Thursday, 21 August 2014

Why Can't United Do Anything Right?

"The horizon tries but it's just not as kind on the eye"

Let's face it, pretty much every football fan gets excited about big name signings. The buzz generated by a £40m superstar arriving at your club greatly exceeds the sense of anticipation of a few promising young local lads breaking into the side.

 Some United fans were, in a way, looking forward to the post-Ferguson era at the club. It would represent a break from the norm, a venture into the 21st century of football and, a galaxy of big-name stars arriving at Old Trafford and lorry-load of trophies to follow. Plenty of envious eyes had been cast at every star Chelsea and City had acquired over the past number of years. A little over a year after the great man left and the Premier League's first (and only) superclub are devoid of any sort of high-level leadership and direction, and are heading for a prolonged spell in the doldrums.

Nobody would have thought it, but it looks like United have missed the services of a mere chartered accountant as much as they have missed the services of the most successful football manager of all time when both departed in the summer of 2013. Ed Woodward has made an absolute mess of the club's transfer dealings since taking over leadership of the club from David Gill last summer.

Woodward has made Gill look like a master negotiator

With the addition of Marcos Rojo on Wednesday, United have now signed five players since Woodward took over from Gill in July 2013. Compare that to the 7 that have been signed by Arsenal, 11 by City, 12 by Liverpool and a massive 18 by Chelsea. All this considering United have definitely needed to invest heavily in players since the departure of Ferguson. This summer they have signed fewer players than any other team in the Premier League despite, clearly, needing the biggest rebuilding job.

And of the player's Woodward has managed to sign:
  • Marouane Fellaini - managed to not sign him before his release clause expired, for some reason thinking Everton would sell him for cheaper than this (that is fundamentally not what release clauses are for) and ending up paying extra for him, twenty minutes before the deadline.
  • Juan Mata - £37m from Chelsea in January. He is a quality player but this does reek a bit of a panic buy, designed to appease fans (which it did). No other club was willing to pay such a high fee for a player who was clearly not wanted at a club who clearly needed an injection of cash to comply with Financial Fair Play. Not exactly ground-breaking stuff.
  • Luke Shaw - "I want to have my future sorted before the World Cup". The competition came and went without Woodward managing to tie down the player. When he did it was a £30m fee and £100,000 a week wages for a 19 year-old. Seems like a very naive move to me. I don't think Ferguson/Gill would have agreed to that much.
  • Ander Herrera - The transfer that Woodward should have completed  last summer, he managed to wrap up this year by meeting Herrera's release clause, a concept he finally seems to have grasped. Considering he cost more than Kroos and as much as Fabregas, is it really a great deal?

A fifth player, Marcos Rojo has signed this week. This player had to essentially go on strike for a couple of days at Sporting Lisbon to force the transfer through. Woodward and United would unlikely have been able to seal the deal had the player not been so desperate to come to United. Either that or they wouldn't have noticed. Even after all that, United had to agree to pay Nani's wages at Lisbon for a year to secure the deal.

During Woodward's three transfer windows at the helm there have been a variety of mistakes and mishaps which ultimately he has to take responsibility for. Unless you've been living in the depths of the Amazon rainforest, far away from civilisation for the past year, you'll know that Manchester United desperately need a world-class central midfielder or two. Why then have Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos, both heavily linked with United, both been allowed to move to other clubs without United doing their all to attract them. And it's not as if either of them turned down United. Fabregas, for sure, would have joined United this summer if they had quickly renewed last summer's interest.

Look at what you could have won: Cesc shows United what they are missing

Very recently there is the curious case of Tomas Vermaelen. A player who Louis van Gaal identified as one he wanted and one who himself expected to be playing at Old Trafford this season has sat idly by and waited for United to come knocking. They simply never did and ended up going into the first game of the season with two fit defenders in the first team as Vermaelen decided he couldn't wait any longer and moved to Barcelona.

Real Madrid, fresh off their best season in years, winning the Champions League and Copa Del Rey, spent £75m on World Cup stars James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos. Barcelona looking to bounce back from a trophyless campaign went out and spent £75m on Luis Suarez plus another £50m on the likes of Vermaelen, Rakitic and Matheiu. Bayern Munich won 'only the domestic double' last season and have brought in their biggest rivals best player (again), Robert Lewandowski to try and put that right next season. Man United finished 7th in the Premier League last season and have responded by buying Spain's 14th choice midfielder and a teenage left back from Southampton. Herrera and Shaw, not Fabregas and Bale.

Woodward came out during the summer and said United would not hesitate to break the world transfer record this summer. I can only assume at this stage he doesn't know how. United have been constantly linked with stellar names since he took on this rebuilding job. Last season it was the likes of Ozil and Thiago (both moved clubs). This year it is Vidal and Di Maria (at least one of them will). Why doesn't Woodward go out and sign one of them? Or at least try. For one it would be a massive statement of ambition and a warning shot to all the rivals that Manchester United are still alive and kicking. The papers keep linking United with these players and the club just simply don't take action. It's as if a culture of lethargy set in when they could bank on Fergie to get them out of any hole.

I have no idea what I'm doing..

It just baffles me how a club, a business even, this size can allow itself to be run so poorly. The Glazer's aren't football people but surely they realize that the reputation of the great Manchester United brand is taking a serious hit right now. Imagine McDonalds being sued for selling raw burgers in some branches. People would go to Burger King instead and profits would nose-dive. If Apple launched a new sub-standard iPhone, everyone would flock to Sony and HTC instead. The brand Manchester United is being damaged right now and if they continue the way they are going, sooner or later, new football fans are going to choose to support City and pile their hard-earned cash into going to see them and buying their jersey instead.

The Director of Football is an often vilified position in football but that might be exactly what United need going forward. I'm sure Ed Woodward is a highly intelligent man but running a football club is best left to football people. Woodward has actually proved himself very capable at securing sponsorship deals for the club around the globe over the past number of years but he only has his current job because of the role he played in helping the Glazer's secure their takeover in 2005. Negotiating with business and football clubs/players are totally different and here he finds himself out of his depth.

No comments:

Post a Comment