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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12) Angel Di Maria

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

11) Alexis Sanchez

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

10+9) “Scheid” midfield

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

8) Henrikh Mkhitaryan

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

7) Fred

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

6) Romelu Lukaku

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

5) Ander Herrera

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

4) Anthony Martial

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

3) Juan Mata

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

2) Paul Pogba

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

1) Zlatan Ibrahimovic 

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

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

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

Written by Nicholas Blaustein

Ashley Young can hold his head high based on what he achieved at Manchester United

Ashley Young left Manchester United for Inter Milan on Friday after speculation about him signing for the club rumbled on over the past week. The 34-year-old could have remained at United for the remainder of the season, signing a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club or taking pot luck on his career in the summer. However, he chose to leave with immediate effect with reports of a £1.3 million fee being involved.

The winger turned fullback signed for United in the summer of 2011 arriving from Aston Villa for a fee in the region of £17 million. It may not have been the best signing the club could have made under Sir Alex Ferguson, who was coming to the end of his reign as United manager, but in terms of what he offered the club, at that time, he was a good signing. He was no Cristiano Ronaldo, that was obvious.

On signing, Young, who was 25 at the time stated that he could not turn down the opportunity to play for United, who at the time had won their nineteenth league title, the twelfth Premier League title, knocking Liverpool off their perch. He said it was a chance to play for the club who were seeking to win their twentieth league title, a feat the club achieved during the 2012/13 season, saying goodbye to Ferguson also. Young said:

“The opportunity to come to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world is one I couldn’t turn down. It is a chance to hopefully become part of history by helping them to win their 20th title.”

Of course, United had heartbreak in the 2011/12 season after taking rivals Manchester City to the final day of the season and a very late goal by Sergio Aguero stopped them retaining the Premier League title seeing the noisy neighbours lift it instead. It was something that inspired United to take the bull by the horns and ensure their twentieth title came the following season, which also paved the way for life after Ferguson, which has not been easy, to say the least.

Young will be remembered for many things as a player. The first will be his brace in the favour 8-2 victory over Arsenal, finishing on eight goals in total that season, his best goalscoring season for the club – he had scored nine goals in all competitions for the previous four season’s at Villa, scoring 15 in one season whilst playing for Watford. It is safe to say that after Ferguson, it was never the same for United.

Saying that though, Young, who helped lift the Premier League title at the end of the 2012/13 season, won his first trophy for the club on his full debut, the FA Community Shield after being 2-0 down at half time against City, winning 3-2. Young also helped the club to win the Emirates FA Cup at the end of the 2015/16 season, the first major honour post-Ferguson, and both the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League during the 2016/17 season.

The player saw many management changes from Ferguson leaving, David Moyes coming and going in the same season, Louis van Gaal lasting two years and winning the first major honour post-Ferguson, Jose Mourinho coming and lasting shy of two-and-a-half years, winning two major honours, then the club moving on to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a player who learned from Ferguson, both as a player and a reserve team coach.

It was safe to say that United’s hunger to achieve started to fizzle away post-Ferguson and part of that was because of an ageing squad, clueless owners and an executive vice-chairman who knew how to bring the money in but had a notion to keep hold of it rather than spend it on players the club needed to continue to drive the club forward. Under Solskjaer, despite him playing 43 times, he was the past rather than the future.

During his time at United, Young managed to play his way into the England squad for the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2018 despite playing for the country once between 2014 and 2017, playing five out of the seven games in the finals which saw England finish in fourth place after a 2-0 defeat to Belgium in the third place playoff of the competition. It was a good feat for Young to earn his place in the squad for the competition after a good season under his belt.

Young will now play for the remainder of the season for his fourth club of his career, Inter Milan, meeting former teammates Romelu Lukaku who was sold to the Italian club in the summer and Alexis Sanchez, who was loaned to the club for the 2019/20 season, although at this current time he is injured. He may also come against some former teammates; Chris Smalling, on loan at AS Roma, Matteo Darmian, who was sold to Parma.

The 34-year-old may not be remembered for greatness at, but after 261 appearances and scoring 19 goals. His final match came against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux a 0-0 draw in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup, which United won the replay during the past week at Old Trafford, winning 1-0 with his final goal coming in the 4-0 victory over AZ Alkmaar in the UEFA Europa League back in December 2019. His passion, leadership, experience, desire and determination will also be remembered as the club moves forward into a new era.

