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It Is nobody else’s fault, the buck has to stop with the Glazers

Manchester United seem to have gone a long way backwards in order to go forwards again. It is often said that a team will benefit from relegation. They will have a season whereby they can strengthen and regroup in order to come back stronger the following season. Try telling that to Leeds United or Nottingham Forest or either of the Sheffield clubs. They all went down with the idea of bouncing straight back and have yet to do so.

Whilst the wealth available at Old Trafford means that a repeat of any of these scenarios is highly unlikely for Manchester United, there are still lessons to be learned.

When Sir Alex Ferguson retired from his position the scene was set for another manager to come in, take over, tinker with the team a little and continue the success. Maybe not as prolifically as Fergie, but the grounding was there all the same.

First mistake was in thinking that David Moyes was the answer. Since leaving United Moyes has also not been the answer for Real Sociedad or Sunderland proving, unfortunately, that his best days in management were spent at Preston North End and Everton and are long in the past.

Louis van Gaal was a better proposition, but was steeped in memories. Memories of how he used to win trophies at the big clubs. Memories of how his methods used to work. Memories of how players would run through brick walls for him, (well, the ones he didn’t fall out with anyway). That was the problem. Van Gaal lived in the past and the players didn’t like it, the fans didn’t like it and, ultimately, Ed Woodward didn’t like it and refused to extend the Dutchman’s contract.

United finally got the man they should have hired nearly three years previously more through luck than judgement. José Mourinho had been fired by Chelsea and Manchester City had announced the imminent arrival of Pep Guardiola. Both of these facts combined to direct Mourinho to the manager’s office at Old Trafford. Better late than never.

By the time José sat at his desk for the first time United had failed to qualify for the Champion’s League for the second time in three years and had been nowhere near winning the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013.

Many people agree that Ed Woodward was remarkably naive over this period of time. Firstly, he let Sir Alex Ferguson have the main say in his successor. Fergie has since come out and said that it is ridiculous to think that he had so much power that the choice of the next manager was his alone. We agree, it wasn’t, but the other board members certainly bowed to his superior knowledge so it may as well have been.

Woodward then compounded his mistake by agreeing to the purchase of Marouane Fellaini and, by missing a deadline clause in his contract, overpaying by £4million! It was bad enough that he bought him in the first place without the extra cash rubbing salt into the wounds.

When Moyes was replaced by van Gaal, Woodward went on to sanction the spending of almost £250million on players, the majority of whom are no longer at the club. It had been a scatter gun approach by van Gaal and it had failed spectacularly.

In fact, until Mourinho was employed, Ed Woodward was held responsible by the fans for everything and anything that was wrong at Old Trafford. A lot of this was accurate but he was only responsible because those above him made him responsible.

Woodward is a Glazer appointment and a typical American one at that. The fact that he is from Chelmsford was never going to endear him to the Old Trafford faithful and, worse still, he actually spent the majority of his time in United’s London offices, which the fans hate to admit even exist.

Bobby Charlton Ed Woodward

He was given his current job because he is good at making money. American owners don’t care how bad you are at anything else as long as you make money. Having made millions through lucrative sponsorship deals, Woodward was put in charge of transfers when David Gill chose to join Fergie in retirement.

He was to go on to prove that knowing how to make money did not actually mean that he knew how to spend it. Not wisely anyway. He did manage to spend a heck of a lot of it but with very little return. He wasted a fortune on Angel Di Maria who, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin were all bought and sold at a loss.

None of this, however, was really the fault of Woodward. He was thrown into a job about which he knew very little and tried to do it to the best of his ability. He relied on managers who took advantage of his lack of knowledge and United’s over abundance of wealth. They used him to try and further their own causes and both failed in the matter.

Now José Mourinho is in charge and nothing is heard of Woodward. He has more experience of dealing in the transfer market and seems to be able to get deals done with less fuss than was the case a while ago. More to the point, Mourinho seems to be reasonably happy working with him.

Whatever the outcome of this relationship it should always be remembered that Ed Woodward is, and was, only doing the bidding of the Glazers who obviously think him capable of anything because he makes them money.