later, Jose Mourinho, who had been sacked by Chelsea six month earlier, became United’s new manager. He was sacked more than two and a half years later. Now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been given the chance to lead the club in the right direction but if suitable changes are not made within the hierarchy of the club, we could be seeing the same thing develop in a matter of time.

Mike Phelan and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scouting Barcelona

When Solskjaer took over as United manager, the club was seemingly boosted with the team winning his first eight matches as manager, undefeated in his first 11, drawing just once; against Burnley. The first defeat came against Paris Saint-Germain and United then won three and drew one match before that famous night in Paris where they overcame PSG. United deteriorated since though, losing five of their next seven matches. The honeymoon period was over.

Back when Mourinho was the manager, supporters were suggesting that the team was capable of winning trophies and it was the Portuguese manager’s methods which were letting United down. The latter may well have been the case but the former is incorrect as United have shown they are not capable of winning trophies.

After Mourinho was sacked, there were many speculative reports based on Woodward suggesting that a director of football or even a technical director would be brought into the club. If that was something the club had enacted on back in December, the club would have had four months to prepare for a big summer transfer window.

Imagine the work which could have bene accomplished. Does the club want to change? Do they want to find the right path to success? Is there any interest in the hierarchy of the club putting football ahead of the commercial aspect of the club, which is only there in the first place because of the football?

Many names have been mentioned in the media, which is just speculation. More recently, former United goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, currently at Ajax, has stated that he would be willing to take a lesser role at a bigger club, a technical director maybe? Obviously, he’s not going to leave Ajax right now, especially after their UEFA Champions League heroics, knocking out Real Madrid and Juventus and now facing Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-finals of the competition.

Ole Gunner Solskjaer, Joel Glazer and Avram Glazer in Barcelona

However, in the summer, he might be willing to jump ship and start in a new role at United. Woodward and the Glazers may also have other targets, or they might want to keep things the way they are, with a scattergun approach and no clear plan, knowledge of football or interest in getting United back on the road to challenging for league titles, domestic cups and maybe even the elite European competitions.

The one thing that makes me think that Solskjaer is the right man for the job is that he has already stated that superstar signings are not what the club needs, which after the past six years, is very good to hear as the likes of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, and more recently, Alexis Sanchez has not worked. There has also been speculation that Solskjaer and Mike Phelan if he stays, will target young talent, some being English, in a bid to bring back the DNA of the club.

That is refreshing and could suggest that Solskjaer and Phelan’s way of doing things could trump the ways of Woodward, which is about time. However, with a director of football or even a technical director in place, there will be more stability for the club, the club will be in a more modern structure and finally, there will be targets on the football pitch once again, not just targets in the boardroom.

This is all great in thought but some egos at the club need to realise that they may be good at bringing money into the club but sorting out footballing matters with little interest in the sport or finding out how these matters should be dealt with. If Ed Woodward concentrated on the commercial aspect of the club, letting someone with the knowledge and hunger to drive the club forward on the football pitch do that, United will be heading in the right direction.

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.

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