Matteo Darmian departs Manchester United to sign for Parma; a model professional, never moaned about his predicament

Manchester United confirmed the departure of Matteo Darmian who has signed a four-year contract with Serie A side Parma. The 29-year-old has spent four years at United, making a total of 92 appearances, scoring one goal. There was a period, at the start of his career that the Italian was lauded as the next Gary Neville, but that soon burned out.

At the time Louis van Gaal signed Darmian, it was a signing that was welcomed at the club as a fullback was needed to take the pressure off Antonio Valencia, who had predominantly played in the position after being converted from a winger. That did not really work well for United, despite the Ecuadorian knuckling down and aiming to perform.

The 29-year-old settled in his role until he lost his early form which had seen him likened to Neville. Darmian cost United £12.7 million and has been sold for £3.4 million along with a sell-on clause being inserted in the deal so that if the player moves again, United will receive a percentage of the final transfer fee. A good move by the Old Trafford club.

Some may moan about the relatively small transfer fee but when you consider the fact that that player was into his last year at the club and could sign a pre-contract with foreign clubs as early as January, remaining at United for the rest of this season and leaving as a free agent, it shows that United got as good a deal as they could.

The Italian will be remembered for his early form and the fact that it was thought the club had found a fullback that could lead the club forward after the likes of Neville and Rafael da Silva has played in the position. He will also be known for his professionalism. Since Van Gaal was sacked at the end of the 2015/16 season, Darmian’s playing time had decreased.

During his first season, the Italian played 39 times, which was also the season he scored his first and only goal for the club. The following season (2016/17), Darmian played 29 times, ten fewer than the previous season. Under Jose Mourinho in the 2016/17 season, in which United won the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League, Darmian played 17 times.

During the 2018/19 season, Darmian played seven times, just three times under current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, starting twice. It was clear that the Italian was not going to feature much for the club and had previously lost his place in the Italian national team, last playing for his country in 2017. He never once moaned about not playing, which was good to see, especially in this day an age.

At one stage during his United career, it was suggested that Darmian could emulate both Gary Neville and Patrice Evra, two of the most recent fullbacks that achieved a lot for the club. Darmian, however, suggested that it was impossible for him to emulate these two clubs legends, which suggests that although he was proud for this to me mentioned, he was also a realist, saying:

“They are two full-backs that have created football history, not only at Manchester United but in the world. I’ve seen them both play, they have both been two very important pillars for United. They’ve contributed to the success of the club.

“Patrice played in Italy last season so I had the possibility of more contact with him. I played against him twice in the derbies [against Juventus], and in Italy he is proving to be a champion just like he was at United. Obviously, Gary Neville was captain at United and is a legend at the club, the victories he had, the trophies he won … his story speaks volumes.”

This summer, Solskjaer has moved on more players than he has signed, which will be seen as a gamble, which is exactly what it is. If you look into it though, you will see that he has allowed players who were not going to be given many opportunities to play football elsewhere. Antonio Valencia and Ander Herrera left the club as free agents in the summer.

Marouane Fellaini was sold to a Chinese club in January. Romelu Lukaku was sold to Inter Milan a matter of weeks ago with Alexis Sanchez joining the club on loan for the season and Chris Smalling heading to Roma for the season on loan. Darmian was the last player to leave this summer and I wish him all the best at his new club, Parma.

Does Marcos Rojo have a future at Manchester United?

During the summer of 2014, under the management of Louis van Gaal, Manchester United signed Argentinian defender Marcos Rojo for £16 million from Sporting Lisbon. As part of the deal, the player signed a five-year contract at the club and United winger, Nani headed back to Portugal on loan.

At the time, it was thought that the Argentinian could bolster United’s defence which was trying to recover from the departure of both Rio Ferdinand, who signed for Queens Park Rangers and Nemanja Vidic, who left for Inter Milan, although a pre-contract agreement was made during the January transfer window that year.

At the time, United had Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans as the experienced central defenders in the squad with both Michael Keane and Tom Thorpe impressing at academy level, however, Keane only played twice that season, Thorpe once. Rojo, who could play as a central defender or as a left-back gave United some experience at the back.

