February 16, 2020
Since Ed Woodward replaced David Gill in 2013 as executive vice-chairman at Manchester United and effectively took charge of the club’s transfer dealings, it’s safe to say there has been a mixed reaction from the fans of the club. Some see United have spent nearly £1 billion since 2013 and think there is no way a club spending that much can be struggling with transfers.
Others see how a large portion of these transfers did not work out as well as the club would have hoped and point the blame at the man in charge, Ed Woodward. In this article, big money signings made under Woodward will be ranked and the overall transfer strategy will be analyzed, concluding with the answer to this question; Is it time for Ed Woodward to relinquish transfer responsibilities to a Director of Football?
Twelve players signed from 2013 to present day have been selected for this pool of players to be analyzed. New signings that have not yet played a full season like Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes have been excluded. Defenders have also been excluded as Woodward seems to refer back to the coaches when deciding on defensive acquisitions, as evident by Louis van Gaal signing Daley Blind or Jose Mourinho signing Victor Lindelof. Woodward seems to focus on more marketable positions, such as forwards, so this article will be focusing more on these players. Starting off with number twelve…
12) Angel Di Maria
Number twelve and eleven on this list could very easily swap around but the Argentine has just grabbed last spot due to his poor attitude. A deadline day signing to mark the end of Louis van Gaal’s first transfer window, Di Maria arrived with a plethora of promises but left with little more than a miraculous chipped goal against Leicester City to his name. After one season that was marked with clashes with Van Gaal and problems adjusting to the league, Di Maria had enough and left for Paris Saint-Germain. A lot of money wasted for very little in return.
11) Alexis Sanchez
Oh what could have been with Alexis Sanchez. His time at Arsenal was fantastic, scoring 60 Premier League goals for the Gunners but his time at Manchester United has been the polar opposite. Not only have his performances been dire for the most part, his arrival upset a lot at the club. Taking in the highest wage at the club, Sanchez’s arrival allegedly upset the wage structure. This made resigning individuals such as David De Gea more difficult. His arrival also pushed Anthony Martial out of the starting eleven despite the Frenchman being in fine form. It begs the question, was Sanchez signed because Mourinho wanted him or did Woodward just want to beat Manchester City to a player?
10+9) “Scheid” midfield
Great examples of players bought for one manager that did not fit the next, the midfield pair of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger were huge indicators of Woodward signing players without long term planning in mind. Both players were good professionals during their time at the club but never locked down places in the squad when Van Gaal was sacked. The pair went from first team members of Van Gaal’s squad to almost no appearances under Jose Mourinho. They were eventually sold to Everton and the Chicago Fire respectively.
8) Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Again, an example of a great player signed that did not fit the style of the coach. A Mourinho midfield relies on physical presence and hard working individuals that work both sides of the game. Mkhitaryan is more of a luxury player that can have moments of brilliance but in Mourinho’s set up just looked lost most of the time. He was eventually swapped to Arsenal for Alexis Sanchez, which is a transfer deal both clubs will want to forget ever happened.
Fred has become one of United’s best players this season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, he is placed at only number seven on this list as representation for the disaster of a window that ultimately led to Jose Mourinho’s sacking. To close the gap of 19 points on Man City, Mourinho was given Fred, who would need a year to adapt from the Ukrainian League to the Premier League, a young prospect at fullback in Diogo Dalot and a reserve goalkeeper in Lee Grant. Poor planning and execution by Ed Woodward and the squad is paying the price for that window to this day.
6) Romelu Lukaku
Another ‘galactico’ type signing made by Ed Woodward that does not indicate any sort of long term planning by him. A striker that can hold up the ball well was crucial for Mourinho’s system but Lukaku is much more effective when he is facing the goal. Woodward then replaced Mourinho with Solskjaer who likes a more technical striker. Lukaku himself did well, scoring 28 goals for the club in the league but is another indication of poor planning by the club’s higher ups.
5) Ander Herrera
A true professional and fan favorite during his time at the club. Ander Herrera is a rare signing almost all United fans can agree on being a success at the club. He was also signed before the arrival of Van Gaal so it is safe to assume he was a Woodward signing. Credit where credit’s due, Woodward got this one right.
4) Anthony Martial
Another fan favorite, Anthony Martial has had his ups and downs at Manchester United but when he’s been on form, he’s lit up Old Trafford. In the current squad, only Marcus Rashford has scored more for the club. However, his signing again exposes a lack of planning by Woodward. Van Gaal said on numerous occasions Martial is one for the next manager, referring to Giggs, yet Woodward never gave Giggs a chance and appointed Mourinho. Martial would eventually fall out of favor with Mourinho.
3) Juan Mata
A true professional and some would argue the best post Sir Alex Ferguson signing, Juan Mata has been a class act. Mata was one of those players that if he’s available, you sign and that is just what Woodward did. No complaints with this one.
2) Paul Pogba
A polarizing figure at United but Paul Pogba on his day is one of the best players in the English Premier League. His signing was not only great on the pitch for providing fans with moments of magic but his signing showed Manchester United could still attract players, even without Champions League football. His signing appeared to be the catalyst for a new, successful era but other factors at the club let that prospect down. His frequent clashes with Mourinho again beg the question, did Woodward force a player onto the coach that the coach did not want?
1) Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The leader of Jose Mourinho’s 2016/17 side, Ibrahimovic did what he set out to do and conquered England. The biggest star, along with Paul Pogba, that United had signed since Ferguson retired, Ibrahimovic scored 22 goals in a season that saw United win three trophies. He wasn’t here for a long time but on a free from PSG he sure did make the reds excited.
Is it time for Ed Woodward to relinquish transfer responsibilities to a Director of Football?
After analyzing big money transfers made by Woodward, it is concluded that yes, it is time to get a Director of Football to oversee transfers. As mentioned throughout the article, Woodward’s transfer strategy is not much of a strategy. He often signs big name players that do not make logical sense for the current coaches or future of the club. Players fall out of favor with coaches on occasion but it seems to happen quite often at United, especially with big transfers. Woodward has a lot on his plate with the commercial side of running the club. Appointing a football man that can oversee transfer dealings and long term planning for the club will benefit United more than having Woodward do everything.
Written by Nicholas Blaustein