Tag Archives: ed woodward

Dig The New Breed

Dreamy

Hurrah! 3 points! At last a day where everyone stays out for a post-match beer rather than scattering off home in a sulk, AND you could watch MOTD without wanting to kick the telly in afterwards. Yes, I know it was only QPR at home but the win was a long time coming (131 days to be precise) and it felt like a large cloud had lifted. People were actually smiling, basking in the (very possibly premature) glow that we might just have turned a corner. I’m certain there’ll be more painful results to come before things are properly sorted, but medium to long term I’m sticking with the belief that we’re moving in the right direction again.

Despite the paucity of results throughout 2014, even by United’s exalted standards, off the pitch it’s been completely captivating. Whilst it quickly became apparent we picked the wrong successor to Fergie, it still came as a huge relief that Moyes was dismissed in such a timely manner. 5 months on, the buzz still hasn’t fully subsided that we pulled the trigger when we did. The board could have quite easily decided to give him another 12 months and we’d be facing another season of demoralising results with much the same demoralised squad. Instead, we’ve appointed a man who appears to know what needs to be done – who in a matter of weeks has instigated a long overdue overhaul of both personnel and the predictable tactics in place.

After a promising start and a tumbleweed strewn 6 week period in the middle of the transfer window, the last 2 weeks saw Woodward locate the chequebook and spring into action like a startled gazelle. Finally, the major surgery we’ve been in dire need of for the last 3-4 years was carried out. There were casualties, there were surprises, there were disappointments (nobody was stupid enough to buy Anderson, sadly) – but overall, the upshot is the squad now looks considerably stronger than it did at the start of the summer… ummm, apart from the defence.

Nani, Cleverley, Hernandez, Kagawa, Welbeck… all gone. Nani hasn’t had a good game in 3 years, Cleverley is loathed by pretty much everybody in the world and Hernandez, despite being a tremendous impact sub, never developed into a player who should be starting games. Shinji Kagawa meanwhile, so beloved of internet reds and Bundesliga hipsters, remained anonymous even on the occasions he was allowed play in his much heralded ‘special position’. Everyone has players for whom they afford a large blind spot, but in truth they’ll be few tears shed as a consequence of this bunch leaving the club.

Of all the departures, it’s the loss of Danny Welbeck that’s caused the most consternation, with Eric Harrison and Mike Phelan leading the voices expressing disappointment and suggesting the club is in danger of losing its “soul” or “identity” by deciding to move him on. Their argument possibly bears scrutiny in the light of an unprecedented £150M spending spree, but the brutal reality of the situation was best summed up by Van Gaal himself… Danny had 3 years to cement a place at United but didn’t reach the required standard.

He was close though, and Welbeck is a player with many qualities. As United’s football grew more pedestrian (almost reaching a grinding halt last season), he was the one who brought genuine pace to the team – which was especially apparent given the lamentable form of Young and Valencia. Despite his willingness to run the channels, Danny considers himself a centre forward… but as a striker he simply didn’t score enough. A great athlete, bags of skill and a selfless team player, undoubtedly – but forwards are ultimately judged on goals. Unfortunately Danny Welbeck had a record comparable with Peter Davenport’s – and despite flirting with 1980s-style results of late, nobody seriously wants a return to those days, do they?

Woodward

So rather than watching Welbeck toil relentlessly with a minimal goal return, we’ll have to put up with Radamel Falcao. How will we cope? This was a genuine Big Dawg signing of the type United have become resistant to in recent years, as we instead adhered to Fergie’s doomed pursuit of value in the market. A pursuit so misguided that it’s required a £200M+ outlay to begin correcting it over the last 12 months – and we’re still left with a lopsided squad that remains very much a work in progress.

Although Fergie maintained the Glazers were “fantastic” owners who never refused him a player, are we still supposed to believe the cost of servicing the club’s debt hasn’t adversely affected successive transfer budgets since 2005? If United had continued to invest in the squad at the rate they did pre-takeover (when we were regularly paying eye watering sums to cement a position as Europe’s most financially secure and successful club), it’s unlikely there would have been any requirement for the colossal-sized splurge that was witnessed this summer.

It’s only 4 years since Fergie described City and Chelsea’s spending as “kamikaze”, but that’s exactly what United have been forced to resort to in a bid to play catch up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining as it was wholly necessary given the blindingly obvious deterioration of the squad – it just smacks of arrogance and complacency that it took so long for the penny to drop. If the club had continued with the policy of one or two ‘proper’ signings per year as opposed to taking frugal gambles on dross like Bebe, Obertan and Bellion, we would never have got into this mess to begin with.