Rojo played for the club 26 times during his debut season, scoring one goal but suffered from three separate injuries that season, which stopped him featuring in 12 matches. The following season, the Argentinian played 28 times in all competitions, again suffering from a series of injuries, missing 28 matches this time. Suffering from injuries was going to be something which defined the defender’s career at United.

During the 2016/17 season, Rojo played his first full season, which incidentally was Jose Mourinho’s first season at the club. Rojo played a total of 41 times for United, again scoring one goal. However, in e UEFA Europa League match against Anderlecht at Old Trafford, United lost Rojo after he suffered a cruciate ligament rupture which kept him out for the remainder of the season and for three months of the 2017/18 season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was injured in the same match, ending his season also.

Rojo played 12 times during the 2017/18 season but by that time, Mourinho has signed Eric Bailly during the summer of 2016 and Victor Lindelof who arrived during the summer of 2017. With both Jones and Smalling still at the club and the fact Daley Blind arrived during the summer of 2015, leaving last summer, Rojo found it tough to be selected for matches. Last season, under Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he featured just six times during the course of the season.

Rojo was rewarded with a new contract in March 2018, keeping at the club until the summer of 2021, with the option of a further year to be added. This seemed strange at the time as he was seldom being selected and when he was playing, he was either rash or rusty and did not fortify United’s defence all that much, especially last season.

With the emergence of Axel Tuanzebe after his loan spell at Aston Villa and the fact that Tim Fosu-Mensah could also offer Solskjaer something this coming season, the likelihood of Rojo becoming a starter at the club seems pretty much impossible, even at left-back with Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot and Ashley Young all able to play that and that is before you factor in the talented youth players emerging from within the academy.

Back in March, Rojo was training with former club Estudiantes in his native Argentina and in May, suggested that he would like to return to the club in the future, saying: “I have always said that I’m going to play in Estudiantes again and I hope so. Going back to my home, being with my family and playing for Estudiantes would be the icing on the cake for my career.” Whilst this does not mean he’s going to leave, it might be an option for him as his career at United is more than on the rocks.

Tears, chips and reserve team stints: The calamitous fate of Manchester United’s ‘Gaalacticos’

“We can do things in the transfer market that other clubs can only dream of.” In July 2014, Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward uttered these words of defiance and received a backlash of mockery as a result. On the back of United’s worst season in 25 years, it seemed unfathomable that the Red Devil’s could attract Europe’s elite talent, especially without the bargaining tool of UEFA Champions League participation.

However, just two months later, mockery turned to delight following the acquisition of two seemingly elite players. The arrivals of Champions League winner Angel Di Maria and clinical striker Radamel Falcao injected excitement into the veins of United fans. While the signings of two elite stars seemed overwhelmingly positive, it set in motion a chain of events that enhanced the decline of United.

In May 2014, Manchester United had ended a calamitous campaign in seventh place. Meanwhile, Spanish giants Real Madrid won their first Champions League trophy in 12 years defeating arch-rivals Athletico Madrid by four goals to one. In spite of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale being present, the Argentinian Angel Di Maria won the ‘Man of the match’ award. Following the Argentine’s superb performance in the biggest game in club football, it seemed almost laughable that Di Maria would join a team that would not be in any form of European competition the following season.

However, incredibly, on the 27th August 2014, Di Maria signed for United for a club record fee of £59.7 million. The signing of the Real Madrid superstar signified a statement of intent from United in the market, especially when the Glazer’s scarcely flexed United’s spending power. Furthermore Di Maria was the first in a series of ‘Galactico signings’, that many believe harmed the progression of the club. 

Upon his arrival, Angel Di Maria began his United career in superb style. In the forward’s first home game, he netted a sublime free kick, as well as providing an assist for Juan Mata in a 4-0 drubbing of Queens Park Rangers. Just a week later, Di Maria produced a sensational chip, while also providing an assist. However, United was defeated 5-3 by Leicester City in that encounter, and the extent of United’s defensive meltdown caused Louis van Gaal to tighten up the team defensively.

In spite of the more conservative approach adopted by Van Gaal, Di Maria still flourished in the following weeks. In a 2-1 home win against Everton, the Argentinian once again provided a goal and an assist, which proved vital in clinching three points. In the midst of his stupendous performances, Di Maria won the ‘Manchester United Player of the Month‘ award, as well as the ‘Goal of the month’ award for his sublime chip against Leicester. 

