Before getting to the heart of this tangent about our much maligned executive vice chairman, it is worth pointing out that this piece would have had a much more subtle and ingenious title, but the outright question on our lips right now should be ‘where are Ed Woodward’s priorities?’
The preconception given to us, the unwavering fans by the club’s board was that David Moyes had been relieved of his duties earlier than desired so his successor could be afforded a head start in the transfer market, stealing a march on our competitors to give us the best possible opportunity to be equipped with a team that can get us back to our rightful place at the summit of the Premier League.
Louis van Gaal has been the man in office, albeit in an unofficial basis, for the best part of a week, despite that gap now being filled with a quality name, there are no immediate signs that the same can be said regarding the acquisition of players of the calibre required, add into the melting pot the fact that the World Cup commences in two weeks time, there is no time to manoeuvre, which right now, of all times, is ominous.
Forgive me for these sullen and pessimistic predictions, last summer’s immeasurable dosage of bitter pill after bitter pill to swallow has somewhat soured my standpoint of our off-the-field capabilities, and that castigation falls solely on the shoulders of Mr Woodward. It doesn’t take a diehard to recollect the summer shambles of 2013- Thiago, Fabregas, Coentrao, Baines, Strootman and Ronaldo all failed to materialise. Fellaini arrived despite Moyes acknowledging that he did not fit the bill, but had to do something out of sheer panic, the alarm bells were ringing and David Moyes was let down in cataclysmic fashion by the powers that be in failing to strengthen a side that was at the end of its cycle.
This summer, albeit only two weeks since the termination of a nightmare season, has already provided us fans with similarly painstaking blows in the transfer market- Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben have already shunned our advances. Who is to say that many more targets will spurn the opportunity to be part of Van Gaal’s rebuild, this could be a dangerously embarrassing precedent being set, akin to the aforementioned shambles of 2013.
This, of all summers, is one that we cannot afford to cock up. The leading pack will surely only step up their reinforcement plans and add further to their ranks, we cannot afford to get left behind, we have to nail our targets as quickly as possible to avoid a last-minute scramble for sub-par alternatives, in which Mr Woodward’s proficiency skills are yet to be seen.
The PR spin adopted by the club, in other words a smokescreen, was that considerable groundwork had been made, long-term targets were all but secured, which turned out to be hogwash, especially with Toni Kroos, who had long been considered a certainty to be among the arrivals.
In essence, the club are back to square one on the transfer front, Van Gaal’s adjourned appointment, combined with his Dutch commitments means that we enter the summer’s wheelings and dealings without his direct involvement until early July at the earliest, leaving the onus solely with Woodward’s negotiating skills, now Sir Alex is increasingly out of the picture. David Moyes’ infamous list of world-class talent that was handed to Mr Woodward and apparently subsequently approved by Van Gaal has effectively been torn up with the Kroos public distancing from the rumours, you cannot help but wonder what Woodward was discussing for 6 months with his representatives for the move to suddenly capitulate. It is a worrying trend that hopefully will not be repeated in the months to come.
Last season’s trials and tribulations were perfect, in the loosest sense of the world, illustrations of how much surgery is required to fix the ills and the magnitude of the rebuilding process cannot be belittled. A serious inpouring of talent is required in more than one area, with the club’s PR set in stone that we have no defined transfer kitty, yet here we are with no significant outlay despite the positive vibes that we had done our homework and secured our targets.
The gloomy reality of the situation is that we are treading through quick sand in our pursuit of building a side capable of achieving the bare minimum expectation gatecrashing the top 4 (how painful it is to adjust our expectations to such a level). The hollow supposition that United would afford their managers the safety net of patience did not come to fruition last season, time is not of the essence anytime soon. It should be our prerogative to adopt a short-term viewpoint, rather than planning on legacies, we need a quick fix, and in order for a quick fix to materialise we need Mr Woodward to deliver and deliver fast. The word from the horse’s mouth was that Woodward’s planning would result in world-class talent bestowed upon our fans, who have had to suffer through turgidity and dour football for the best part of 9 months. He has talked the talk, can he walk the walk?
Van Gaal has excelled wherever he has been, but seldom will he have taken charge of a side that has been so bereft of genuine world-class talent. Bar De Gea, Mata, Rooney, Van Persie and potentially Januzaj, we have good players, but so many that do not fit the world-class bracket. The necessary quick fix will require an influx of quality and the departing of serious sums of money in order to compete at the higher end of the table once again. To achieve this, we firstly need Ed Woodward to be on top of his game at the negotiating table.
Woodward, by trade, is a Glazer ‘yes man’ and we have already seen first-hand that the penchant for transfer market spin over delivering on promises has led to repercussions both on and off the field. This cynic in me has stemmed from the Glazer’s notoriety for bleeding the club dry and starving the investment process, which we will need more than ever this summer. The ownership skepticism has spread to the executive vice chairman, particularly after his inauspicious start in the role last summer. He appeared to have turned a corner by acquiring the wizardry of Juan Mata and tying down a previously ‘angry and confused’ Scouser, we all hoped that he had grown into the role and his assured persona in interview would transfer to the negotiating process and he would deliver on the marquee names he always enjoys to tout around to the media publications.
So, to put it bluntly, what is he doing assuming another role other than overseeing how our great club is run?
In case you missed it, Woodward has been appointed chairman of the European Club Association marketing & communications working group (you couldn’t tart that up anymore if you tried). This now means that Woodward will have a juggling act on his hands, combining roles. Call me a cynic, but when you have not exactly covered yourself in glory in what is supposed to be your bread and butter, surely it makes sense to right your wrongs before attending to matters that do not directly concern the affairs of our football club.
The caveat is that David Gill worked on the FA and adeptly kept United on the right path at the same time. But the difference is that Gill was clued up and had ample years of knowledge and expertise so he could afford to combine both roles. Woodward has thus far been overly proficient in his role, his focus should solely be on giving Louis Van Gaal the tools required to fix a squad that is in need of serious repair. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.
The dissidents and skeptics are waiting with bated breath for any semblance of an incoming. Woodward has been testing the patience of United fans ever since that infamous return flight from Sydney to quote to ‘attend to urgent transfer business’. Despite all the brashness and positivity that conveyed, he failed to get the business done. It set the tone for a calamitous summer, deja vu can ill afford to happen this time round.
Which begs the question, where do your priorities lie, Mr Woodward?