Tag Archives: ed woodward

Float On

I honestly can’t say I missed football too much during the extended break last season, but the time spent in exile from Old Trafford is really starting to drag at this point. Like many of you, I’ve not seen mates (and family members) for months now – the match was the social hub that brought everyone together. Going without this for a while didn’t feel like too much of a sacrifice at first, but the incoming second wave of COVID suggests it could well be another year or two before things return to normal. You know the outlook is grim when United don’t even bother taking £700 out of your bank for the season ticket renewal.

As always, the feelings of long-term paying customers don’t mean much to football’s governing bodies. There are contractual obligations to meet so the juggernaut has to continue at all costs. That’s how we faced the ridiculous prospect of starting a new season without the benefit of an adequate break following the last one. Unsurprisingly, United lurched out of the blocks like a Sunday League team suffering the after effects of a particularly lively Benidorm stag do. Should we have expected anything different when most players arrived back for training only 2 weeks prior to the Palace game?

Nevertheless, the season’s opener exposed the threadbare make up of the squad once you scratch beneath the starting XL. The fact Solskjaer was forced to start Pogba, freshly recovered from COVID yet miles off match fitness said it all. I’m a little bemused by the fact Pogba is still held in high regard by many. I know people are entitled to have their favourites and look beyond their foibles, but his cheerleaders seem to exist on another planet… the planet of being a bit clueless about what constitutes a great footballer. Pogba is clearly a fantastic player inside his own head, it’s just a pity his unrivalled levels of self-belief are somewhat at odds with his routinely dire on-pitch contributions.

Talking of routine, United’s transfer dealings this summer followed an all too familiar path. The more optimistic amongst us were hoping the club might have built on the positive-ish conclusion to last season and endeavoured to bridge the yawning gap between ourselves and City/Liverpool. I mean, the Bruno Fernandes signing hinted at the positive impact timely reinforcements can bring, right? There are several gaping holes in the squad and the manager reiterated the need to strengthen further when he spoke to the press back in April.

It’s all very predictable. The club teases imminent signings with a series of press briefings that causes a deluge of social media activity as the eReds lose their collective shit in anticipation. Over the course of several weeks, excitement leads to frustration which by the close of the window turns to outright fury. Blame shifts from Solskjaer to Woodward to Matt Judge to the Glazers and then back to Solskjaer again. Every summer plays out like this now, a moronic pissing contest in which gullible twitter idiots compete to see who can become the most upset and outraged.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming I’m immune to the gossip and content with the status quo. I’d like nothing more than the club to demonstrate some real ambition by flexing the financial muscle it loves to boast about, but I’ve learnt not to expect too much from the hapless leadership of this current regime. It’s 15 years since the Glazers took over and we all know the script by now. They aren’t going to sanction a £500M spend and risk finishing 3rd again next season. That was never going to happen. It was especially unlikely given that revenue has dropped off a cliff in recent months. Their priority is staying profitable enough to keep up with loan payments and financing the twice yearly £11M dividends they pay themselves.

Everyone knows what the team requires. We’ve needed a right winger since Nani left and Valencia converted to a right back. As per usual, there’s a reluctance to invest what’s needed to secure the best available. It’s worth noting that several ex-players approached about the vacant DoF role have each gone on record criticising the club’s recruitment in recent weeks. It’s no wonder that role still isn’t filled if potential candidates aren’t convinced they’ll be given the mandate and resources to return the club to the top. Wayne Rooney clearly mapped out what the club should be doing in last week’s Sunday Times. Sadly, United would never test Spurs’ resolve by going after their best players now – as we did repeatedly during the Ferguson era.

So instead of Harry Kane, it’s 33 year old Edinson Cavani on a free transfer. How’s that for a signal of the club’s ambition? I suppose on the plus side we’re not shopping in China for more ex-Watford players, but on the whole I’m getting strong feelings of deja vu here. I’m sure Ole will express his delight and stress how the player’s experience will be vital in aiding the youngsters’ development, but I’m just not buying it. So much for the ‘cultural reboot’ that was supposedly in progress. Cavani, whatever he does this season, is just another big name, stop gap that’s evidence of the club’s ineptitude in the areas of recruitment and squad development.