Unfortunately for both the club and the player, two events following his sensational run of form signified the beginning of the end for Di Maria. Following a hamstring injury against Hull City, Di Maria only started one of the next seven games for United. While the injury had a devastating effect on the forward’s form, it was an incident off the pitch that seemed to annihilate Di Maria’s confidence.

In February 2015, just hours after Di Maria played for United in a 3-1 win over Leicester, his home was broken into by burglars while his family were eating dinner. This terrifying ordeal seemingly affected Di Maria’s mental state significantly. His on-pitch endeavours following the break-in were nothing short of bizarre. In a 2-1 win at Anfield, Di Maria made the peculiar decision to catch an aerial pass, therefore conceding a free kick. In addition, in a key FA Cup quarter-final tie at home to Arsenal, Di Maria received an incredibly vacuous red card, for pulling on the shirt of referee Michael Oliver.

As a result of his strange decisions and his disastrous form, Di Maria played a bit-part role for the remainder of the season. Ashley Young replaced Di Maria in the starting line up, and performed magnificently, illustrated by his goal and two assists in a resounding 4-2 victory against Manchester City. Angel Di Maria scored a measly three goals in 27 appearances for United, meaning financially United had paid a club record fee for a ratio of £19 million per goal. It was therefore in everyone’s interests for Di Maria to depart the club, and in July 2015 he left for Paris Saint-Germain, for an estimated £45 million.

Following the arrival of Angel Di Maria, the Red Devils completed a deadline-day loan deal for Monaco striker Radamel Falcao. In the previous five years to his move to United, Falcao was statistically one of the most lethal strikers in the world. In 68 appearances for Athletico Madrid, the Colombian netted an outrageous 52 goals in 68 appearances.

Furthermore, following his transfer to Monaco, Falcao netted 65 goals in 107 games. This made Falcao one of the most coveted strikers in world football. However, in January 2014, Falcao suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury that put him out of action for six months. In spite of his injury, a loan deal, with an option to buy, seemed like some commendable business by United.

In spite of his sensational goal records at Athletico and Monaco, Falcao looked a shell of his former self at United. The so-called ‘El-Tigre’ appeared to be out of his depth in the Premier League, with his finishing on many occasions being woeful. The extent of his shortcomings came to the fore on 10th March  2015, when Louis Van Gaal ruthlessly instructed the forward to play for the under 23s team. The merciful decision by the Dutchman was seen as an act of disrespect in the eyes of Falcao.

His stint in the reserve team affected the number nine so much, that Falcao allegedly cried upon hearing the news. Unlike Di Maria, Falcao remained largely popular with United fans, who in spite of the striker’s performances recognised that he was genuinely trying his hardest on the pitch. The more cynical fans would say this was predominantly an act of pity, as opposed to support. Unsurprisingly, Falcao departed United following the conclusion of the 2014/15 campaign, with United declining to exercise their option to buy the forward for £43.5 million. 

More importantly than his on-pitch contributions, the transfer of Falcao symbolised a change in philosophy for United. Previously to the summer of 2014, United rarely signed ready made stars, with the exception of Robin van Persie in 2012. While the signings of Di Maria and Falcao were significant in their own right as they symbolised an adoption of a ‘Galactico’ transfer model, the context of Falcao’s transfer was even more poignant. While Falcao was signing the dotted line, a United academy product had departed the club: Danny Welbeck.

Welbeck was a player who Ferguson invested a lot of belief into, with many viewing the Englishman as a long term option to fill the number nine position. However, the sale of Welbeck to accommodate Falcao emphasises the influence of Woodward on United, discarding youth prospect in favour of an elite level 29-year-old. This set a precedent for United’s future dealings, which has led to Woodward receiving an onslaught of criticism in recent weeks.

The first two signings of United’s ‘Galacticos’ failed miserably, and ultimately cost the club substantial amounts of money. However in spite of the tears, the chips and the reserve team stints, United continued to invest in star names, and the stars that followed were to be a lot more damaging than the ‘Gaalacticos’.

Written by Alexei Braithwaite

Love United Hate Glazer: The statistics behind the sentiment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Alexei Braithwaite

Misfiring Manchester United – Striker woes since the 2012/13 season

They say the hardest thing to do is put the ball in the back of the net. Goalscoring is an art and only the very best are able to master it.

