Why isn’t Ed Woodward in the firing line?

December 28, 2015 Tags: , , , , Reads 27 comments
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Just when you thought the crisis has hit its lowest point, Louis van Gaal’s side found a way to burrow further into the abyss. Following another comprehensive defeat at the hands of Stoke City the club has now lost four games in a row, something the Red Devils have not suffered since 1961. The side is also now winless in seven games. Can the situation get any worse?

The answer might be yes – a home clash to finish the year awaits, with Chelsea visiting Old Trafford on Monday. Optimism hasn’t been at a lower ebb at any point during the Van Gaal era, and most fans are hoping he is either given his marching orders or falls on his own sword before the end of the year.

Criticism of the Dutchman is almost certainly justified, with defence of his methods now as flimsy as the efforts of his back-four. Despite Van Gaal’s successes in rebuilding the club from the ground up, for which he deserves credit, on-field performances have at best stalled and are arguably going backwards. Patience with the process has reached a pivotal moment.

Comparison’s with David Moyes grow by the day – the two managers records are comparable, with Van Gaal’s number no longer that favourable. Yet the common thread between the two men is less the results, but the man who hired them: Edward Gareth Woodward.

Woodward was promoted to the role of executive vice-chairman when David Gill stepped aside in 2013, following Sir Alex Ferguson out the door. Whilst Woodward is clearly a marketing guru, the former banker has essentially acted as the Chief Executive Officer, Commercial Director and Director of Football for United in the past two years. It isn’t working.

The reality, of course, is that Woodward is succeeding in running United as a business, but not as a football club. The question remains as to why Woodward appears to be immune to media criticism given that he now has two managerial failures behind him. If Van Gaal is in the firing line, then Woodward should join him.

Woodward has not been clear of blame from the club’s fans since he was promoted to the top job. He is, after all, a figurehead for the Glazer’s ownership of the club – a controversial topic within itself – whilst appearing to place financial success far above on-field performance. Woodward, it appears, fails to grasp that on the pitch success also means that the dollars will follow.

Woodward’s first window in charge was underwhelming – he hired Moyes, then failed in pursuit of a string of  star players, leading to a very public display of panic on transfer deadline day. Marouane Fellaini joined for £27.5 million in August 2013 when the Belgian could have been signed for four million less had he a move been completed in July.

This followed a tortuous summer, with fruitless pursuits of players that, in some cases, were never likely to join the club. It has become an unfortunate routine, with supporters teased on an almost daily basis once transfer windows open – an embarrassing turn of events for a club of United’s stature.

Woodward chased Leighton Baines through summer 2013, although the defender was never close to a move, with the vice chair leading a naïve series of low bids for both the left-back and his teammate Fellaini. The pursuit indicated a gross lack of experience in transfer negotiation and a lack of respect for the selling club, with Everton already hesitant to join negotiations.

Then, for all of United’s spending power and willing show of financial muscle, the club could not tempt Gareth Bale to stay in England and make the move from Tottenham Hotspur. Despite reportedly offering north of £100 million for the Welshman, Bale joined Real Madrid that summer for a world record transfer fee.

Cesc Fabregas also turned his back on interest from United and a year later led the Premier League in assists as Chelsea reclaimed the Premier League. Fabregas is struggling this season, but at the time the Reds Devils were in desperate need of creativity in midfield.

Fabregas’ compatriot Thiago Alcantara also seemed to be on his way from Spain before Bayern Munich’s late interest, and Moyes’ dithering, scuppered a move. The opportunity to sign Munich’s Toni Kroos was turned down a year later, which makes even less sense now than it did then as the German flourishes in Madrid.

The list goes on. Woodward’s apparent interest in Mats Hummels and Arturo Vidal approach farcical proportions, leading to accusations of amateurism in the transfer market. It was and is unacceptable given United’s stature and does not appear to happen to other European giants. The longer the club holds am interest in Cristiano Ronaldo the more it mirrors that of the ex who cannot accept their former partner has moved on.

Worse than amateur behaviour, United’s transfer policy seems to prioritise commercial interests ahead of playing needs. It led directly to United’s acquisition of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria, neither of whom lasted 12 months in Manchester before bolting for greener pastures. The Argentine’s departure may prove to be a mistake, but Di Maria’s signature, despite his lack of fit within Van Gaal’s system, must also be questioned.

Then there is United’s chase for a central defender over the last two summers. It is, frankly, ridiculous that someone of a suitable calibre has not yet arrived at Old Trafford. Sergio Ramos used United’s interest to secure a new contract and the captaincy at Real Madrid, whilst Nicolas Otamendi now plies his trade on the other side of Manchester – and was signed at a relatively reasonable price.

Woodward might be a lifelong United fan, whose father attended the 1968 European Cup Final, but the executive apparently does not have the nous to lead United’s transfer policy. That is not to understate his genius in globalising United’s commercial operation, but what happens on the field is more important to the club’s future.

