Manchester United: An Identity Crisis

It doesn’t matter if you know absolutely nothing about soccer, when you hear the name, “Manchester United” you know immediately who they are. You might think of the winning mentality that comes with the club, you might think of that absurd Wayne Rooney overhead kick against Manchester City about seven years back, you might even think back to the most incredible comeback in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich.


Those days are long gone since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill from the club at the end of the 2013 Premier League winning campaign. No longer do teams fear playing Manchester United. Old Trafford is no longer the fortress where even if United were down a goal with ten minutes to go, you know the Stretford End would end up sucking the ball into the net somehow. The style of play has dropped from the beautiful days of Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, Van Persie and Scholes.


So this begs the question, where has it all gone wrong?


When you look back to the appointment of retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill in 2013, there was a lot of uncertainty around the club. Both men had been at the club for a very long time, Gill had been there since 1997, being appointed CEO in 2000. Ferguson had been at the club since 1986, and oversaw the single greatest managerial career the game is ever likely to see.


When Gill was appointed to the football club as CEO in 2000, he had only been at the club for three years. It was Manchester United’s glory days, winning seemingly every competition they were in, and to this day, still are the only English team to win the treble (Premier League, FA Cup and UCL for those of you who don’t know.)


Manchester United as a brand were different back then. The brand in the 90s and early 2000s wasn’t a cash cow like it is today, it was about winning, and the expectation of winning every season.


David Gill understood what that meant to the football club, and he made sure to back his manager, Sir Alex, with anything that he needed. He had trust in his manager when he would ask for a player to be purchased. The same can’t be said about that today.


Let’s switch to Ed Woodward and the Glazer family who own Manchester United. Woodward helped with the Glazer’s successful takeover of the club in 2005, a move which was very unpopular with the fans at the time and still is to this day. Woodward was then appointed to director of commercial and media operations in 2007. Woodward was then appointed to the board of directors in 2012, before taking over for David Gill at the start of the 2013/2014 season.


Woodward got off to being CEO on the wrong foot in the summer transfer window of 2013, failing to land top targets such as Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas and a sensational return of Cristiano Ronaldo. Woodward ended up settling for Marouane Fellaini from Everton on deadline day, vastly over paying for him as well.


Woodward ended up sacking the manager he appointed only eight months earlier, David Moyes, after a horrific first season. Being fair to Moyes, he took over the biggest club in the world with a squad that was aging and was starting to hit the end of their peak. Moyes also didn’t get any help in the transfer window from Woodward, resulting in the on field performances that the fans saw that season.


Woodward next then appointed borderline sociopath Louis van Gaal, notorious for causing riffs with his superstar players. Van Gaal while managing at Bayern Munich pulled his pants down to show his superstars that he had, “the balls to drop anyone from the team.”


In his first season, Woodward along with Van Gaal signed superstar attacking midfielder Angel di Maria and one of the world’s best strikers in Radamel Falcao from Monaco. To keep a long story short, there was only one way this was going to end. Van Gaal within three months had pissed off Di Maria so much he left the very next season, and Falcao looked like a shell of his former self.


Woodward sacked Van Gaal the day after winning the FA Cup in 2016, the club’s first piece of silverware since Ferguson retired.


Woodward went on to appoint arguably the world’s best manager in Jose Mourinho after the dismissal of Van Gaal.


In his first season as manager, Woodward and Jose brought in huge names such as Paul Pogba back from Juventus, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer from Paris Saint Germain. Jose went on to lead United to two titles that season, the League Cup and the Europa League.


Next season, United finished runners up in the FA Cup and runners up in the Premier League. It had been United’s best season in the league since Ferguson retired.


In the summer transfer window of 2018, there was a lot of uncertainty around the club as there had been rumors of Jose getting the sack. Then, when Mourinho handed in his transfer target list to the club, Woodward denied every signing that he wanted to bring in. Which begs the question, why do you employ someone if you don’t trust him?


The pattern of Woodward not trusting the people he hires has been found out, but that is still not the biggest issue.


The biggest issue with Manchester United, is they are run by a man in Ed Woodward, who while he is a world class banker and financial analyst, knows jack shit about running a football club and signing players. He is there simply to make money for the Glazers, not putting on a performance on the field. As long as the books are in the black for United, the Glazers are happy. And that’s the only thing that Woodward seems to care about these days.


Don’t blame Moyes, Van Gaal or Jose. Don’t blame the players,. Blame the man that has run that club into the ground. That man is Ed Woodward. Ed Woodward

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