Ed Woodward

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Just how different will Manchester United look next year?

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It’s Sunday morning, Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United, and the USWNT doesn’t play its World Cup match until Noon: Let’s deal in theoreticals by starting with a fact.

This season is going to be a major challenge for one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Manchester United boss will seemingly be pulling together a significant amount of new parts into a team which is coming off a sixth place finish in the Premier League, with four of the five teams ahead of him having maintained their managers and most if not all key pieces.

Oh, and he’ll have to fashion this team based out of parts willing to buy into the club’s mystique and ignore the lack of UEFA Champions League play (which is seemingly why Paul Pogba is ready to skip town).

Big paychecks will help, but there’s no way to quickly meld these pieces into one unit. That’s especially true if the biggest piece of their 2018-19 puzzle, Pogba, isn’t in the middle of the park (or pushed a bit forward).

Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Antonio Valencia are out of contract, and Romelu Lukaku has been as mentioned as any striker on the market (He has three goals in four days for Belgium, albeit against Kazakhstan and Scotland).

Pogba’s potential departure puts a lot of weight on Ed Woodward to spend money well (One could make an argument for United needing 60-80 percent of those names).

Subtracting them and adding no one, United’s best XI is something like David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

As an aside, the expectations and pressure heaped on Rashford by the “he’s better than Lukaku, play him now centrally” media crowd is going to be a burden if the 21-year-old has to bear the center forward burden alone. My goodness are there Old Trafford subplots in excess or what?

Now, of course, there are seven weeks to go in the transfer window and there’s no guarantee Pogba and Lukaku will leave town. In fact, you may want to place your confidence on Pogba opening the season unhappy but at Old Trafford. Either way, the center of the park is going to get a remarkable makeover, and both center back and goalkeeper will get upgrades, too.

To the fixes:

— United is expected to spend big on Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was sensational last season with the Eagles. They reportedly have sent a $51 million offer to Roy Hodgson‘s squad.

— They’ve been linked with desire for Issa Diop, though West Ham has hopes of $75 million for the center back who made JPW’s Top Ten of the season.

Wilfred Ndidi is “flattered” by links to United, but is focused on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations line. Should the Red Devils want to buy the 22-year-old, he’s likely in the same price range as the above names.

— Don’t forget Monaco’s Youri Tielemans, who feels like a PL player from his outstanding time at Leicester City last season. He’d merit another $50 million or so.

It’s worth noting that all would get more European football than at their current home with a bump in wages plus an new iconic shirt. Don’t sleep on that.

You’re probably talking a $240-250 million outlay there, should United land them.

Without going further, nor mentioning Swansea’s young Daniel James and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson, you can see a thread here: United could be showing us how a Premier League Best XI without any Top Six players would fare in the top flight.

Of course, United has also been linked with big buys from outside of the Premier League and many of these are older than Ndidi, Diop, Tielemans, and AWB.

But taking those four young players and assuming a focal point/back bone strengthening holding mid would likely join part-time players and full-time leaders Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling (and maybe Juan Mata).

Now of course there are rumors of experienced leaders Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and there could be a return from Real, PSG, or Juve. And this whole post looks even worse when United swaps Pogba for Neymar straight-up.

Here’s another question in the myriad facing Solskjaer and Woodward: Is the Europa League a better route to the Champions League than the idea of beating out two of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool (And noting that Spurs, City, and Liverpool will be heavily expected to finish 1-2-3 in some permutation and Chelsea has a leg up on the field assuming Eden Hazard is their lone significant departure).

Manchester United w/ above transfers (Age when season starts)

De Gea (28)

Wan-Bissaka (21) — Lindelof (25) — Diop (22) — Shaw (24)

Ndidi (22) — Matic (30)

Tielemans (22)

Lingard (26) — Rashford (21) — Martial (23)

What a time to be alive. Rashford better deliver!

Van Gaal: Woodward has ‘zero understanding of football’

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Tell us how you really feel, LVG.

Former Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal apparently has more in common with old pal Jose Mourinho than we even knew, lashing out at Red Devils CEO Ed Woodward in a recent interview.

