Woodward’s Man Utd’s legacy: commercial success, but sporting failure

The former investment banker intended to give up at the end of the year, but his exit was brought to the fore and few fans are sorry to see him leave

That’s not how it was supposed to end for Ed Woodward at Manchester United.

The executive vice-president had planned to leave at the end of the year, after seeing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer win his first trophy as manager and with the club on a solid financial basis due to his inclusion in a new profitable superleague.

Instead, he is now ready for an early exit.

The club said confirmation of his departure was brought only because the news was in the media, but it seems more than a coincidence that amid the bitter reaction to the creation of the European Super League (ESL), it has now been announced that one of the cheerleaders separatist competition decided to resign.

Woodward was one of the “snakes” that UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin chose out of contempt for his role in ESL.

With the club’s name in the mud, United’s players and staff wondered why they were left in the dark in connection with a seismic decision that would have completely changed the football landscape.

However, while the Super League could have brought Woodward’s resignation, sources confirmed that he had considered his position anyway. The stress and strain of eight years in such a demanding, high-quality role had taken effect. And once again, he was the person who took over the criticism for United’s role in ESL, while the Glazers remained silent.

The father of the two moved his family to London earlier this year, after an attack on his home in Cheshire, in January 2020, by fans who were upset with the way he ran the club.

He even referred to the violent criticism he sometimes received in his parting statement.

“I would like to thank United’s passionate fans for their support in good times and bad,” Woodward said. “I know it’s been a difficult time in our history, but your support for the team has never, ever been questioned.”

The key words were “team support”, because there was hardly a time when the club’s supporters got behind him.

From banners flying over stadiums calling him a failure to vitriol chants and passionate protests, his performance has been intensely examined since the day he replaced David Gill in 2013.

Woodward’s relationship with the Glazer family and the role he played in helping him take over in 2005 played a massive role in distrusting fans, but even more significant was his belief that he was not a “football man.”

As for the fans, an unknown face in the financial world does not deserve to make important decisions about the team of the first team at Old Trafford.

He was treated with immediate suspicion. He felt that he did not care about what happened on the ground and he hardly helped things with the comments made to the investors.

For example, in 2018, he argued: “The performance of the game does not have a significant impact on what we can do from the commercial side of the business.”

However, the massive impact it had in that area cannot be denied. United’s revenue stream has almost doubled since taking over, which is why the club has managed to cope better with the economic crisis caused by Covid-19 than many of their rivals.

However, although he proved to be a smart businessman, assuring his business partners involved in everything from pillows to coffee, his legacy will always be judged by the results.

In this regard, Woodward’s tenure will be seen by many supporters as a failure, rather than a success, given that United have not won the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

He sees things differently, though.

“I have invested over £ 1 billion ($ 1.4 billion) in the team during my time here and I am particularly pleased with the progress the players have made under the wise leadership of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team. coaches for the past two years, ”Woodward said in a statement Tuesday night.

Alexis Sanchez Marouane Fellaini Manchester United GFX

However, while the recruiting strategy has improved over the past few years, much of this £ 1 billion has been wasted on expensive players with massive salaries that have not brought United closer to winning the Premier League.

Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao were all disastrous signatures, while United repeatedly missed the main transfer goals.

In his first summer at the helm, in 2013, he left the club’s tournament in Australia to try to sign Cesc Fabregas, but United ended up with Marouane Fellaini.

He faced Jose Mourinho over transfer targets in 2018 and, as their relationship erupted, the Portuguese became Woodward’s third managerial dismissal. For many fans, however, coaches were not the problem. It was Woodward and the owners.

The top structure of the club has changed in recent years, of course, and Woodward has taken a step back from the 2019 transfer negotiations, allowing Matt Judge to take over.

But there was another rejig earlier this year, when John Murtough was installed as the club’s first football manager and Darren Fletcher took over as technical director.

Woodward believed that with the new structure, he would no longer need to receive calls from agents or clubs about buying and selling players. United finally had “football men” in place to negotiate.

So, in general terms, his departure should not affect that part of the business and given that his friend Richard Arnold is a master in business, that part of the business has also been left in good hands. Arnold has been as important as United’s commercial success in recent years, as has Woodward.

Consequently, although Woodward could, in theory, continue his role until the end of his contract at the end of the year, it would make more sense to leave in the summer. There is no update on who is in line to replace him, but the feeling is that the right people are in place to oversee the player recruitment plan this summer and talks have already begun around it.

Due to the structure he put into operation, his departure will not cause panic at Old Trafford. However, it will not cause any sadness among the fans.

Woodward may have secured numerous sponsorship offers for United, but he did not deliver a league title, which he desperately wanted to do. And that’s probably the bottom line when it comes to supporters.