Big Match

Woodward hits back

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the club mascot before a match at Old Trafford.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the club mascot before a match at Old Trafford. PHOTO: REUTERS
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward (above) is pleased that the Norwegian’s vision dovetails with the club’s three core objectives.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward (above) is pleased that the Norwegian’s vision dovetails with the club’s three core objectives.PHOTO: REUTERS

United vice-chair slams 'insulting' criticism, backs Solskjaer to rectify 'inefficient' buys

LONDON • Ed Woodward believes the perception that he and other non-experts are making decisions over football policy at Manchester United is "insulting", although he admits that recruitment strategy was dysfunctional in the wake of Alex Ferguson's retirement.

United's executive vice-chairman is the subject of criticism over team performance, transfers and other areas of football strategy. In particular, the club's transfer policy under him has come under heavy fire following the close season, when six senior players moved on but only three new players came in.

The attack was not reinforced after the departures of forwards Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, partly resulting in the team scoring only nine goals in eight Premier League games this season.

United are 12th in the league ahead of tomorrow's home clash with rivals Liverpool, with nine points from eight games under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Woodward insisted: "There is a myth that we have non-football people making football decisions, and it's insulting to the brilliant people who work on the football side in this club.

"Many of the senior staff on the football side of the club have been in their roles for over 10 years. Some of our scouts have worked with us for more than 25 years."

Matt Judge, head of corporate development, is involved in the business side of recruitment and Woodward signs off on all transfers in the absence of a director of football.

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What's important is the commercial side is never allowed to take priority over the football side. That can never, ever change.

ED WOODWARD, United's executive vice-chairman, on the importance of the team's on-field success.

Chief scout Jim Lawlor was appointed in 2005 and has worked under former managers Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and David Moyes.

Woodward, however, admitted that recruitment was not "efficient" when Ferguson stepped down in May 2013, forcing a long-term overhaul. There is a further acknowledgement that there have been errors in recruitment in the six years since Ferguson left.

For example, van Gaal's vision of a United player differed from the club's, resulting in a disjointed squad. Daley Blind is cited as a very fine footballer who did not possess the requisite X factor and so should not have been signed.

Woodward admitted that core values, too, had slipped. But he believes that Solskjaer is gradually putting the club in its rightful place.

"Ole has also instilled the discipline back into an environment where we may have lacked it in recent years," he said.

"He is building a squad that respects the club's history, in which players work hard and respect their teammates.

"No one is bigger than the club."

In the summer, the 21-year-olds Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James were signed, as well as Harry Maguire, who is 27.

Sanchez, 30, Chris Smalling, 29, Lukaku, 26, and Ander Herrera, 30, either left or went on loan.

"The changes we saw over the summer have resulted in a very young squad," Woodward said.

"But it's also a squad, with the players and the culture, that provides a base camp for us to build and grow from as we start our new journey.

"Ole's vision maps exactly to the core three football objectives we have - we must win trophies, we must play attacking football and we must give youth its chance.

"What's important is the commercial side is never allowed to take priority over the football side. That can never, ever change."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Woodward hits back'. Print Edition | Subscribe