[ MORE: Liverpool looks to lock up Klopp ]

Saying he accepts that he was fired when Mourinho was on the market and adding that it made business sense to the club — a bit of a jab given what you’re about to read — Van Gaal says United is lagging behind the top teams in the world due to a lack of football in the front office.

From Sky Sports:

“At Bayern, the people in charge are football men. I always appreciated that,” Van Gaal told German magazine 11 Freunde. “At Manchester United, on the other hand, Ed Woodward was installed as CEO – somebody with zero understanding of football who was previously an investment banker.”

Somewhere, Mourinho just raised his glass to the sky while simultaneously doing the chef’s kiss with his other hand.

Woodward probably doesn’t care too much, with only the Glazer Family above him and the business end going fairly well off the field. With a big retool underway, however, Woodward has to know that the first transfer window of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era — the fourth boss post-Alex Ferguson — is a big one for not just the club but his reputation.

Man United: We have funds for squad rebuild

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Manchester United will launch a huge rebuild this summer, according to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

In a call to investors on Thursday, United’s leading man revealed their third quarter financial results and said he will use the success of the business side of the club to rebuild the playing squad and give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the resources he needs this summer.

Despite finishing sixth in the Premier League this season and failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season, United’s performance off the pitch is on the up. Revenue is up 3.4 percent to $194.6 million and there was a 94 percent rise in operating profits to $18.1 million.

Here’s more from Woodward:

“Everyone at the club – the board, the manager, the squad and all the staff are resolute in our desire to get United back to the top of English football. We continually look to improve staff on and off the pitch to achieve this,” Woodward said. “The strength of our business means we have the financial resources to continue to provide a solid foundation for backing the manager and creating success on the pitch. This, as ever, remains our number one goal.” 

“The season that has just ended clearly didn’t end the way we hoped, finishing in sixth place and with a disrupted managerial change part way through,” Woodward said. ” However, Ole and the squad battled back from mid-December to put us in contention to qualify for the Champions League next season, but ultimately we came up short. While the last few weeks were disappointing, we are delighted to have confirmed the appointment of Ole as our manager on a three-year contract.”

It seems like Solskjaer will have money to spend, but that hasn’t fared too well for his predecessors at United. Both Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho spent plenty of cash but failed to rebuild this United squad in a manner which shows they are on the path to becoming perennial Premier League contenders once again.

Get ready for a summer of big spending from United, as Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, David De Gea and Romelu Lukaku have all been linked with moves away from the Red Devils.

Big change is needed, and it seems like Woodward is finally ready to accept it. This could pretty much be his last roll of the dice after lurching from one expensive mistake to another in recent seasons.

Report: Darren Fletcher ‘leading candidate’ for Man United director

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No, your eyes are not deceiving you. You are not hallucinating. You read the headline correctly.

35-year-old Darren Fletcher, who retired from playing exactly one week ago at the end of the Championship season, is the “leading candidate” for the Manchester United technical director position, according to a report by Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Ed Woodward must be held accountable ]

Fletcher knows Manchester United well, having played for the club for 12 years before departing for West Brom and Stoke City, but he has zero managerial or executive experience. He last made an appearance for Stoke in mid-March, struggling for time in the Potters squad.

Current Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been reportedly searching for a technical director to take over more on-field executive responsibilities such as player recruitment and contract negotiations, to allow Woodward – a career accountant – to take on a more financial focus with the club. While Fletcher would pair well with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as both played for Manchester United in the recent past, his glaring lack of experience at any kind of executive level is frightening for Manchester United fans who feel the club’s squad slipping in quality since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Should Fletcher sign on, it may signal that Woodward sees the duties of a technical director less involved with important club decisions and more as a liaison between manager Solskjaer and the club hierarchy. That could leave Woodward still saddled with player recruitment decisions he has struggled with since taking over as top club executive in 2013. A number of massive transfer investments, such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, and Fred have failed to live up to expectations since joining the club, while the massive wages given to Alexis Sanchez have put the club in a position of difficulty when looking to re-sign stars like David De Gea.

