John Clare in Penny Dreadful, Showtime, 2014
In his Instagram rant this week about those in power at Manchester United, Patrice Evra laid a lot of the blame for failed transfers at the door of United’s chief negotiator, Matt Judge. But is this letting others off the hook?
It is impossible to think that ‘Uncle Pat’ would be knowingly used by United’s controlling shareholders, the Glazer family, and/or by executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, to deflect blame from themselves and to scapegoat Judge. We all trust that Evra is speaking the truth as he sees it, from the heart.
And yet the unfortunate outcome of his heartfelt outpourings is that Judge is now the lightning rod for fans’ rage, with poor ‘he trusts the wrong people’ Woodward getting some relief from the criticism that was previously growing constantly and exponentially with every passing day.
It’s very convenient for him, isn’t it?
It is no doubt true that Judge is not the world’s best negotiator. Evra’s claim that the sporting director of another club told him on one occasion to ‘tell Matthew Judge to answer his phone’ is shocking. But are we really to believe that all of United’s transfer failings over the last few years are down to Judge being unresponsive or bad at his job?
That response speed is almost certainly not purely down to Judge in any case. In a May article in The Athletic, Laurie Whitwell and Daniel Taylor wrote:
‘An agent says … chief negotiator Matt Judge, who worked with Woodward at JP Morgan, [is] allowed minimal latitude: “The Glazers micro-manage everything.
‘That’s why it all takes so long to sign players or offer new contracts. It’s no coincidence numerous players have got down to the final year of their deals.
‘It goes from Matt to Ed to Joel to Ed to Matt. It’s excruciating. And in that time, Liverpool have signed a player.”’
If Judge is allowed ‘minimal latitude’, then he can hardly be held personally responsible for everything that has gone wrong, can he?
In regard to the failed Jadon Sancho transfer, The Athletic is also very clear about who is responsible. On August 19th, Whitwell wrote:
‘Woodward and Matt Judge, United’s head of corporate development, are conducting negotiations through the appointed intermediaries, at Borussia Dortmund’s request, but Joel Glazer is the one standing firm on United’s position.
‘Joel is paying particular attention to major spending and has expressed reluctance to reach Dortmund’s €120 million asking price, plus the additional costs of salary and commission that are said to be significant.’
Logic alone also dictates that Woodward and the Glazers must bear far more responsibility than Judge, whether or not they have convinced Evra that they love the club. Who decides the transfer budget? Who signs off every transfer? Who decides the length and value of player contracts and contract extensions? Who decides whether or not to appoint a director of football? Who chooses whether to pay themselves millions in dividends that could otherwise have gone toward transfers? Who decides how much money is invested in maintaining the Old Trafford stadium? Who manages Judge? Who hires and fires managers?
None of the above are the purview of Matthew Judge. And yet, whether by good luck or by very clever design, it is, ironically, Judge who is now in the dock while Woodward and the Glazers are still at large, like serial killers putting to a tortuous death almost every possible transfer in or out of the club that crosses their path.
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