Much has been made of the managerial troubles at Manchester United following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. 3 managers in 5 seasons since, and the looming prospect of another search on the horizon, have weighed heavily on attempts to rediscover a steady flow of silverware coming into Old Trafford. David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal, and now José Mourinho have all three seen their fair share of poor form, ill-fated transfers, and criticism from fans. However, with Mourinho’s latest slew of rants, attention has somewhat turned to the man who has been in charge of finding Sir Alex’s successor and restoring the club to the glory of its not so distant past.
Chief Executive Ed Woodward has been the head man on the board at Manchester United for 5 years now. He succeeded David Gill after Gill’s departure for a role in the FA around the same time Sir Alex Ferguson was making his retirement plans. In Gill’s time as Chief Executive he developed a great working relationship with Sir Alex, and saw to a smooth transition within the club after the Glazer family became majority owners in 2005.
In Gill’s 10 year tenure, Manchester United secured many key transfers that helped shape the club’s squad for years. Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidić, Michael Carrick, and David De Gea, just to name a few, were all monumental players for Manchester United.
Woodward had been the head of commercial and media operations before being promoted to Chief Executive, and helped see United become the top sports brand in the world. His role in advancing Manchester United’s brand is unquestioned, but his role in advancing Manchester United’s squad has earned him quite a bit of criticism.
In his first summer transfer window Woodward and Moyes both underperformed. After being linked with players like Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira, Gareth Bale, and even a sensational Cristiano Ronaldo return, United’s haul only featured Marouane Fellaini and Guillermo Varela. It was labelled by many in the press as a disaster, and the horror show only continued as the club finished 7th in the Premier League.
Woodward sacked Moyes with 4 games to play in the 2013/14 season after it became impossible to achieve a spot in a European competition the next season. Dutch national team manager and seasoned European veteran Louis Van Gaal was named as the next manager, but Woodward’s struggles continued. Ángel Dí Maria was initially considered a great move for United, but his performances dipped quickly after a decent start to the season. United’s new number 7 had totally disappeared by the end of the year, and he left for PSG after only one season at United. £60m down the drain.
Other notable transfer failures under the Woodward/Van Gaal era include Luke Shaw (so far), Radamel Falcao, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Memphis Depay. Woodward was much more active in transfers with Van Gaal, but still wasn’t bringing in key contributors. Anthony Martial and Ander Herrera are without a doubt good signings, but even their United futures look to be in doubt at the moment.
One area where Mourinho has undoubtedly had a positive impact is in the transfer market. Zlatan Ibrahimović, Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly, and Romelu Lukaku have all been important additions to the United squad. All four were sought after by other big clubs, but chose United to work with Mourinho in restoring order at Old Trafford. Each summer Ed Woodward has been given names, and for the most part he’s gotten them.
So why is this summer different? Why is José still upset?
Ed Woodward has repeatedly boasted about Manchester United’s financial status, and claims they can do things in the transfer market that only a handful of other clubs can do. Have Manchester United made such an impact in the transfer market? It can be argued that they haven’t, especially this summer, and the fans and manager both believe the club need more signings. To his credit, Woodward did shell out massive fees for Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, both of whom have become important contributors. United fans, and Mourinho too it seems, now expect big money transfers to be a regular occurence, but Woodward’s struggles have continued.
The manager and fans alike have highlighted the need for a stronger defense, but rumors linking the club to Harry Maguire, Toby Alderweireld, and Yerry Mina continue to just be rumors. The recent inflation of the transfer market has made fees and negotiations more complicated, but if money is no worry to United then why are moves continually held up? Romelu Lukaku’s quick transfer seemingly put the worries to bed after Paul Pogba’s deal took the entire transfer window to complete, but now the board and management staff again seem to be on a different page. It’s clear Mourinho gave Woodward a list of needs early, but only Diogo Dalot and Fred have been brought in.
David Gill may have had an easy go of it with the greatest manager in history delivering trophies year after year, but his ability to quickly and efficiently negotiate transfers was an important quality that helped structure some of Sir Alex’s best squads in his final decade at Manchester United. Ed Woodward was always going to have a tough time shaping the club’s future post-Ferguson, but if the reality is that he can’t back up the big talk then maybe the club should find someone who isn’t just a marketing specialist, and find someone who knows how to address the football problems at the club.