Woodward’s failings through five transfer windows and two managerial appointments is threatening to drive United into a sustained period of failure. Meanwhile, rivals at home and abroad have progressed far beyond United on the pitch, perhaps to the point that it will be hard to attract players from elite clubs, even if they are being forced out the door, as Di Maria was at Real.

The harsh reality is that even United’s English rivals are outpacing the Reds on and off the field. Pep Guardiola seems closer to the blue side of Manchester than the red, whilst United slips further down the league table with each defeat. United risks ‘doing a Liverpool’ and being left far behind. Perhaps for years to come.

And much of this regression can be traced back to decisions Woodward has personally made. It’s surely now time to start holding United’s vice chair to account if the club wants to move forward. The best scenario might that United’s future is one without its executive chairman.


Rob B. - December 28, 2015 Reply

@adamjoseph_27 because he makes loads of dollars from tyre partnerships.

MerlinUnited - December 28, 2015 Reply

@adamjoseph_27 Because he is doing his job, following orders from board/owners, like any CEO…

MartianSun - December 28, 2015 Reply

This article says it all. Our on-field performance does not reflect our commercial power. How we’ve managed…

MartianSun - December 28, 2015 Reply

to acquire all these funds with sponsorship etc, with our performance spiralling way below Utd standard.

MartianSun - December 28, 2015 Reply

Is crazy, but that shows we still have POWER as a brand, and that Ed is great at ‘that job’…

MartianSun - December 28, 2015 Reply

but he’s clearly not a football man.

Tom Parkinson - December 28, 2015 Reply

Man Utd Revenue 2012/13 – £363m
Man Utd Revenue 2013/14 – £433m
Man Utd Revenue 2014/15 – £500m+

(I think these numbers are right)

All growth overseen by Woodward, which is ALL that matters to the owners to be honest. In their eyes he’s doing an incredible job, and on the face of it, as a business, (which like it or not Man Utd is), he is.

Success on the pitch is secondary in football as long as it is delivered to a certain extent – Premier League status and ideally Champs League football.

Sure it was Woodward that recently stated that Premier League football status was now almost 80% to 20% in terms of revenue with relation to the Champions League – importance of that top four diminishing by the year.

Denton Davey - December 28, 2015 Reply

The revenue increase is astonishing – about 40% in a two-year period, with more to come from the new TV deal.

In the short-term, the decline in performance is somewhat masked by the “ability” of TheMoyessiah and LvG to keep UTD in the press all the time, for all the wrong reasons. But, of course, the key question is whether revenues can continue to be buoyant in the face of weak AND boring performances on the pitch ?

Paul Emeka Ezekiel - December 28, 2015 Reply

The killer of Man United, husband & wife – Ed Woodward & Van Gaal. They are ManU’s enemy. Woodward hate ManU with PASSION simple because he is BIG Chelsea’s fan from womb of his mother. He want Chelsea to get 3points that’s why he refused to allow Van Gaal to go.
I hereby calling our fans all over the world stop buying ManU’s materials and match ticket until Van Gaal & Woodward sacked.

Pete Naphasorn Webb - December 28, 2015 Reply

Look there is the c…t destroying utd.woodward needs lynching

Tom - December 28, 2015 Reply

Ultimately it’s not his job to get the team playing well, scoring goals and winning matches

Tom - December 28, 2015 Reply

The club has been poorly ran in many aspects by the board though. Time to get some younger footballing blood in

grh - December 28, 2015 Reply

Sure he makes them money! As a business leader he performs well, as for the football side of things, useless but the Glazers don’t care about that.

Fusilli Jerry - December 28, 2015 Reply

This revisionism does United Rant no favours. There has never been any evidence to suggest Woodward chose Moyes. All information available in the public domain points to confirmation of the universally received version of events. Not least Ferguson’s own recent, tellingly overstated claims that he didn’t decide alone, and that anyway, all the 5 managers he would have appointed before the Everton man weren’t available at the time.

But Woodward did choose to jettison Moyes, chose Van Gaal, and now he must choose again. The characteristics that make United irresistible to commercial partners (success + excitement = world’s largest fanbase) risk death by the Dutchman’s failing philosophy. If Guardiola goes to City, attracts superstars to play their peak years in M11, and wins the Champions League there, that club will have joined the ranks of the elite, both in sporting terms and just as likely commercial too. Which muddies the Glazers’s waters.

Today’s stories that Van Gaal wanted to quit after Stoke, and Woodward twisted his arm to stay on, show there is no Plan B. The one big idea was Van Gaal seeing out his full contract, then either extending it or being succeeded in summer 2017.

Now Woodward needs a new idea – one preferably not involving Giggs or Mourinho it would seem. Unfortunately, United’s need is as ill-timed now as Ferguson suggests it was back in 2013.

Opti - December 28, 2015 Reply

Ok. I stayed Opti-mistic because the December schedule should have positioned us strongly for a title push against minnow/underperforming teams. Against Norwich, Chelsea, and Swansea, I “only” expected at least 5 points. Now we’re looking at no more than 4 pts. Against Chelsea, who had no striker and no attacking intent, a 0-0 draw is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!! And Chelsea had the biggest chances too… imagine if we had lost!