In truth, United have always spent big money – whether it be Tommy Taylor or Denis Law or Bryan Robson or Rio Ferdinand. I fail to see why upgrading Welbeck for Falcao should be seen as evidence the club has abandoned its proud record of nurturing and blooding youth players. You could just as easily cite the recent emergence of Tyler Blackett and the non-arrival of a big name centre half as proof the opposite is true and the tradition is alive and well.

Signing the likes of Falcao and Di Maria isn’t a betrayal of Manchester United’s culture, I’d say it’s more a sign that Manchester United are now behaving like Manchester United again. Welbeck had a chance and came up short, so now James Wilson will get game time as a result of him leaving. If Wilson proves to be the real deal, then he’ll thrive here… and if he doesn’t, then in time another kid will get an opportunity. That’s how it has always worked, some make the grade whereas others fall by the wayside. It’s a ruthless business and it’s survival of the fittest. No matter what club, no matter what level – that’s football.

Copyright Red News – September 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

Barbarism Begins At Home

Chosen one

Taxi drivers’ opinions are always a good barometer of domestic and foreign affairs, and hailing a black cab in town pre-Olympiakos, the guy behind the wheel managed to sum up the current situation at United in just 3 words. After a group of us dived in and revealed Old Trafford as our destination, his deadpan reply was brilliantly succinct.

“Are you sure?”

Despite the horrors witnessed of late, of course we were. This, after all, was likely to be the last Champions League tie we’d be seeing for quite some time. Although we’re pretty bobbins at present, it’s still United in the European Cup KO stages. And if you can’t get excited about that – regardless of who the manager is – then you seriously need to have a word with yourself. United v Olympiakos, 2-0 down, full house at OT… what’s not to look forward to?

David Moyes spent his pre-match press conference swatting aside questions about his future, claiming key figures within the club were being “very supportive” and he was unperturbed about the prospect of imminent unemployment. 7 defeats in 14 games since January and the fact he was fielding such questions at all told a different story, however. If Moyes isn’t concerned about his position given what’s occurring at present, then I’d suggest he should be.

Although the diabolical Liverpool performance ended with a defiant show of unity from the OT crowd, the reality when talking to people is somewhat different. Speak to any United fan one-on-one and you’ll struggle to find anyone who’s not lost faith in the chosen one. There are still some people not advocating instant dismissal, mainly because they don’t see any benefit in sacking the manager prior to the summer. I personally don’t know anyone (barring a couple of internet-based lunatics) who remains confident of Moyes’ ability to turn things round. It’s not unfair to say most reds want him out of the job as soon as possible.

Moyes has been fortunate over the last couple of months that home fixtures have been something of a rarity, meaning that the OT crowd hasn’t been given much of an opportunity to vent. The miserable showing in Greece was a distant memory by the time the Liverpool home game came round, and I’d suggest it was only the fact it was Liverpool that prevented booing at the final whistle as opposed to the “20 times, 20 times” ballooning that transpired. Likewise, the next home game is City. Another bad result there and pride will again dictate that grievances aren’t made public… yet.

Whilst the majority of United’s support has been behind him all season, the fans’ patience won’t last indefinitely. The last 4 home games of the season, Bayern aside, are Villa-Norwich-Sunderland-Hull. No deadly rivals there, just home bankers against Premier League flotsam who we should be beat easily – exactly the kind of fixtures in which we’ve struggled all season. Any repeat of the Liverpool performance in these games and it’ll be a surprise if the result is not met with widespread, public dissent as opposed to disgruntled mutterings. Moyes should feel blessed that he’s not been on the receiving end already.

In the end, a 3-0 win over the Greeks and progress to the next round guarantees him another few weeks at least – but one senses that things have to change quickly if Moyes is to remain in charge beyond this season. Claims of unrest in the dressing room have been floating about for months – nothing new there. But now rumours are circulating about key personnel aligning themselves away from the manager and the sounding out of potential successors. Despite Moyes claiming his position remains secure, he’ll be the last to know if moves to remove him have already begun in earnest.

Suits

The Glazers, according to some, have become increasingly twitchy in recent weeks. Season ticket sales remain strong, but despite claims to the contrary, demand clearly isn’t what it was 5 or 10 years ago. Anyone unsure whether or not to renew in the past would end up doing so, fearful of losing their seat forever – a threat that simply no longer exists. Once upon a time season tickets were prized, family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation, whereas nowadays they’re basically on open sale each summer. Fancy a season ticket at United these days? Phone them up and surrender your card details. You need 2 or 3 together? Not a problem.

Whilst the commercial side of the club seemingly goes from strength to strength, with new sponsorship hook ups announced on a weekly basis, no Champions League next season means that particular revenue stream will take a huge hit. Factor in a potential drop in demand for season tickets (even more likely should the club include Europa League games in the ACS), and that might just prove the straw the breaks the camel’s back.

