Friday, August 23, 2013

Manchester United's first summer post Ferguson is fast turning into a farce: Is Ed Woodward to blame?

It wouldn't be understating it to say that Manchester United's first summer after Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement has turned into a complete and utter farce where new signings are concerned.

Even with the full backing of someone like Sheik Mansour, David Moyes would be faced with a very difficult challenge; in the remote possibility that you need reminding, Ferguson is the most successful manager in the history of British football. David Moyes cannot rely on an oil rich sheik; he has to rely on the backing of the Glazer family and David Gill's replacement, United vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

While this is Moyes' first summer in charge of United, the same can be said of Woodward - but unlike his vice-chairman, Moyes' cannot go hiding in the comfortable sanctuary that is the Old Trafford boardroom when things go horribly wrong on the pitch and the way things are shaping up there's every prospect of that happening at this juncture.

Based on the evidence and actions of Woodward to date and from the outside looking in, it
appears as though there was very little sensible planning with regards to acquiring quality players who would make Manchester United stronger, post Fergie.

David Moyes has gone on record stating what the fans already know (and truth be told, have known since Roy Keane departed) that midfield is the single biggest area of concern. So what have United done about adding genuine star quality in midfield this summer? Well for starters, quite a lot of talking to the media on the subject of transfers, but as we all know, talk is cheap. All this talking has been an unwelcome change of policy - a departure from the norm - and it leaves United wide open to all manner of accusations when things go badly wrong, as you are about to on.

Where's Woodward? Another tale of transfer woes...

According to reports, Ed Woodward tried to sign Fabregas - the Barcelona reserve who still has very strong links with Arsenal, his former club; his agent is the son of the former Gunners' supremo, David Dein. Arsene Wenger is said to be Dein's best pal in football and the Arsenal manager has made it known that according to his information, Fabregas was never coming back to the Premier League this season. If Wenger knew that, why did United waste so much time chasing a player who is clearly unavailable?

Ed Woodward we were told, cut short United's gruelling / money grabbing world-wide summer tour to return to deal with urgent business. We were led to believe that business was in fact with Barcelona and Fabregas. Woodward has barely been heard of since, leading to cries of "where is Woodward"? Perhaps those reports were wrong and in fact he was signing a new sponsorship deal with Mister Potato?

Wherever Woodward is or was this summer, it's worth asking the question, did United actually know Fabregas was unlikely to leave Barca and if so were they leading journalists and United fans down the proverbial garden path? Did the club ever have any serious intentions of signing Fabregas who was never going to be available? We don't know the real truth behind the Fabregas saga, but we damn well know United have so far failed to back David Moyes -  a situation that is totally unacceptable as far as many followers of the club are concerned.

So who else is on David Moyes' transfer radar? 

The Fellaini and Baines saga...

From pretty much the minute the Scot was named as United's new manager, he's been linked with Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines; these names have been bandied around all summer, but apart from making 'insulting offers' for the Everton pair, very little progress has been made on either player.

A report in the Daily Mirror stated that Ed Woodward has written a letter of apology to Everton for the way the appointment of David Moyes was handled - can we expect a follow up letter with regards to his 'insulting offers' for Fellaini and Baines?

Fellaini and or Baines could still yet be United players come September 3rd, but don't stake your mortgage on it. It's also worth asking if Fellaini and Baines featured prominently on Moyes' wanted list, why didn't United make their move earlier? Because as far as we know, no other defensive midfield player is on the manager's wanted list. There appears to be no excuse for not trying to sign Fellaini sooner. As for Fellaini's expired buy-out clause; United did not agree with Everton's valuation, so again, there appears to be no room for excuses - other than haggling over the fee.

The Rooney saga....what really happened....or did it?

According to Ferguson, Wayne Rooney told him he wanted to leave Manchester United. Fair enough, he's a Scouser after all and we Mancunians' accept that as a professional he might want to leave, however, not to join a Premier League rival. Rooney is no Scholes of Giggs, he is not one of us is he? But let's make this clear, Rooney has been fantastic for United and let's not forget that.

United fans have been wondering why Ferguson went public telling the world that Rooney wanted to quit the champions - it wasn't the first time either. Several theories have been doing the rounds. Some say, Fergie was getting his own back on the player who caused so much fuss following his previous request to leave a couple of years ago. We don't buy that theory on this blog. More likely, we think Fergie got wind of Rooney's desire to join Chelsea and contrary to Jose Mourinho's 'ethical' claims, contact was made between the two camps (possibly as far back as 6 months ago when Jose first knew he was to takeover at Chelsea). Knowing he was about to leave his post as United manager and appoint David Moyes who himself has 'previous' with Rooney, SAF decided to go public so as not to give his replacement an even bigger problem.  

It was a massive dilemma for Fergie, in outing Rooney, he knew that he would be making life very difficult for the player; many fans have turned against the former Everton stiker as a result and Moyes has been left to pick up the pieces, but thanks to Fergie's actions, at least we know these problems had little to do with the new United manager, they'd been festering for a while.

For their part, Chelsea and 'ethical Jose' have said they will keep on trying to sign Rooney right up to the transfer deadline, but they also have a 'plan B'. To date, United have rejected two offers from Chelsea for Rooney, a third is anticipated next week.

It could be argued, Chelsea have unsettled Rooney to such an extent that it doesn't matter if he joins them or not, especially as Rooney is likely to miss Monday's clash with Chelsea - job partly done as far as Jose is concerned, especially if Chelsea secure all three points.

Then we come to the business of United's supposed interest in signing Mata as part of any deal with Chelsea to sign Wayne Rooney. To recap, United let slip that Chelsea had supposedly offered Mata and cash for Wayne Rooney, in their initial bid. In response, Jose Mourinho flatly denied those claims. However, rumours suggest Jose does not fancy Mata and that the Spaniard might well be available.

Enter Willian...
To bring this story right up to date, it looks as though Chelsea have beaten Spurs to punch to sign Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala, for £30m. Willian is a very highly rated Brazilian midfield star and it begs the question, just how many midfield players does Jose need at Chelsea? It looks as though Jose is buying players to stop his rivals from strengthening, and not for the first time either, at least that has been a suspicion aired in the not too distant past.

But as a result of United's transfer bungling, what if Chelsea know how desperate United have become without any major summer signings, and what if they can now allow Mata to join United as long as they get Rooney? Why didn't United try to sign Willian, if they had done they could have given ethical Jose another two fingered salute. Whatever else happens, United must NOT sell Rooney to Chelsea,  to do so would be an act of suicide.

The post Fergie and David Gill era....

We know that David Gill didn't realy want anything to do with the Glazers', we know that because he said it at the last AGM, yours truly was there. Despite this, he did a good job under difficult circumstances and his partnership with Fergie was very productive; United were successful both and off the pitch.

We are heading in a new direction with David Moyes at the helm and with Woodward, hiding somewhere in the rigging. You have to ask yourself what was it that first attracted Moyes to the Glazer family? A solid performer in the Premier League accepted, but was it also David Moyes miser like spending record at Everton and if so, are United about to follow the Arsenal model of spending little and just fighting for one of those lucrative Champions League spots every season? It isn't as far fetched as it might sound, because on the evidence of what we've seen so far, post Fergie there's been a lot of talking but not much else.

All in all, it isn't looking too promising for United fans and David Moyes. So much has been promised, so little delivered in the way of serious backing for the new manager. Manchester United and Ed Woodward must do better, much better.