LvG has lost so many points now that a title charge is looking ever unlikely. Without a title charge, we have to secure Top 4 AND compete in a cup. The former is now looking more uncertain. This is NOT ACCEPTABLE!

I have more or less had it with LvG. The only problem is: what is a suitable Plan B. Mourinho is not Plan B (he is Plan D!). Is Ryan Giggs really gonna do better with this team? Huge question-mark! A reasonable Plan B is therefore to support LvG and perform final judgement based on end-of-season results. Anything but Top 4 and FA/Europa Cup semi-final should wield the axe!



Opti - December 28, 2015 Reply

Today’s 0-0 draw should be titled: How to Prevent a Striker-less Chelsea From Scoring!

Opti - December 28, 2015 Reply

Actually, here’s my Plan B: sell Rooney to Everton in exchange for Barkley and/or Lukaku. We will pay the difference.

This sends the message that NO ONE is above the club. Re-aligns the club. Repairs all damage since Moyes. Tabula rasa!

SKW - December 28, 2015 Reply

At some point the money dries up; we just haven’t reached that point.

The global fanbase will tune out if United are boring and not challenging for honors (think about how many Spurs shirts you don’t see overseas). That just hasn’t happened yet. We’re still there, on the fringes and still making money. And we’re still landing exciting buys, in spite of our disastrous transfer policy (Mata, Di Maria bids set hearts aflutter).

But when we get no one in the window (which we won’t) and no one in the summer (which we won’t), you may begin to see a change.

Truth is we will slip next year if LVG stays on the rest of the season and we fire him at the season’s end, because as stated above, we will sign no big players (and may even lose some).

That we’re in this position is the post-Ferguson hangover for sure, but Woodward’s terrible transfer dealings and LVG’s complete and utter mismanagement (banking on 25 Rooney goals anyone?) have sped up the process of becoming mediocre.

bobbynoble - December 28, 2015 Reply

Come on, it’s only mid-season. Plenty of time for Wazza to get another 23 goals.

Subterranean Steve - December 29, 2015 Reply

I fear that LVG will keep his job until the end of the season and quite possibly beyond that. Woodward doesn’t appear to want Mourinho. If that’s the case, then Giggs is the only current alternative and his appointment would too big a leap of faith for Woodward.

LVG is his man and he will stick with him come hell or high water. Mind you, there has been lots of rain falling in the north west.

John Moore - December 29, 2015 Reply

So the money men have got it right Do we as supporters really give a toss? Well as a Red off over 40 years, quite frankly, no. Even in the dark years, during Liverpool supremacy of the seventies and early eighties, when we were being run by the tight fisted Edwards, what was happening on the pitch was the all important factor. The fact that some bog standard economist has cottoned on to the fact that we are the most admired club In the world and that managed correctly we can generate massive amounts of cash is neither here nor there. What we do and how we do it on a football pitch is what matters to United supporters. Ok, we need money to compete with the top clubs in Europe, but we will always have enough, even after the parasites who syphon off most of it have filled there bloated bellies. What is happening on the pitch at the moment is not acceptable and zLVG has had long enough. Its time for change.

Jack Moore - December 29, 2015 Reply

A 0-0 draw at home against a team in the bottom half of the table and Van Gaal regains his arrogant stance. What planet is this guy living on? I accept that it was a much improved display but is this what we are being asked to accept as success at our club? Even if Van Gaal showed a bit of humility and admitted that he had got it wrong in the past and was prepared to change how we approach games still think it would be too little too late, but he isn’t. His post match interview after the 0-0 draw with Chelsea saw all his old arrogance resurface. Unfortunately we the supporters don’t seem to count as far as the board is concerned. As long as the cashflow continues . We should vote with our feet, or maybe a red hanky protest like the Madrid tradition of waving white hankies when they want rid of an incompetent manager.

SKW - December 29, 2015 Reply

You are absolutely right. He is an asshole and should go.

That was the worst Chelsea side I’ve seen in years. They played like a bottom half team and had Costa been in there likely would have nipped a goal.

On the other hand, we had two near misses and this suddenly erases the fact that we didn’t score at home and didn’t beat a team that is literally fighting relegation. It’s pathetic. In the post-match interview both Rooney and De Gea looked shellshocked and gutted to have not won and seemed unable to grasp at why. This just isn’t a very good Manchester United side.

Gavi44Kooner - December 30, 2015 Reply

he has a tenure

NazManUnited - December 30, 2015 Reply

Ed AKA Mr Bean

Kev Wilson - December 30, 2015 Reply

he is joke of a chief exec look at the shambles every transfer window & the handling of LGVs terrible football

Sean Ennis - December 31, 2015 Reply

because the parasites don’t give a shit as long as their making money, out of champions league and they’ll notice

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