Tag Archives: ed woodward

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

www.rednews.co.uk

Through The Wire

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It wasn’t too long ago that a bad result could send your weekend into a tailspin and cause genuine doom and gloom, but seasoned observers are well past that stage now. These days we simply turn up, expect the worse and everything tends to play out as expected. There’s no point denying it or trying to accentuate the positives. The problem we have is due to being Manchester United, each anticipated bump in the road prompts a tidal wave of wailing and self-pity from the excitable online elements of our fanbase.

Nobody wants to badmouth Ole because clearly, he’s doing his best to succeed in an incredibly pressured environment. Turning around the fortunes of this football club has beaten better managers than him before and it’ll beat better managers than him in future. There’s no shame in that. The titanic is half-sunk and he was given couple of buckets and a box of sticking plasters to try and fix it. Meanwhile his star player has forsaken the mundanities of life at Carrington to instead spend the international break enjoying a panoramic view of Dubai’s skyline. No rush Paul, in your own time.

When Solskjaer was given the job on a temporary basis, his brief was to bring a demoralised squad back together and inject some joy into proceedings. There’s no doubt he achieved this, but unsurprisingly his players soon slipped back into old habits once the initial buzz had dissolved. This time last year, talk was all of ‘parking the bus’ and ‘not playing the United way’ as Mourinho relinquished control and seemed hellbent on driving the club into the sea. In truth, very little has changed over the last 12 months besides Ole’s stoic determination to put a positive spin on successive poor performances.

Looking back a few months, in what other industry would a manager be given a 5 month trial period then dragged in mid-way through this and awarded the gig full-time? I know the feel-good factor was in full bloom at that point but it has proven to be another disastrous decision based on crowd-pleasing sentimentality and short-term results. Be honest now, if Woodward had delayed the appointment for a couple of months, would Solskjaer have been given the nod after 2 wins in final 12 games of last season? Would he bollocks.

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Even during the honeymoon period, the team’s performance level remained patchy despite the brief upturn in results. The crescendo of this time was that spirited 3-1 win in Paris but let’s be honest about that, we were well and truly humbled over the two legs and were incredibly fortunate to snatch victory via a ridiculous VAR decision. Our season effectively ended that night and there wasn’t a sniff of progress in evidence throughout the remainder of the campaign.

Our position now isn’t down to Solskjaer, regardless of his actual merits as a manager or coach. I don’t think anybody wants to see him sacked, but we’re getting to the stage where it’s becoming something of an inevitability. He’s not here on an ego trip and he genuinely cares about the club, as did Wilf McGuinness 50 years ago. 5 wins in 23 games speaks for itself though, sadly. He never really stood a chance with the group of players he inherited.

The jungle drums are already beating with United ‘sources’ (Hi Ed!) briefing the Beeb that “we just need to get to January.” Excuse my cynicism, but what good is that going to do? We endured a dismal run of form from March to the close of last season and what action did it prompt? Very little. We shipped 6 players out in the summer but only signed 2 defenders and a youth prospect to replace them. Our position now isn’t surprising in the slightest. It didn’t need Coleen Rooney-level powers of deduction to conclude things would quickly unravel.

The best we can expect in January is signing an over-the-hill stop gap like Mandzukic or overpaying for the likes of Dembele at Lyon. Neither are good enough but we‘ll probably do it anyway just because it’ll keep the engagement numbers high and buy the next manager some time before we nosedive into our next crisis. There is little evidence of a plan or strategy to get us out of this, only non-demonstrable claims of having ‘faith in the manager’ and ‘patience’. There was no patience with Moyes, Van Gaal or Mourinho during similarly testing periods so it would be naive to think the OT board are suddenly impervious to below-par results and stilted progress.

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All indications are that despite claims to the contrary, the club in still in the process of making decisions we will come to regret in future years. Victor Lindelof recently secured a new contract after his agent leaked mentions of Barcelona’s vague interest in the hope of forcing United’s hand. What exactly has Lindelof done to merit an improved, long-term deal after signing a 4 year contract (with the option of an extra year) as recently as 2017? Over the last 2 seasons he has (very) slowly come to terms with the physical demands of the Premier League without ever looking particularly comfortable. As far as I can see, he’s successfully adapted from rabbit in the headlights mode to just about competent.

It’s this blasé acceptance of average performers that kept the likes of Young, Smalling, Jones and Valencia at the club for nearly a decade apiece. Whatever happened to striving for best in class and seeking out excellence? McTominay is another one who’s been talked up way beyond his actual prowess on the pitch. Do the McSauce zealots actually bother watching matches before proclaiming their boy Pirlo incarnate? McTominay is a perfunctory workhorse in a midfield that habitually fails to dominate and impose itself. Lung-bursting effort alone shouldn’t mean he’s considered a long-term solution. He’s in the team due to a chronic lack of options in that area.

The fixture list doesn’t bring any respite over the coming weeks. There’s Liverpool today followed by 4 away games in the space of 10 days including trips to Stamford Bridge and Belgrade. Unless things improve dramatically Ole could well be gone before the end of the month. Matchgoers have shown incredible patience over the last few months, just how long will Woodward exercise similar restraint?

