Ed Woodward believes the perception he and other non-experts are making decisions over football policy at Manchester United is “insulting”, though the executive vice-chairman admits recruitment strategy was dysfunctional in the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Woodward is the subject of ongoing criticism over team performance, transfers and other areas of football strategy. United are 12th in the league, with nine points from eight games under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
Matt Judge, head of corporate development, is involved in the business side of recruitment and Woodward signs off all transfers, but Woodward defended the structure.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Woodward admitted recruitment was not “efficient” when Ferguson stepped down in May 2013, forcing a long-term overhaul.
“We’ve expanded our recruitment department in recent years and we believe this now runs in an efficient and productive way,” Woodward said. “Player recommendations and decisions are worked on by this department and by the first-team manager and his staff, not by senior management.”
Privately the hierarchy accept that Moyes had almost no chance of success because United retained the structure that had worked so productively for Ferguson, his predecessor. There is a further acknowledgment that the prevailing reason for the flatlining of the side and failure to challenge for the title in the six years since Ferguson left is errors in recruitment.
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.
Since Solskjær was appointed permanent manager in late March United have won only five league games. Woodward pointed to 14 victories in 19 matches in all competitions when the Norwegian was caretaker as reason for optimism.
“The middle section of last season, after Ole’s arrival [in mid-December], feels most relevant to what we want to achieve and where we want to be,” he said. “We saw a team playing fast, fluid football, with a clear representation of the style and philosophy the manager wants.”
Woodward denied that financial profit was more important than success to the Glazers, United’s owners. “What’s important is the commercial side is never allowed to take priority over the football side. We are an incredible 141-year footballing institution with all that history, all that legacy, all that tradition and that tradition of success. That can never, ever change. We need to keep that protected.