Meanwhile, former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar continues to be immensely successful in a Director of Football role at Ajax, something many Red Devil fans look to with envy.

When will Ed Woodward be held accountable for Man United failures?

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Six seasons, five managers, three Champions League qualifications, zero Premier League titles.

That is the Manchester United story since they last trimphed over the English top flight in Sir Alex Ferguson‘s final season as Red Devils boss.

The leadership has been chopped and changed many times over, but there is one constant: Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who ascended to his current role in 2012 and was made top operational executive a year later after the departure of David Gill. Since Woodward took full control of the club, Manchester United has spiraled completely out of control, with the luster of 13 Premier League titles almost fully rusted away.

While Manchester United has collected three trophies under his watch, the two most coveted – the Premier League and Champions League titles – have eluded the storied club, instead settling for an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League title (plus two Community Shields, as Jose Mourinho would tell you).

Still, Woodward has somehow escaped heavy criticism for his rocky tenure, with the first-team managers – far more publicly accountable figures than club executives – taking the brunt of the flak for losing streaks, negative tactics, mediocre youth development, and shambolic defending. Yet Woodward remains unscathed, free of full-scale scrutiny while everything he touches turns to ash.

Woodward’s history in the transfer market has been downright abysmal. Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Angel Di Maria, Fred, Eric Bailly, and Luke Shaw have all been purchased for enormous sums of money during Woodward’s time in charge, yet none of them have lived up to their financial burdens. It is impossible to truly know what Woodward’s exact role is in the transfer dealings, but as the top operational executive at the club, he is responsible for the consistent failures whether he has taken a hands-on approach or has delegated most of the duties to others. It’s time the buck stops at the top.

Since the start of the 2013 summer transfer window, Manchester United has shelled out a gargantuan $712 million in transfer net spend and the Red Devils are no closer to challenging for the Premier League title than when they began their quest to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. After losing to relegated Cardiff City to close out the 2018/19 Premier League season with little more than a whimper, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it would take “a long time” for Manchester United to be in a position to compete for the league title. The Notwegian boss even dared to warn supporters to temper their expectations; the Europa League would be a reasonable ambition for the time being. Those words from a Manchester United mouthpiece like Solskjaer are a brutal indictment of Woodward and his leadership of the club over the past few years.

When Sir Alex departed, the team admittedly needed an overhaul. The legendary boss somehow squeezed one last triumph out of an old and dilapidated squad, as if fans needed yet another reason to revere the greatest manager the game has ever seen. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Dimitar Berbatov were all over 30 and on their way out of the club while David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Rafael, Fabio, Jesse Lingard, Danny Welbeck, and Adnan Januzaj were all 22 years old or younger and looking for guidance and direction as they continued to develop.

Instead, they were met with chaos and instability, as David Moyes, Giggs, Louis Van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho all tried and failed to restore order to the club. None of the managers were given enough time to establish any sense of consistency, and it’s unclear whether any of them were good enough hires that things would have improved if given that luxury. Instead of embracing the period of transition, the club fell into a form of purgatory, hoping to maintain a steady ship while also understanding that things would not be the same. Woodward, a career accountant, may know what it takes to secure a lucrative sponsorship, but eventually they need the on-field results to match the claim of the world’s most popular club, or the financial leverage will wane.

While many players and managers have come and gone over the past few years, Woodward has remained the only constant figure, and the longer the club continues to rot, the more obvious his role in allowing the club to fester. Now, he wishes to bring on a technical director (see: Director of Football) to help with on-field decisions and player acquisitions, a smart choice in delegating the football responsibilities but also another hire to get right. And yet…he’s reportedly looking to hire Darren Fletcher, who literally retired as a player one week ago and has zero executive or managerial experience, in what feels like more of a PR move than anything of actual significance.

With this year’s sixth place finish – the club’s fourth finish outside the Premier League’s top four over the last six years – it is time fans direct their frustration and unhappiness further up the food chain. Ed Woodward must be held accountable for the failures of the club, or the glory days of (actually not that) long ago will become an even more distant memory with every passing year.