While David Moyes, his staff and the handful of healthy Manchester United players begin preparing for a trip to Stamford Bridge this Sunday, club officials should be preparing themselves for a very important transfer window in the summer.
With almost two weeks gone from the current transfer window, the realization that the numerous deficiencies within United’s squad won’t be solved within the January market has finally started to settle in the minds of some of Manchester United’s more disgruntled fans.
Of course, most people in and around the club realized this well before the opening of the January window.
But there is something Manchester United officials need to address prior to the club’s next journey into the summer transfer period. Behind the scenes, United need to address the position of Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward.
The 2014 summer transfer window will not solve all of Manchester United’s problems, but it is the first major step in establishing the club during the post-Alex Ferguson era. Especially since club officials thoroughly embarrassed themselves (and Manchester United’s image) during the summer of 2013 with their misguided endeavors.
An issue needs to be tackled before Manchester United can continue writing this important chapter in their club’s history.
— Is Ed Woodward qualified to continue being the person who is in charge of player transfers at Manchester United?
The answer is no; he is not qualified to direct the club’s transfer process and prior to last summer he had no experience with player transfers.
Last season, just two months after leaving his position as the head of Manchester United’s massively successful commercial team, Woodward was appointed to succeed former club CEO David Gill by the Glazer family.
The majority of experts would tell you that the commercial side of football is very different from player transfers. But most people involved at a club’s commercial end think the football side is easy because they [commercial employees] only have to worry about selling a winning club to professionals who want to attach their business’ name to a successful sports brand with loyal fan base.
The hard truth is Ed Woodward is unfit to handle player transfers for Manchester United (or for any club).
At best he is a novice.
This is the same person who said in May 2013:
“We have a young squad, each now a year older. We’re very comfortable with the make-up of team and squad.
“There’s incredible depth. We could put two first teams out with 11 internationals in each.
“I wouldn’t expect there to be a major retooling of the squad.”
But United fans should not expect him to be fired because Woodward has the full support of the Glazer family. The 40-year-old British accountant advised the Glazers during their acquisition of Manchester United, was later recruited by them to fill a “financial planning role” within the club and has a personal relationship with United’s joint-chairman, Joel Glazer; Woodward keeps him informed of all of the club’s transfer business on a daily basis.
During his first transfer window, Woodward’s pursuit of Cesc Fabregas and his subsequent futile late bid for Gareth Bale were signs that the club’s management were ill-prepared to deal with the transfer process.
Just a few years earlier, Fabregas had dragged Arsenal through an entirely drawn out process while trying to leave the London club in an effort to return to his boyhood team, Barcelona.
But last summer, for some reason, Woodward and United officials were convinced that they could pry the player away from the Catalan club. Their subsequent bids were met with almost immediate rejection and were a source of public embarrassment to United and its supporters.
In October 2013, Woodward tried to explain the decision to chase Fabregas in the fanzine United We Stand:
“With Fabregas that was an approach specific to the selling club. They have an ownership structure that means there has to be debate before a player is sold.
“The early view was that we needed a central midfielder and a left-back, but David [Moyes] also wanted to spend time with the squad. There wasn’t a long list he wanted – it was a unique window.”
Ok…so why did Woodward waste valuable time approaching “the selling club” if the player had previously done everything in his power to escape England and return home to Spain? Weren’t there other central midfielding options available at the time Woodward was chasing Fabregas?
Unfortunately the fanzine failed to follow up with that question.
Manchester United later admitted that they made a last ditch attempt to pry Bale away from Tottenham after the deal with Real Madrid was 99.9% done. Many skeptics disbelieve that an actual bid was made, but the Spanish giants did release a statement saying that the statement was true.
In an effort to show Manchester United fans that the club was willing to spend ‘big’ in the transfer window, Woodward had again showed that he was not the man to direct the club’s player transfers.
Regardless of United’s summer transfer window failings, Woodward isn’t going to be sacked. But Manchester United should at least look into making an ‘adjustment’ as to who is leading their transfer process.
United fans would hope that these adjustments would have already been made. But since no announcements have come from the club to suggest there have been changes/improvements to the people in charge of transfers, I assume that the issue still needs to be confronted (or is being ignored).
United need to address Woodward’s position as quickly as possible because they would only be falling further behind rival clubs in regards to the identification, pursuit and potential acquisition of their necessary summer targets.
What Manchester United should do, if they haven’t done so already, is provide ‘reinforcements’ to Woodward. If not one person, a team of people need to be brought in by the club in order to ensure that Woodward navigates his way through the summer transfer window better than he did during his first.
Manchester United has a wealth of former players and managers who are loyal and universally respected. Now more than ever, the club needs to lean on these individuals for their assistance while United ushers in the post-Alex Ferguson era.
The club could choose to turn back to Sir Alex Ferguson himself, David Gill, Sir Bobby Charlton, Ryan Giggs, or anyone else who could play a role in player recruitment and transfers; even if the responsibility isn’t written into their current job descriptions. They should also consider bringing back other standout individuals from some ofUnited’s previous management teams in order assist Woodward in the club’s transfer dealings, while also helping him ‘sell’ the club to a new generation of players.
Manchester United cannot afford to suffer through another summer of chasing unobtainable targets.
This article wasn’t written to point the finger of blame on one individual. But it is being written to raise these questions:
— How did a person of with Woodward’s background rise to the position he currently holds at Manchester United?
— How did a club, which handles the global business of selling itself commercially with such military precision allow an important position such as the head of player transfers (CEO) to be handed to a novice?
It’s safe to say, cynics will use this article to point out that they think David Moyes should not have been hired either because he had no experience managing a “big club”. It is true that Moyes doesn’t share the same qualifications as Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, or Rafa Benitez. But prior to his hiring as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor, Moyes had experience in managing a football club. As a matter of fact, a large chunk of it was established in the Premier League while he led Everton to higher league finishes than were expected by the Merseyside club’s owner.
On the other hand, Woodward had nothing on his CV/resume to show that he had the qualifications to handle player transfers for Manchester United. He was essentially an accountant and salesman for the club.
United supporters have understandably been asked to “Trust David Moyes”, but what reason do they have to “Trust Ed Woodward”?
To partner Moyes who had experience in the transfer market (albeit not with a club the size of Manchester United) with a complete novice was an asinine decision by the United’s ownership. The club should have had someone of significant stature, who was familiar with United and its transfer dealings working alongside Moyes during his initial transfer window at the club.
But what’s done is done. Manchester United need to move forward and address the problems which lie ahead of them.
The job of rebuilding Manchester United’s roster under David Moyes will be made even more difficult should the club fail to qualify for Europe next season. Although, United’s huge global brand will play a significant role in easing the concerns of potential transfer targets whose desire is to play Champions League football. Because of their massive commercial standing on a world platform, Manchester United will not be absent from the European competition for long, should they fall short this season.
Even the Glazers will understand the importance of Manchester United being in the Champions League. The American owners would finally be forced to spend the funds they have steadily been removing from the club, should United not qualify for Europe.
If this is the case and Manchester United are heading into one of the club’s most important periods, the essential issue that needs to be addressed by United’s ownership is this:
Is Ed Woodward qualified to be the person who commands the club’s transfers during this pivotal summer window? Is he the individual who is going to continue to be trusted with leading Manchester United through the opening stages of the post-Alex Ferguson era?
Editor’s note: For more Red Devils news, analysis and opinion, visit the Manchester United team page.