Manchester United have had a history of these types of players, elite, ruthless finishers who could always be relied on to bag you a goal when needed. From Denis Law to Robin van Persie, these great centre-forwards lit up Old Trafford time and time again. The list of greats who led the line for the club is countless, lately though; these kinds of players haven’t been around the club. Not for the want of trying though. 

Robin van Persie was the last truly great centre forward to play for United. Signed for £24million from Arsenal in 2012, the Dutchman bagged 30 goals in 48 appearances for The Red Devils, leading the club to their 20th Premier League title. It was such a delight to see Van Persie in action. Here was an absolute clinical goal scorer, who only needed one opportunity and it was in the back of the net.

The poise, composure and pure ruthlessness of Van Persie is what endeared him to the Old Trafford faithful. His spell at the club didn’t last very long; he was only at United for three seasons before moving on to Feyenoord. 

After the overwhelming success of Van Persie, the sheer lack of real quality at the centre forward position has been all too apparent. The likes of Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have all been tried as a number nine at various points.

Some of these have had minor success in the role, but, none of them has really made it their own. None of them has come close to replicating the success that Van Persie did when he was at the club. Why is this? These are all quality players with talent and ability. When then, have none of them being able to really hit the heights at Manchester United?

Is the shirt too big for some of them? Are they not good enough or are they simply past their best? It’s a combination of all three.  Poor recruitment from the club side has left United with players not good enough to carry the burden of being the main source of goals for this mammoth of a club. Some may point to a lack of service and lack of creativity as a reason why some of these forward are misfiring. That may be true to an extent. However, the true greats only need one chance and it’s in the back of the net. 

Current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer alluded to this when speaking of Anthony Martial in February. A lot of these players don’t have the killer instinct of a truly great number nine. Do they know where to be and when? Perhaps not, if they did then maybe lack of quality service would be a more valid reason as to why more goals are not being scored. 

Do they practice their off the ball movements in training? Are they aware enough to know when a potential opportunity might present itself and be alive to that? The evidence on the pitch suggests not. Too many times, we’ve seen nonexistent movement and general static play from United centre forwards. They don’t anticipate chances or when the ball will arrive in the box. While the lack of service sometimes creates a problem, the strikers not knowing when to move creates a bigger one. 

If you don’t know when to get into the penalty area, how do you ever expect to get on the end of things and bag yourself a goal? The elite strikers know how to do this like its second nature to them. They’re always in the right place, even if the ball doesn’t come in, if they keep making the runs, eventually it will.

Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and even a Mohamed Salah are all masters of this. Not surprise that Salah scores most of his goals inside the penalty box, even though be mostly plays out wide for Liverpool. He knows where to be and when to be there. 

Manchester United’s current strikers just don’t have this attribute. Robin van Persie had it, Ruud van Nistelrooy had it, Andrew Cole had it and countless others in years gone by, including Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It’s not hard to think that the current manager could teach the strikers he has at his disposal a thing or two about proper movement. He’s been in the job six months and there’s not really been much improvement on that front. So, is it something else that’s stopping them grasping this concept? 

In general, people learn and retain information at different rates. Perhaps this current group of players are just unable to improve any further than their current level? The reason they can’t grasp new concepts is because they’re not good enough to grasp them. If that’s the case then only one logical outcome can come from that. 

Manchester United need a higher calibre of forward players. Ones who have the natural ability but are also adaptable enough to take on new concepts, learn and absorb, be flexible enough mentally so they can understand and improve the technical side of their game. The very best players don’t just rely on raw talent alone to get them through. They need to be wise enough to know their weaknesses and adjust to compensate for this. 

There has been some speculation of many of United’s current forwards leaving the club this summer. It may not be a bad thing for some of them to move on. 

This way the club can start recruiting a new breed of striker. Ones who are more in tune with what it takes to lead the line at Manchester United. Goals win you games and if United carry on with forwards who keep producing average returns, the club will struggle to return to the top of English football any time soon. 

Written by Joe Hinds

There is one man behind the shambles​ that is Manchester United and that is Ed Woodward

Ed Woodward was part of the Glazer’s take over of Manchester United back in 2005. It was him that advised the late Malcolm Glazer during the takeover of the club, presumably into leveraging the club so that the Glazers did not have to pay any money from their own pockets to acquire the Old Trafford club. Woodward was then recruited into a financial planning role at United.