Although he’d (quite rightly) never admit to it in public, Moyes knows that he’s fighting for his future now and desperately needs a strong end to the season – and even that might not be enough to save him. Since last summer we’ve heard a lot about how United operate differently to other clubs, we show saintly levels of patience with managers and give them as much time as they want, apparently… but the reality isn’t like that at all.

Taking the Busby and Fergie dynasties out of the equation, our previous managerial departures have been just as brutally swift as those at any other football club. McGuinness and O’Farrell were both sacked within 18 months of starting the job; Sexton after winning his final 7 games on the bounce (including a win at Anfield); Ron Atkinson dismissed just 12 months after he had United 10 points clear at the top of the table; Docherty just weeks after wining the FA Cup… albeit for shagging the physio’s missus. (Obviously there’s no chance of those kind of shenanigans with a good Christian man like Moyes.)

At this point one can only presume that the club will proceed with their much-heralded, ‘long term’ perspective and outwardly at least, maintain that the manager retains their full support and backing. Only a sustained outpouring of pent-up frustration from the crowd will force a reversal in this stance. In simple terms: the fans turning on the manager will signal the point at which the club has justification to act. “We had to sack him, it’s what the baying mob demanded”, would be the shrugged explanation. Although the owners will ultimately dictate whether or not he gets another season, it’s the rank and file OT support who hold the power to decide Moyes’ fate.

Copyright Red News – March 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

A Christmas Carol

arnold

Celia Arnold dropped two Alka-Seltzer into her morning G&T and sighed heavily, it was the day before Christmas yet there was still so much to do. Edward and Annabel Woodward were expected for dinner the next day – but there was still no tree up in the Arnolds’ stylish £1.5M mid-Cheshire townhouse. Presents were still to be bought and despite repeated assurances that everything was in hand, her husband still hadn’t arrived home with the turkey he claimed to have ordered weeks previously.

Upstairs, Richard Arnold finished his morning shave and locked eyes with his reflection in the bathroom mirror. “You’re a tiger”, he growled to himself… just as he did every morning without fail. This, ever since his university days, had been Richard’s personal slogan. He even had the words etched into his bathroom mirror as a constant reminder. 2013 had been a great year for Richard Arnold, a year of unprecedented professional and personal success. Today was Christmas Eve, but before he could switch off and spend time with his family (or ‘domestic colleagues’ as he’d often refer to them) – just like every other day, there were deals to be done and strategic alliances to form.

Richard bounded down the stairs as the family assembled in the kitchen for breakfast, although he preferred to think of this time as a ‘pre-9am meet-think’. “Morning team!”, he boomed. “What are we hoping to achieve today?” Celia busied herself preparing son Julian’s packed lunch as the small boy concentrated on finishing his Cornflakes. Richard was momentarily stunned. “Julian, what are you eating there?”

“Cornflakes, dad”, said the child.

“Hold it right there, son. Are you or are you not aware that we’ve recently agreed a deal with Nestle to be our official breakfast cereals partner? This amounts to a serious breach of contract.”

“But I don’t like Shreddies, dad”, replied Julian, glumly.

“We’ve been through this countless times…” began his father, “which breakfast cereal provider best demonstrated a commitment to our shared family objectives of health, growth and minimum nutritional value at affordable prices?”

“Errrr… Nestle, dad?”

“Exactly. So I do not expect to see Kelloggs’ products on display in this kitchen in future. Understood?”

nestle

Julian sighed and finished his breakfast in silence, as his father sat next to him drinking a quadruple espresso and talking to both his accountant and life coach on separate Bluetooth headsets – all whilst simultaneously watching Bloomberg for news of the day’s global financial markets. Surveying this familiar scene, Celia turned up the kitchen radio to mask the sound of her own sobbing.

Richard upped and left for work with just a few tasks to complete that day. After a short stint in his spacious office situated in Old Trafford’s North Stand, he intended to pick up a Christmas tree and collect the turkey he’d ordered from his local butchers on the way home. Firstly though, Richard strode into Edward Woodward’s plush workspace to collect Julian’s new PS4 – the consoles were in great demand but Edward had a contact based in Barcelona who he was certain would deliver on time. “Eddie baby!”, Richard roared.

“Dickie, my good man! Wasssuuuuup?!”

The two friends collapsed into fits of giggles before greeting each other warmly with their customary ‘high-five’. “So Eddie, this PS4 deal you were working on…”

Woodward’s face dropped and he suddenly looked very despondent – this was an expression Richard had come to know well in recent months. “Ah, slight problem there, Dickie… the Spanish trail has gone cold. I went in with an offer that I was certain would secure the deal, but unfortunately it looks like I’ve slightly misjudged things and they no longer want to sell.”

“Oh no!”, exclaimed Richard. “What am I going to do? Julian will be crushed.”

“Don’t worry”, Edward quickly re-assured him, his lips forming a thin smile. “I also have a contact in Liverpool, a man named Kenwright who was willing to do business – he couriered one over to me this morning!”