The lack of pre-season and another poorly executed transfer window shouldn’t excuse what we’ve seen on the pitch thus far. Doubts persist about Solskjaer’s ability as a coach because his players should be doing better, irrespective of our failings in the transfer market. Whenever the team makes any progress it doesn’t take much for things to completely unravel again. We don’t respond well to any kind of setback and seem tactically clueless in comparison with most other teams in the league. If Brighton could finish United would be bottom of the table now.

The Spurs game was a debacle. No leadership, no accountability and an utterly shambolic defensive performance. I was never convinced by Chris Smalling but anyone can see he’s a more reliable centre half than either Lindelof or Ivorian Chaos. We’ve got that pair of clowns competing for a place alongside Maguire whilst Smalling was kept in quarantine waiting for his flight back to Rome. If we weren’t going to sign a quality centre half, perhaps we should have considered keeping one who’s a significant upgrade on the other options at our disposal?

Last season the team probably overachieved by finishing 3rd. Instead of prompting further investment the club’s hierarchy have made it very clear that CL qualification represents the pinnacle of their ambition. It’s all well and good scouring the globe seeking out highly rated youngsters but that isn’t going to improve the fortunes of the first team this season or next. The short to medium term plan appears non-existent other than trusting that Klopp and Guardiola won’t be around forever. 

If press reports are to be believed, Dortmund communicated the asking price for Sancho months ago. So why did United spend the entire window pursuing the deal if they had no intention of meeting their valuation? Instead, we spent deadline day in an unseemly scramble for free transfers, loan deals and weighing up bids for Championship players. Clearly, little has changed since the farcical summer of 2013 that signposted the beginning of Woodward’s tenure. The club remains a dysfunctional mess to this day. 

Copyright Red News – October 2020

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Something/Anything?

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Here we are again. Alongside the erratic form that has become the team’s hallmark in recent years, its ability to nosedive into a crisis every couple of months has become a constant. On the one hand, in recent weeks we’ve cruised to victory against Newcastle and Norwich and progressed in the FA Cup. More tellingly, we’ve been soundly beaten by Liverpool, City and Arsenal before the latest nadir of losing to Burnley at home. That win at the Etihad seems a long, long time ago now.

In the not too distant past, defeat to 3 rivals in a calendar month would have triggered a major inquest. These days it barely registers. It speaks volumes as to how far expectations have sunk that defeats are greeted with a weak smile from the manager and a shrug of the shoulders from everyone else. There’s no point blaming Solskjaer for the state we’re in, but his post-match interviews are now unwatchable.

Ole’s dogged determination to sprinkle sequins on dogshit seems to be working though. I’ve never known a time during my football watching life where in the aftermath of a trip to Anfield, some people you speak to seem almost enthused by a 0-2 defeat. “At least we had a go 2nd half.” Yeah, at least we had a go.

It appears we’ve made a similarly forlorn attempt at bringing in much-needed reinforcements during the transfer window. I don’t know what it is about this club, but whatever the internal process is for getting deals done seems to make an already tricky process even more convoluted. As per usual, strategy and long-term planning are unfathomably inconsistent. Back in August the club were briefing the usual suspects how they were irritated by the Fernandes rumours and simply weren’t interested. 6 months later, after his price has skyrocketed, United are suddenly all over him.

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This leaves you with the impression that the club’s recently overhauled system of player recruitment still isn’t fit for purpose. A global network of 52 scouts, football development staff, a chief negotiator… yet successive windows come and go with the same end result. For all Woodward’s bluster in explaining his bold new vision during the recent UWS interview, it still feels like United are highly dysfunctional in this area. We deliberate too long, there are regular about-turns on priority targets and there’s little evidence of a long-term vision barring the painfully simplistic ‘try to buy young and cheap’.

For the last 6 months we’ve heard Ole acknowledge the fact we need strengthening several times, yet another transfer window has passed without any noticeable improvement to the squad’s overall quality. The club keep making noises that a re-build is in progress, but I don’t sense any urgency or desire to make the key acquisitions we’re crying out for.

