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United target third but will NOT buy in January, claims Woodward

United's executive vice-chairman has cooled talk of further investment in the squad, and has also divulged where Louis van Gaal is expected to finish.

Mark Thompson

All hail the mighty Ed Woodward. Once thought staggeringly incompetent, but now shown by one frantic transfer window to be quite the most magnificent executive vice-chairman that ever executive vice-chaired. On the occasion of Manchester United's revenue announcement -- on which more later -- Manchester United's man with the money has been sharing his thoughts with the world via conference call.

And what interesting thoughts they are! We now know, for example, where in the Premier League Manchester United budget to finish. It's not first, but nor is it seventh. It's third, the lowest automatic qualification sport for the Champions League. That's where the budgets assume that United will finish. So while finishing fourth (or even lower) might not doom the Louis van Gaal project, it would certainly mess up a lot of people's spreadsheets.

We also know that Woodward isn't expecting to spend much money this January. Though he stopped shortly of flatly ruling out any business, he told the eager listeners that he "wouldn't have any expectations for January". An exception might be made if there is "a willingness from the manager" or "an opportunity," such as last year's signing of Juan Mata, but otherwise, the squad is the squad.

Obviously that can be sliced several ways; compare the Daily Mail's "Manchester United could continue spending spree" with ESPN's "Woodward casts doubt on January spending". We're going to go out on a limb and predict that Woodward isn't quite as down on the idea of bringing somebody else in as he's sounding, but is wary of repeating this summer's hilarious pronouncement that United had loads of money and were gagging to spend it. See? He's learning!