Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward would appear to have put his PR team back in action as fans’ tempers start to boil over again over the club’s transfers.
Frustrations against Woodward and the Glazer family grew to such a degree in January that the Essex-born director reportedly hired former Sun journalist Neil Ashton to be his PR representative and try to improve his image.
The initial results allegedly included ghost-written articles, published under names such as The Sun’s Neil Custis, that painted Woodward in a favourable light.
‘Ed Woodward is NOT to blame for Man Utd shambles… he has been let down by Glazers and managers’ read one such piece.
‘Woodward… has revolutionised a previously archaic commercial department to offset the Glazer debts and make sure big money is available,’ the article continued.
‘If managers of the calibre of Van Gaal and Mourinho identify a player, then who is Woodward, Gill or anyone else to question them.
‘Yet because Pogba has not put a shift in from day one it seems to be Woodward’s fault.’
Unfortunately for Woodward, fans believed the articles to be propaganda and it appeared to infuriate them even more.
Early in February, the gates of Woodward’s Cheshire home were vandalised, seemingly by angry fans, but even then after a reporter and cameraman from The Sun were found to be present, there were allegations that it was a PR stunt to gain sympathy for him.
Fast forward to the next transfer window – the current one – and tensions are beginning to rise again. And curiously, articles are beginning to appear in the tabloids that have some pro-Woodward sentiment in them.
Late yesterday evening, for example, The Mirror published a piece by Simon Mullock claiming that ‘United are unwilling to meet Borussia Dortmund’s £108 million asking price for [Jadon Sancho] when wages and agents fees would add another £100 million to the cost of sealing the deal.
‘And handing the 20-year-old a salary close to £300,000-a-week would also shatter the club’s pay structure.’
This is curious reporting. What pay structure is this? The one that saw Alexis Sanchez on a contract (negotiated by Woodward) of up to £570,000 per week? Or the one that has David de Gea on a £375,000 per week contract (also negotiated by Woodward)?
The article continues:
‘Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has worked hard to get the highest wage bill in the Premier League under control over the last 12 months.
What a hero Ed is. How he cleverly managed to lose Ander Herrera for nothing to get rid of his ridiculous £60,000 per week salary!
The article does not seem quite as blatantly pro-Woodward as that of Custis in January and appears in The Mirror rather than The Sun. But one cannot help but wonder whether Ashton’s hand has guided it to some degree.
If Ashton is active again, it would suggest that Woodward is already feeling the pressure in another transfer window marked by silence, paralysis and inactivity from the transfer team and disappointment and frustration from the fans.
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