A new report from a reliable Manchester United specialist claims that outgoing executive vice chairman Ed Woodward bears a lot of responsibility for the player unrest that is currently being experienced at the club.
We reported yesterday the growing media frenzy about a divided dressing room full of cliques and unhappy stars.
This morning, The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell has shed more light on this and claims that a lot of the issues stem from ‘countless calls’ made by Woodward that arguably should have been delegated to football men.
The bloated nature of the squad, for example, has been caused by Woodward’s handing out of contract extensions to protect player value.
‘Woodward’s strategy for awarding new contracts to players in the (misguided) belief it would protect values has left a bloated squad and several on the fringes unhappy,’ Whitwell writes.
‘At times Rangnick has taken training for 26 players — there are 29 senior professionals on United’s books, not including the seven out on loan — and he is said to have found motivating them all difficult at times, given in each game almost a third will not be involved.’
Yet despite this, Whitwell notes, ‘Each has been weighing up a January exit.’
The reporter claims that Woodward’s erratic transfer business encouraged former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to go along with the contract extensions:
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer agreed to all those contracts, but that is different to pushing for them and his acquiescence was enhanced after the window of 2019 when Romelu Lukaku departed and no replacement came in.
‘A manager needs to have faith in executives to make the desired signings or else he will stockpile what he has.’
That erratic handling of United’s incoming transfer business is the second accusation laid at Woodward’s door by the report.
‘In 2020 Jack Grealish was among Solskjaer’s priorities. For roughly the same £80 million cost, United signed Donny van de Beek, Amad and Facundo Pellistri. Those three played 680 Premier League minutes for United last season, while for Aston Villa Grealish had 2,184 minutes, scoring six goals and registering 10 assists to prompt his £100 million move to City.’
Woodward’s record in player sales is equally dubious and has also led to the bloated squad that interim manager Ralf Rangnick is now struggling to keep happy.
‘The transfer of Daniel James to Leeds for £25 million was shrewd business but it was only the seventh sale of £10 million or more since Woodward took charge in 2013.
‘United need to act with greater dynamism to keep the atmosphere fresh. They have Andreas Pereira, Axel Tuanzebe, and Tahith Chong, all saleable assets, out on loan. Lingard and Martial, whom Solskjaer was happy to sell, could have brought in £50 million or more last summer.
‘One recruitment source considers how City have in recent years dispensed with Ferran Torres, Sergio Aguero and David Silva and says: “Manchester City are letting go of genuine first-team players. United keep hold of players who haven’t featured for two years.”’
The signings upon which Woodward has taken an executive decision are also called out as questionable:
‘Behind the scenes, there are mixed messages over what constitutes a United player, or where the club directs their scouts,’ Whitwell continues.
As the unpopular figure finally departs Old Trafford to be replaced by Richard Arnold, the report offers an explanation as to why United’s fortunes seem to be little affected by the manager they bring in. Whoever is appointed manager, they are inheriting a mess created in the boardroom by a man whose ego allowed him to make way too many football decisions without having any football background whatsoever.
Woodward will not be missed.