Copyright Red News – October 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

Round and Round

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Firstly, a public service announcement. Elsewhere in today’s mag some of my fellow contributors have been tasked with recalling the glorious culmination of the treble season; (clearly a ploy by the Editor to end the season on a positive note.) This column flatly refuses to join in as I maintain the utter shitshow witnessed over the last 9 months needs putting to bed. So if you’re here for nostalgia and a reminder of a time when players cared about performances and results, feel free to turn the page and move on. If mean-spirited invective and doom-laden pointlessness is your thing, then do continue reading. Thank you.

A few years ago when Liverpool were splashing around in the same puddle of mediocrity United find themselves now, it became a thing to laugh at their regular claims at having ‘turned a corner’. 3 games unbeaten: ‘turned a corner’; win at Old Trafford: ‘turned a corner’; sign Alberto Aquilani… ‘turned a corner’. That’s now United, except rather than turning corners, instead we’ve perfected the art of going round in circles. There’s no deviation from the set path we’re on, just an 18 month cycle of sacking managers and making the same clueless decisions over and over again.

This season ends much the same the last as the last one did. We have one of the most highly remunerated squads in world football but it’s riddled with players who routinely underperform. Mourinho dragged this sorry bunch to a 2nd place finish last year and called it one of his greatest ever achievements in management. People laughed. The club hierarchy decided not to back him in the transfer market so he lost the plot and did what Mourinho does when he doesn’t get his own way. He fell out with everybody and got himself sacked. Quite honestly, I don’t blame him one bit at this point.

2 years ago in the aftermath of the Europa League final, Mourinho gave an interview about his tactical preparations for the final and one comment was particularly telling. “I even joked with Smalling – ‘With your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back!” So here we had a manager fully aware of his players’ limitations, adapting accordingly and succeeding for the best part. That summer we bought Victor Lindelof, who despite showing some much-improved form in recent months struggled badly during his first season. Fair enough, that was to be expected.

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Clearly United needed further reinforcement in central defence, but it wasn’t forthcoming as Woodward allegedly knew better than the manager. We’d signed Bailly (constantly injured) and Lindelof (still acclimatising to English football) but another new face was refused. Smalling signed a new contract in December and then Woodward sacked Mourinho a week later. So who decided to offer Smalling the new contract? Did Mourinho sanction this because he was refused a new defender or is Woodward making calls on player retention ahead of the management team?

Martial is another one who Mourinho had sussed out months ago. Undoubtedly talented, but more often than not he doesn’t appear in the slightest bit interested. Mourinho called him out last summer but wasn’t backed, before Martial’s form briefly re-appeared in the autumn and an uneasy truce was reached. Mourinho gets sacked at Christmas, Martial signs a 5 year contract in January then quelle surprise, his form drops off a cliff again. So once again, who decided to offer Martial the new contract? Was this a Mourinho or an Ed Woodward decision?

There’s a similarly sorry tale associated with almost every player in the squad now. Take Pogba as another prime example, moonwalking round the gaff and lording it up like he’s the fucking Fonz or something. All whilst he’s making eyes towards Spain in the hope of earning another bumper payday for his shitstain of an agent. Once again, Mourinho knew exactly what he was dealing with here but was never going to succeed in a battle of wills with the club’s greatest commercial asset. Pogba might have 35 million Instagram followers in thrall to his antics but I personally don’t know anyone who isn’t desperate to see the back of him.

If Pogba seems a tad misguided as regards his current standing amongst supporters, his mate Lukaku is absolutely clueless. This clown actually appears to be of the opinion that he’s somehow in demand and has more attractive options on the table for next season. Mate, if you can find ANYONE else prepared tolerate your first touch who’ll pay you £250K per week then cheerio and good luck. Just imagine him rocking up at Juventus to assist the Ronaldo show. 3 misplaced passes in the first 15 minutes of his debut and he’d be ushered out of the country and never heard of again.

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The level of delusion radiating from a number of our players is quite incredible. It’s clearly catching as well, as noises persist that Marcus Rashford thinks he’s in with a shout of moving to Barcelona. Which Barcelona is this then? Is there one in an alternate universe that welcomes 10 goal a season strikers with a routinely piss-poor conversion rate? Yep, it all sounds dead plausible this. Presumably he’ll be taking his imbecilic, best mate Lingard with him too and we’ll be getting Suarez and Messi in part-exchange.

The epic climax to the 1998/99 season truly signalled the end of an era at Manchester United. At that point, the process of the club becoming more concerned with financial rather than on-pitch success was well underway, but the people driving the commercial interests of the club were still outnumbered by stakeholders interested in football. Fast forward 20 years and where are we now? Owned by Florida-based carpetbaggers, loaded with debt and being dictated to by wankers like Raiola and Pogba. How the mighty have fallen.

It really doesn’t matter who the so-called manager is when the bloke actually calling the shots is a star-struck, ex-investment banker with no track record in football whatsoever beyond signing strategic alliances with pillow case manufacturers. The question of Woodward’s competency shouldn’t even be up for debate. Under his stewardship, the club have re-written the book on the consequences of poor succession planning and set the benchmark in how to dismantle a successful football team following two decades of sustained dominance.

What a mess. I’ll see you in August for much more of the same.

Copyright Red News – May 2019

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