It was obvious last season that our main problem was the midfield yet we spent all summer pursuing another central defender. The January window arrives and negotiations for Fernandes commence. If they broke down because Sporting hiked the price unreasonably, why didn’t United simply move onto the next choice target? Instead we retreat, sit on our hands and wait for the charade to begin again in June.

At some point, the penny might drop that much of United’s activity during these transfer windows amounts to little more than posturing. The proposed re-build doesn’t have to take years. Clubs aren’t limited to 1-2 signings during each transfer window. If there was a genuine determination to improve the team, there’s little doubt the process could be accelerated. Just because Sanchez was a disaster, it doesn’t mean every future piece of business completed in January would be similarly cursed. You can only assume that contrary to what the club likes to project, funds aren’t being made available for players that we desperately need.

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I guess it all comes down to priorities. Whilst the playing squad is crying out for reinforcement, the club have instead taken on Neil Ashton (ex-The Sun) in a PR role. Rather than keeping this on the down-low, Ashton announced he was set to work for United on live television as he signed off from chairing Sky’s Sunday Supplement. It’s absolutely laughable. Within days, nonsense puff pieces starting appearing all over the shop. ‘Ed’s doing a good job ‘cos the share price is booming’, ‘United to beef-up scouting efforts’ etc, etc. None of this guff will placate the perma-sceptical fanbase so presumably it’s a vain attempt at reassuring potential sponsors all is well. Priorities.

You know things are getting really bad when stalwarts like Ashley Young are jumping  ship, rejecting a 12 month extension for the chance to join up with Lukaku and Sanchez at Inter. I could join in with the misty-eyed, hypocrites praising his commitment and professionalism at this point but that’s no fun, is it? I never liked him and I’d be a liar if I started pretending otherwise. That stupid thing he does raising both hands before every shit corner annoyed me as much as Valencia standing still with the ball at his feet when facing an opposition full-back. He stayed 7 years too long and I feel genuinely enthused by the fact he’s gone.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the level of toxicity surrounding the club is growing by the week. Audible dissent has been heard at OT for the first time since the Green & Gold days and the always tetchy social media crowd continue to fling vitriol around with wild abandon. This is not exactly a new development of course, they’re always on the verge of a fresh meltdown, but each poor result increases the bile a few more notches.

The latest bone of contention was talk of organising a mass walkout during today’s Wolves game, somewhat crassly planned for the 58th minute. Having seriously considered the idea for a few moments, I reached the conclusion that it just wouldn’t work. Even if 15,000 leave the ground, that’s 60,000 still sat there singing ‘You are my Solskjaer’ in implicit approval of what they’re watching. End result is we’d be doing Ashton’s job for him.

Finally, in case you missed it, Red Issue’s former Ed came out of semi-retirement last month and unleashed, via twitter, a scathing expose of the parasitic fancam clowns who have attached themselves to the club in recent times. It was quite something and a timely reminder of how they’re still sadly missed in United fanzine circles. You were left marvelling, as ever, at both the forensic research carried out and the sheer level of invective they specialise in. We can all try, but nobody calls out bullshit better.

Copyright Red News – February 2020

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Lost and Found

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Amidst the unabashed frivolity of the holiday celebrations, it can also be a time for sober reflection as we contemplate life without those we’ve loved and lost. This Christmas was set to be especially tough as there’s a (semi) popular lad at the club who’d been missing since the end of September. He was making sporadic posts on social media and was spotted in a couple of far-flung locations during his extended absence, but where was he? Thankfully, our prayers were answered as Paul Pogba turned up at last. Not on an exercise bike, a basketball court or dancing the Shaku Shaku… I mean actually in a United shirt.

What joy and relief we felt as he entered the fray at Vicarage Road as his erstwhile teammates cruised to a 0-2 defeat against rock-bottom relegation certs. He looked half-decent during his 20 minute cameo, prompting all manner of excitable musings from the xG virgins on social media. Am I being too cynical? Almost certainly. Maybe I should switch my brain off and pay attention to Raiola when he’s claiming his man wants to stay at OT and “win prizes”. I don’t think so. I expect the reality here is the human slug fears Juve/Barca/Madrid might have focused their attention elsewhere. This was nothing more than a vain attempt to build bridges and secure improved terms from United as a back-up plan.

