Wood­ward her­alds the ‘start of a new jour­ney’

United be­lieve Sol­sk­jaer is still the right man­ager Vice-chair­man de­nies com­merce takes pri­or­ity

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football - By James Ducker

Ed Wood­ward has launched a ro­bust de­fence of his run­ning of Manch­ester United and in­sisted it was “in­sult­ing” to sug­gest the club’s com­mer­cial arm took pri­or­ity over the foot­ball op­er­a­tion.

The United ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man also moved to quash doubts about the im­me­di­ate fu­ture of Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer by of­fer­ing his staunch­est back­ing yet for the man­ager ahead of Sun­day’s visit of Pre­mier League lead­ers Liver­pool to Old Traf­ford and claimed the club were at the “start of a new jour­ney”.

De­spite spend­ing more than £850mil­lion in the six years since Sir Alex Fer­gu­son re­tired and hav­ing the largest an­nual wage bill in the Pre­mier League at £332mil­lion, United could find them­selves in the rel­e­ga­tion zone by Mon­day night should they lose to Liver­pool and other re­sults go against them.

Wood­ward has over­seen the run­ning of the club dur­ing that pe­riod and is com­ing in for mount­ing crit­i­cism from sup­port­ers who are an­gered and frus­trated by the Glaz­ers’ own­er­ship.

But while Wood­ward is thought to recog­nise that mis­takes have been made, par­tic­u­larly around the re­cruit­ment of play­ers, he has re­futed claims that the club’s pri­or­ity has been com­mer­cial ex­pan­sion over foot­ball and shot down any sug­ges­tion that he and the club’s money men de­cide trans­fer pol­icy.

In an ad­dress to around 400 staff, in­clud­ing Sol­sk­jaer, at the club’s an­nual meet­ing at Old Traf­ford a fort­night ago, Wood­ward said: “Like other clubs, our com­mer­cial busi­ness al­lows us to rein­vest in the foot­ball side. It’s how these two in­ter­act with each other at United that re­sults in us hav­ing a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in this area. What’s im­por­tant is the com­mer­cial side is never al­lowed to take pri­or­ity over the foot­ball side. There is a myth that we have non-foot­ball peo­ple mak­ing foot­ball de­ci­sions, and it’s in­sult­ing to the peo­ple who work on the foot­ball side in this club.

“We’ve ex­panded our re­cruit­ment de­part­ment in re­cent years and we be­lieve this now runs in an ef­fi­cient way. Player rec­om­men­da­tions and de­ci­sions are worked on by this de­part­ment and by the man­ager, not by se­nior man­age­ment.”

United be­lieve their strug­gles in the trans­fer mar­ket were born of a num­ber of mis­takes, in­clud­ing the de­ci­sion to en­trust David Moyes with the one-off struc­ture Fer­gu­son presided over for 27 years and giv­ing Louis van Gaal carte blanche to bring in too many play­ers who did not fit the club and lacked X-fac­tor, such as Da­ley Blind.

Van Gaal’s strike-rate was con­sid­ered to be sig­nif­i­cantly be­low five out of 10 when the view in­ter­nally is that more than seven out of 10 re­cruits must be big suc­cesses. Equally, they feel some sign­ings, in­clud­ing Alexis Sanchez, have sim­ply been un­able to cope with the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion of play­ing for the club. United be­lieve they have a far more ro­bust re­cruit­ment op­er­a­tion now in place and, in Sol­sk­jaer, a man­ager whose out­look is in sync with the club’s three-pil­lar ethos of want­ing to win tro­phies play­ing at­tack­ing foot­ball, while giv­ing youth its chance.

Nonethe­less, United have won just five of the 21 matches since Sol­sk­jaer was ap­pointed as per­ma­nent man­ager and their dearth of goals this sea­son has raised se­ri­ous ques­tions about their de­ci­sion not to bring in re­place­ments for the de­parted Romelu Lukaku.

Yet re­gard­less of the press­ing need for a striker, it is thought United have lit­tle ap­petite to make what might be con­sid­ered a panic sign­ing in Jan­uary. One source sug­gested it can be “fool’s gold” buy­ing in the win­ter win­dow. A move for the vet­eran Ju­ven­tus striker Mario Mandzu­kic, over whom they held talks in the sum­mer, seems un­likely at this stage.

United have made their worst start to a sea­son for 30 years, but Wood­ward be­lieves the club have the right man at the helm in Sol­sk­jaer, who is said to re­tain 100 per cent sup­port.

There is also a be­lief that in­juries to key per­son­nel have taken their toll, but that a cold-eyed de­ci­sion to lose a se­ries of ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers in the sum­mer as part of a so-called “cul­tural re­boot” was the right way to go.

“The mid­dle sec­tion of last sea­son, af­ter Ole’s ar­rival, feels most rel­e­vant to what we want to achieve,” Wood­ward said. “We saw a team play­ing fast, fluid foot­ball, with a clear rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the phi­los­o­phy the man­ager wants.

“Ole has also in­stilled the dis­ci­pline back into an en­vi­ron­ment where we may have lacked it in re­cent years. He is build­ing a squad that re­spects the club’s his­tory. No one is big­ger than the club.

“The changes we saw over the sum­mer have re­sulted in a very young squad. But it’s also a squad with the play­ers and the cul­ture that pro­vide a base camp for us to build and grow from as we start our new jour­ney.”

De­fen­sive: Ed Wood­ward has hit out at mount­ing crit­i­cism from sup­port­ers

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.