The summer began with the names of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Luka Modric ricocheting around the walls of Old Trafford. The hyped window came to an unsatisfactory and ordinary end (to many), adding one robust Belgian to our ranks. The familiar Belgian with a weird hairdo. Marouane Fellaini for a fee of 27.5m, 4m of which Fellaini had to part with apparently.
So, Ed Woodward. The man behind all the transfer activity for this season and possibly the coming seasons. Manchester United’s Vice Chairman. Definitely the man who should be held responsible for the ins and outs of both money and personnel in Manchester United. I would like to relive some of his quotes/activities regarding the player transfers the last few months of what was an hectic and somewhat bizarre transfer season.
To start with, on July 17, Woodward departed the club’s preseason tour on “urgent transfer business” according to a club media briefing. This news came at a time when Thiago Alcantra was to rumored to join us and when the Cesc-to-United rumors were heating up. And then a week later, the deal fell through since Pep intervened, luring the midfielder away right under the noses of Manchester United and Ed. Uncertainties showed up after Thiago claimed we were never really interested and were never in for the player. But, his father claimed otherwise.
The Thiago boat left, and we hopped onto the Fabregas boat. Now this one really looked serious. Moyes was very public of his intentions to sign Fabregas which has never been the United way. And Ed was nowhere to be seen, the entirety of Fabregas’ saga, the way it unfurled itself, really dashed hopes of many supporters of signing a top midfielder the club was craving for.
But, on the other hand this window saw us signing some top-drawer commercial deals.We have been signing some high profile multimillion deals from Mister Potato to Apollo Tyres, the commercial strategy Ed Woodward devised has helped turn the world a shade of red. All these lucrative deals mean we get more funds for signing players. And what did we come up with? Submit a 30m bid in the middle of August, for Fellaini AND Baines only to be labelled “derisory” and “insulting”.
Now the obvious lingering question is, where is all the money going? Into Ed’s pockets? Nah. The Glazers always make sure they get the larger chunk of the profits. So, is it going to the pockets of the Glazers? Maybe. A huge maybe. And I don’t have to explain the Glazer-fans relationship. Ever since they took over, the club’s been put under massive debt. Despite all the broadcasting deals,sponsorship deals, and the Ronaldo money we never really paid off our debts and they still remain amounting to a sum around 350m or so. But when Ed was questioned regarding the availability of funds for signings – top signings, this is what he had to say with an almost honest face;
“David Moyes has a limitless budget to spend on a world class player.” – Ed Woodward – July 14, 2013.
Well. I guess he wanted the kitty to remain so come the end of the window too. Any common Manchester United supporter would scratch his head wondering why we did not meet the release clause Atletic Bilbao set for Anders Herrera, the last of promising midfielders we were linked with, IF we had a limitless budget. Herrera commenting on that situation later saying we had to answer a few of his questions. Hell, we have to answer a few of our own questions. Why the panic 40m bid for Sami Khedira at a time when Alonso is injured knowing ever so well it would be discarded? Why wasn’t there an alternative for Baines? Why the eleventh hour bid for Coentrao? Only time will tell what kind of an impact these shortcomings would make.
For the last decade of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, he had Gill at his side. Together, the duo negotiated some robust deals, bringing in top dogs time and again helping us stay a step ahead of the rest always. The moneyed likes of Chelsea and Manchester City were beaten away as a new order was accepted and then surpassed. Ferguson was allowed to focus on the football. Gill, a natural diplomat whose political links has also led him into influential positions within the FA and UEFA, provided a buffer between Ferguson and the owners. We missed out on several important players we were rumored to sign, still business carried on as usual. There was no real need to press the panic button, as far as I can recall. Jumping into reality, the scars of this window will remain until we sign a top player, one of Ozil’s calibre or someone who can take us back to the 2007/08 period when we were ‘capable’ of winning every competition we played in. The Fellaini signing should be taken as nothing but a prelude for a top signing or two to arrive in the future.
Times have changed. And we are now being managed by a guy who was NEVER used to this kind of money,players and pressure above all. And Ed “Capable hands” Woodward, David Gill’s replacement, is less an equalizer,more a monetiser. He has been key to the club’s huge growth in commercial revenue to offset the Glazers’ debt model. The former investment banker, just a few months older than Ryan Giggs, is yet to become a football transfer finaliser. On the other hand, Gill also had Sir Alex to work with. Sir Alex just needed to put in a personal phone call to seal the Van Persie deal. Ring a bell? Both Moyes and Ed are facing the steepest of learning curves to emulate, if not surpass their predecessors.
The hardest part is satisfying the global fan base of this commercial money-making machine Woodward has created, partly on the back of the club’s rich history but partly on the promise they will continue to compete with the best of the best, requires continued success. To ensure the latter, we need to be shrewd on the market, not repeat the mistakes of this window, revert back to the Sir Alex-Gill period by recreating something similar to that. After all, one thing is certain amidst all these uncertainties. From the factories of Chinese soft drinks giant Wahaha to the vineyards of Chilean wine producer Casillero del Diablo, the world is watching us.