Or, perhaps not. No sooner did Pogba make a return to first team duties, he promptly disappeared again. His “people” deciding there’s another problem with the ankle that now requires an operation – cue another few months of him flitting round the globe in a desperate rush to find match fitness. Even mild-mannered Ole looked completely exasperated when breaking the news during his post-match interview at the Emirates. I can’t say I’ve had enough of Pogba and his “people” now, because I lost all patience with them 2 years ago. If you’ve still got any faith whatsoever in this clown then I quite honestly feel for you at this point.

Following Haaland Jnr’s decision to move to Dortmund instead of Old Trafford, I suspect we’ve now reached the final stretch of Raiola’s influence on the current squad ecosystem. Fergie certainly wouldn’t entertain him, and it was clear in summer 2016 that Woodward was taking a huge gamble by ignoring past indiscretions and welcoming him and 3 of his players (Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Zlatan) back into the fold. Another of his charges, Lukaku, would arrive a year later.

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In some respects Raiola is no different from any other agent. He nurtures a strong relationship with each of his players when they’re young, he has extensive contacts throughout Europe and he’s focused on earning himself a few quid. He reportedly speaks 7 languages so he’s clearly not thick. That only tells half the story though. A line from Zlatan’s book provides an insight to how Raiola differs from the majority of his peers: “The guy wasn’t actually a mafioso. He just looked and acted like one.

We can therefore conclude that Raiola fancies himself as a bit of a maverick. He wears jeans and sunglasses to meetings and probably quotes The Godfather trilogy like millennials know Harry Potter. He bought Al Capone’s ex-house in Miami, which is just about the most tryhard gangsta flex imaginable. For a self-styled loose cannon who’s unfazed when pitted against adversaries like Moggi, Berlusconi and Ferguson during negotiations, Ed Woodward was always going to be a pushover in comparison. This was never going to end well for United.

Aside from all the posturing, it’s clear that Raiola is singularly dedicated to each of his players and will do anything possible to orchestrate the most lucrative career path open to them – with a large emphasis on the word ‘lucrative’. Despite being involved in high-profile deals like Bergkamp to Inter (from Ajax) as far back as 1993 and Nedved to Juventus (from Lazio) in 2001; it was the hook-up with Zlatan back in 2004 that helped him realise his full potential in plundering the riches of European football’s 21st century transfer market.

Raiola wants his players to adopt the same mindset he himself possesses. Clubs exist to be exploited – until they have outlived their usefulness in terms of gargantuan bonus payments and a platform from which his clients can temporarily project their talents. Quaint notions of loyalty and longevity don’t exist because earnings are best maximised by instigating a move every 2-3 years. It was no exaggeration when I previously surmised that Pogba’s long-anticipated switch to Spain was being planned before he’d even re-signed for United.

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With the club in its current state, it’s extremely doubtful whether de Ligt or Haaland would have chosen to come here regardless of any agent’s influence. We’re a dysfunctional mess and any emerging starlets would be best advised to steer clear of M16 at present. However, I can’t say I’m too despondent about this state of affairs. Even if the club was on a secure footing, I’d prefer to avoid the de-stabilising presence of this fat little man whose sole focus in life is pimping out young footballers so he can eventually bid on another summer house in Florida.

It was still amusing to see Woodward scrambling to brief his regular press mouthpieces after news broke of Haaland’s ‘snub’. Yes, of course United pulled out of the proposed deal as they weren’t prepared to give into Raiola’s excessive demands. I mean, they’ve only paid him an estimated £30-£40 million in commission fees over the last 3 years. However, we’re now supposed to believe the club has suffered a sudden bout of fiscal modesty and no longer wants to risk being exploited.

Do me a favour. The fact is, United are the biggest, the richest and currently run by the daftest. This is why the club has been at the centre of numerous catastrophic transfers in recent times where we’ve repeatedly had our pants pulled down. Whilst Woodward remains in charge, United will continue to be at the mercy of leeches like Raiola and Pogba.

Copyright Red News – January 2020

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