“Fantastic!”, grinned Richard. “I’ll write you a cheque – how much was it? £400?”

“Errr, unfortunately I had to pay a small premium, Dickie… you know the situation, supply and demand and all that.”

“Not a problem, buddy”, Richard chuckled. “What’s the damage?”

“Erm… it was 3 grand”, replied Edward.

PlayStation4-FeaturedImage

Richard handed over the cheque and departed Woodward’s office feeling on top of the world. His dear and trusted friend had come up trumps once again and Julian would receive his prized PS4 in the morning. Sure, Ed had paid a little more than he’d anticipated – but it was a sellers’ market and he could certainly afford it. Job done.

For the rest of the morning Richard busied himself concluding a deal he’d been working on intensively over the preceding month. Before he left the office, an official press release appeared on the club’s website detailing his latest coup. “Manchester United are delighted to announce a new strategic alliance with Festitat Enterprises – the club’s official bauble and tinsel partners in North-West Luxembourg.” Richard was cock-a-hoop with excitement. ‘Just wait until the club’s 350 billion-strong fanbase get a load of this news!’, he thought to himself.

Richard waved goodbye to his colleagues before wedging himself into his club-supplied 2013 63 plate Chevrolet Captiva LTZ 2.2 for the short drive back to Cheshire. It was time to find a tree and pick up a turkey for the next day’s festivities! After negotiating the busy M60 and A34, Richard was soon patrolling the streets of Wilmslow ready to conclude his two final deals of the year.

Four hours later, the normally upbeat Richard was feeling somewhat disheartened. He’d managed to get his hands on a tree, but negotiations hadn’t gone well at all. The salesman had looked completely bemused at his offer of ‘territorial exclusivity for plants and foliage’ and instead, the pathetic looking specimen he’d secured had cost him £80. Still, it would have to do. Quite furious with this temporary loss of business acumen, Richard left himself an angry, expletive-filled voice message on his carphone whilst he drove to his local butcher.

Richard arrived at the butchers just after 5pm and to his horror, found that the shop had already closed for business. He hammered repeatedly on the door for several minutes until a light was switched on and a man peered out of an upstairs window. “Yes, can I help you?”

“I’ve come to collect my turkey!”, barked the profusely-sweating Richard.

“I’m sorry, Mr Arnold… you were too late”, replied the figure at the window. “I received a special request from my best customer just prior to closing time – he’s paid a premium price for all my uncollected orders. I’m afraid I’ve got nothing left to sell you.”

Richard sank to his knees and his face turned a deep shade of pink. “NO!”, he screamed up at the man. “I AM RICHARD ARNOLD… AND RICHARD ARNOLD ALWAYS BRINGS HOME THE BACON!”

“Bacon you say? Hang on a minute”, replied the butcher. “I might have a solution – it’s not ideal but it’s the best I can do at short notice.”

bf_pig_sow

5 minutes later, Richard arrived back home bearing the fruits of his day’s labours. The tree stood in his hallway, the PS4 was placed underneath and the 16 stone, best-of-breed Tamworth pig he’d acquired took a massive shit in the kitchen. Celia fled the room in order to vomit, whilst an amazed Julian jumped up onto his father’s knee and hugged him tightly. “Oh dad, thank you!”, said the boy. “This is the best Christmas ever! Can we keep him? I’m going to call him Anderson!”

Richard leapt out of his chair as his mind suddenly went into overdrive. “That’s it! You’re a genius, son!”, he chimed. He reached for his mobile phone and dialled a number he’d not dialled for several months at Celia’s insistence.

“Anderson! It’s Richard Arnold here, I need a plump bird.”

“Sure man, I can sort that out. BUNGA BUNGA TIIIIIIIME!!!”

“No, not that type of bird”, whispered Richard – conscious that his young son was in the room. “I desperately need a turkey.”

“No problem, my man!!!”, wheezed the portly Brazilian. “I’ve just picked up a dozen from the butchers this afternoon. Come round to mine and help yourself, my friend.”

“A dozen?!”, gasped Richard. “Are you having a party?”

“No. Just a snack”, replied the nonplussed, former athlete.

“Awesome. See you in a while.”

Richard placed his mobile back in his pocket, let out a contented sigh and drank in the sights and sounds of Christmas that surrounded him. Today had turned from potential disaster into a tale of personal triumph he would recall fondly for years to come. The happy scene of domestic bliss was only disturbed by Celia’s screams of terror as the pig attempted to join her in the downstairs toilet. “No Ando! Leave mummy alone!”, Julian scolded the inquisitive porker.

“Utterly hilarious! Merry Christmas, everybody!”, Richard laughed heartily as he ruffled his son’s hair.

THE END

Copyright Red News – December 2013

www.rednews.co.uk