Has Woodward finally come of age, or is it the Mourinho factor?
David Gill is a tall man who casts a very large shadow. For the last three years, if you looked very closely underneath this shadow, you would have seen a little man from Chelmsford called Ed Woodward.
Although he had long left his role as CEO at United, the fact that Gill had managed to carry out his functions with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of proficiency, meant that he was always going to be a hard act to follow.
With hindsight, Manchester United should have appointed a Director of Football at the time Sir Alex Ferguson and Gill rode off on matching white horses, hand in hand into the distance. I still think it is the way the club will go eventually, but they are resisting at present.
Anyway, Woodward was asked if he could handle the job and, being the confident type, he answered in the affirmative. He then set about proving that he couldn’t handle the job by missing out on players United needed and buying players they didn’t. Not only did he buy players they didn’t need, (at the request of the manager, no doubt), but he also managed to massively overpay for them.
He had begun his tenure by stating, highly unwisely, that Manchester United could afford to buy any player in the world. This was probably true but the effect it actually had was to increase the price of any player in which United showed an interest.
During the ill-fated David Moyes era, Woodward tried and failed to bring in Ander Herrera and successfully purchased Maroune Fellaini. The interest in Herrera had pre-dated the appointment of Woodward as chief cook and bottle washer but he was entirely responsible for paying £4 million more than he needed to when buying Fellaini, a feat he achieved by missing a deadline in the player’s contract with Everton. He also bought Juan Mata, again overpriced, but a decent signing nevertheless.
After Moyes had been replaced by Louis van Gaal United bought Angel Di Maria, much against my better wishes and judgement. A vastly overrated player he commanded a vastly overrated price tag and Woodward rushed to meet it to acquire his “stellar” signing. Di Maria proved to be anything but and got the move he always wanted within a year when he moved to PSG for a far more realistic price. Woodward also managed to get Herrera at the second or third attempt.
During the next Summer transfer window Woodward began throwing money around as though it were going out of fashion. Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial and Marcos Rojo all arrived and, with the exception of Martial, none has lived up to their billing and some may even be sold now that Jose Mourinho is in the hot seat.
It would appear now though that Ed has finally got it right. After a couple of years practising and a few hundred million pounds wasted, he seems to have got the hang of this transfer lark.
Bear in mind that he cannot offer Champion’s League football this coming season so only has the natural attraction of playing for Manchester United with the big bonus of playing for Jose Mourinho. This has to be a big factor in a player’s decision but Ed still has to get the deal over the line.
To date he has managed to bring in Zlatan Ibrahimovic for free, Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a fee which represents decent value for money these days. He has negotiated with Juventus AND Mino Raiola to bring in Paul Pogba and, although the fee is extortionate, it is not as much as Juventus were originally demanding. He has also bought Eric Bailly, who looks to be a very promising defender and should have a big future at the club.
So, for the first time since taking the role, Ed Woodward should be applauded. He has gone about the business of bringing in players in a quiet and professional manner and has, as far as we know, managed to get every target set for him by the manager. Take a bow Ed, for a job well done.
Unfortunately, with his habit of shooting himself in the foot it probably won’t be too long before the knives are out again for something he says or does, which is why I still think that Manchester United need a Director of Football at some stage.
The original article can be found on the excellent Why Say Anything?
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