Woodward is not a footballing man, although his Wikipedia page suggests that he followed non-league Chelmsford City in his younger days, there seems to be little interest in the game now. His father was said to be a Derby County and Manchester United supporter, so there was interest in football in his family. However, he decided to move into the financial sector, working for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Robert Fleming and Co, and J.P Morgan and Co before joining United.

In the period between 2005 and 2012, Woodward helped United raise the clubs annual turnover from £48.7 million (in 2005) to £117.6 million (in 2012). This was a good thing for the club and the Glazers would have been happy with the raise, which more than doubles the revenue of the club in seven years. Currently, the turnover supercedes these figures massively.

In the summer of 2013, when both Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager and David Gill, the chief executive officer, retired, Woodward became the executive vice-chairman of the club, taking on the role of Gill and overseeing the financial aspects of the club, which is the area he is very good at. However, after that summer transfer window, which saw David Moyes, the successor to Ferguson, thrown to the wolves as the club only managed the deadline day signing of Marouane Fellaini, paying £4 million more for him than they could have earlier that summer.

Moyes was sacked by Woodward in April 2014, three months after signing Juan Mata, in order to save United’s beleaguered season, which didn’t work. Ryan Giggs led the team for the final four matches of that season before a new manager came in, Louis van Gaal, after guiding the Netherlands to a third-place finish in the FIFA World Cup that summer. The clueless approach to signing players continued, but that needed to happen in order to see the bigger picture; Woodward was not good enough to take on both the financial and footballing aspects of the club.

Van Gaal managed the club for two seasons, guiding United to their first major honour, the Emirates FA Cup after beating Crystal Palace at Wembley at the end of the 2015/16 season. Of course, by that time, the speculation of Van Gaal being sacked had been rumbling through the media for almost six months and days after, Woodward sacked the Dutchman, bringing Jose Mourinho days after that.

The poor transfer dealings continued with the club failing to get rid of the players who were deadwood at the time, signing others who have not actually made the club much better than they were. Mourinho won the FA Community Shield in the 2016/17 season, like Moyes did in the 2013/14 season, adding the EFL Cup as his first major honour at the club, becoming the first United manager to win a major honour in his first season, then adding the UEFA Europa League to that after beating Ajax in the final in Sweden, meaning that United had won all major domestic and European honours they have ever played for in the history of the club.

United added more players in the summer of 2017 but there was still something missing. Mourinho then guided this squad to a second-place finish in the Premier League, despite being 19 points behind Manchester City, which Mourinho suggests was the biggest achievement of his career. That summer, there was a feeling of changes happening but the manager was not backed by Woodward, who felt the defensive reinforcements the Portuguese manager wanted were no better than the players he already had. Mourinho was not happy.

The 2018/19 season started well but soon started to decline. Mourinho was sacked after a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought in as the caretaker manager, then being given a three-year contract in March after a good period of results, which seems to decline again after that. United had many chances to break into the top four this season, failing to beat some poor teams, now with the prospect of finishing sixth and playing in the Europa League once again.

United has conceded 52 goals in the Premier League alone this season, the most goals conceded in the top flight since the 1978/79 season, in the old Football League Division One, in which they conceded 63 goals, only scoring 60 and finishing ninth in the league. Some would admit defeat in the respect of Woodward suggesting the defenders at the club were better than the ones Mourinho wanted to add to his squad. Maybe it could have changed something this season but I guess it is another record broken on Woodward’s watch, one of many.

After six years, Woodward’s approach to ‘rebuilding’ the club has not worked. It is not going to work this summer either unless substantial changes are made. It is time that Woodward puts his money where his mouth is. He suggested to the media that a director of football, a sporting director or even a technical director would be added to the club to give a footballing knowledge at the very top of the club, as aside of Ferguson, Gill and Sir Bobby Charlton, who are all honorary directors, there is none.

As this way of doing things was not possible under Mourinho, it would have been a perfect time to get it all sorted between December 2018 and March 2019, whilst Solskjaer was the caretaker manager. However, it seems that nothing has been done in this respect. Perhaps the media should start asking questions as it seems they have been lied to by the man himself. It would have been ideal to get this sorted before the end of the season with the club able to plan for this summer, the most important one yet, which seems to become the branding ahead of every summer transfer window of late.

