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Ed Woodward’s ticking time bomb at Manchester United

by Red Billy

It is, and must be, finally make-or-break time for Ed Woodward at Old Trafford. Here is the tale of two clubs’ response to a poor 2018-19: Real Madrid have completed their fifth Summer signing, adding that of Ferland Mendy to those of Hazard, Jovic, Militão and Rodrygo. They will no doubt add to that total with either Pogba or Eriksen, perhaps both and perhaps others, if they can sell players to balance the books. They particularly wish to sell the world class Gareth Bale, but Bale does not want to leave. Offers have flooded in for the likes of Varane and Kroos, but they do not want to leave. Captain Sergio Ramos was tempted by a lucrative offer to go to China, but los Merengues put their arm around him and two days later he was pledging to see out his career at the Bernabeu.

Meanwhile, Manchester United has made just one signing – Daniel James. A £50m offer, £35m upfront with £15m add-ons, may have gone in for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, but Crystal Palace are holding out for more in the region of £45m upfront with £5m add-ons, so that is still ongoing. Herrera and Valencia have already left, Mata is able to leave on a free, De Gea is refusing to sign a new contract, Pogba has publicly stated he wants to leave and Lukaku has more or less done the same. The club seems unable to agree prices to move players on it no longer wants, such as Alexis, Rojo and Darmian. Meanwhile, new contracts have been awarded to Smalling, Jones and Young, three of the worst defenders in the history of Manchester United, and Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford are busy making themselves look ridiculous on social media.

This is Woodward’s seventh summer transfer window in charge of recruitment and as things stand it is gearing up to be the worst of a very bad bunch. The disastrous first window, when only Fellaini was bought – at a price higher than the buy-out clause that had expired days earlier – could have been put down to inexperience, and/or a lack of communication with incoming manager David Moyes. But we are now at number seven.

In those seven years, Woodward could have brought in a Director of Football to manage transfers and contracts, but he has failed to do so, presumably believing he can do a better job himself. He could in those seven years have delegated more power to the manager to make the decisions, but he has insisted on maintaining an unwieldy decision-by-committee structure in which too many cooks consistently spoil the broth and the head chef – Woodward himself – does not understand the game well enough to make the correct casting vote nor implement the compromise decisions that are reached.

To some extent, Woodward has got away with it over the course of the seven years by signing big names that excite the fans and sell shirts, such as Pogba, Falcao and Di Maria, and by pulling off what seemed like shrewd coups, such as Mata, Lukaku and Sanchez (two of whom were January window signings). But with the exception of Mata, all of the above have, to a greater or lesser degree, been flops and meanwhile, way, way too many other targets have got away, and way too many Summers have been spent chasing lost causes – the Bales, Fabregas’, Ramos’ and who could forget the Pedro fiasco?

I have always tried to be fair in judging Woodward but I am running out of excuses for him. Louis Van Gaal’s recent interview and José Mourinho’s veiled, barbed comments confirm what we have all felt sure of all along – that Woodward has undermined them, lied to them and has been a huge factor in the lack of success since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club.

So enough is enough.

Woodward has around 50 days until the start of the season to fix this shambles. If he cannot deliver the likes of De Ligt/Koulibaly, Wan-Bissaka, Ferndandes and Ndombele and replace Pogba, De Gea and Lukaku with players of a similar level if they do leave, then it is time for the fans to stand up and be counted. Protests, petitions and pressure should be applied from every single Manchester United fan, forum, blog, vlog and fan site to the Glazers every single day until Woodward is removed from everything other than the commercial side of the club. This isn’t a clock that is ticking this time, Mr Woodward, it’s a time bomb.

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