Many supporters of the club are calling for Woodward to be sacked, just like they were in the summer of 2013, so nothing has really changed. United has spent more than £700 million in bringing players to the club between 2013 and 2018 and that money seems to have been wasted. Imagine how a footballing man in the role would have spent this amount of money? Look at what Manchester City has done since Pep Guardiola took the job as manager. They have spent lost of money and are in with a chance of retaining the Premier League title this season, although it will go to the final day, have already won the Carabao Cup and have reached the FA Cup final, which could bring a domestic treble to the blue side of Manchester.

You also need to look at what Liverpool has achieved as a team. They have reached the UEFA Europa League final (2015/16) and two UEFA Champions League finals (2017/18 and 2018/19) in the last four years, not to mention taking the Premier League title race to the final day of the season, challenging City right to the end. It shows the importance of footballing men at the helm of the club and just what they can do. Woodward seems to think that bringing in big names and backing the players over the manager is the right way to do things. That is why the club is currently up shit creek without a paddle.

More than £700 million spent post-Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United still has no identified plan

Six years on from the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United is still a club in decline and it seems that is not something that will change anytime soon. David Moyes was given a six-year contract, then sacked ten months later. Louis van Gaal gave it a go and was sacked two-years later, then Jose Mourinho took over the reins, seeing himself sacked two and a half years later.

After a summer of dreaming and promise, Ed Woodward eventually signed Marouane Fellaini on deadline day in 2013, adding Juan Mata in the January transfer window. It was not enough to turn the tide for United as Moyes was sacked, United finished seventh in the Premier League, relinquishing their 20th league title in record time. Under Moyes, United spent £64.6 million.

Under Louis van Gaal, in his first summer, United added Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Radamel Falcao, bringing in Victor Valdes in January. United finished fourth in the league and earned a UEFA Champions League place, albeit from the play-off round. In his second season, Van Gaal added Sergio Romero, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial, spending a total of £253.9 million. United finished fifth in the league, earning a UEFA Europa League place but won the Emirates FA Cup.

After the sacking of Van Gaal, days after lifting the FA Cup, Jose Mourinho was given the reigns and another new era was present. Mourinho brought in Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Paul Pogba. United won the EFL Cup, finished sixth in the league, but got Champions League football by beating Ajax in the Europa League final, it also saw United winning all major honours in the history of the club.

In his second summer, Mourinho re-signed Ibrahimovic, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, and Romelu Lukaku. During the January window, Mkhitaryan left the club for Arsenal and Alexis Sanchez arrived in what is deemed to have been a player swap deal. United won nothing that season, losing the FA Cup final against Chelsea but finished second in the league, 19 points adrift to Manchester City.

In what would be his third season, Mourinho added Diogo Dalot, Fred, and Lee Grant to his squad and wanted a commanding central defender but never got one. It seems the board vetoed his needs, which they might be paying for now. Mourinho moaned in press conferences and alienated the media, a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool saw him sacked two days later. Mourinho spent £397.6 million in time as the manager.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought in as the caretaker manager for the remainder of the season. Solskjaer never added to his ranks in the January transfer window but did opt to sell Fellaini, after he had signed a new contract with the club in the summer, days before he was to be a free agent. Solakjaer did well in his first ten matches but recently, they have lost six in their last eight matches and now face Manchester City and Chelsea at Old Trafford in their next two fixtures.

United has spent £716.1 million under three different managers. Out of the 25 players who have joined the club in the past six years, nine players have left the club, three players will see their contracts end in the summer (one of them being Matteo Darmian, who has the option of another year) and the futures of four more may hang in the balance.

Just imagine the amount of money that has been spent at the club. Di Maria left after one season with the club losing £15.7 million on his fee to Paris Saint-Germain. In total, not including Fellaini, as his fee to China is undisclosed, United has lost £34.1 million in selling the players they got rid of already. If United had a plan when spending this money, imagine the rewards the club could have been reaping now.

If Woodward had added a director of football after sacking Moyes, bringing the club into the ways of modern football, the appointment could have planned for the future. Even if one was brought in after Van Gaal, the club could have been in a better position today. Bringing a director of football, a sporting director or even a technical director in now is imperative, especially if the club wants to avert more damage to the credibility of the club, at least as a footballing force.

copyright: JW