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Has anything really changed at Manchester United under Ed Woodward and the Glazers?

Manchester United
Manchester United
ANALYST
Modified 19 Sep 2020, 16:12 IST
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Almost two years on from making the bold decision of appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to replace Jose Mourinho, Manchester United look set to fall back into the same vicious cycle they have been in for the last seven years.

The Red Devils have been frustratingly lethargic in the summer transfer window - Donny van de Beek being the only acquisition from Ajax - with just over two weeks to go before deadline day.

Under Solskaer, Manchester United have made some shrewd signings, with players like Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bruno Fernandes helping fire the club into third place last season and qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

Van de Beek is also a great player who has been signed for just €40 million. The Dutchman is a tenacious, technical midfielder who will add plenty of bite, creativity and depth to Solskjaer's midfield.

When viewed in isolation, Manchester United's transfer window doesn't look so bad. But their rivals have been far more astute in the market, and Manchester United are at risk of falling behind.

A busy transfer window for Manchester United's rivals

Thiago Alcantara could help elevate Liverpool to another level.
Thiago Alcantara could help elevate Liverpool to another level.

Liverpool are already the best team in England, and it's hard to see how they could be further improved. And yet, Michael Edwards has managed to secure a deal for arguably the best deep-lying playmaker in the world who is coming of a remarkable treble-winning season with Bayern Munich.

The thought of Alcantara pinging through balls for Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will be a sight to behold. Creativity and guile from deep was the one thing Jurgen Klopp was missing.

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Manchester City have strengthened their leaky defence with the signing of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth while in Ferran Torres they have a promising and versatile Spanish forward who can fill the shoes of Leroy Sane in the years to come. The Sheikh Mansour-backed club have given themselves a good chance of fighting Liverpool for the league title this season.

Roman Abramovich has gone on a spending spree for Chelsea this summer after the club's transfer ban ended. In Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr and Thiago Silva, he has provided Frank Lampard with more than enough reinforcements to comfortably secure a top-4 finish. It also wouldn't be unthinkable for the Blues to make a surprise title bid as the dark horses.

Jose Mourinho faces a difficult task to rebuild Tottenham Hotspur, but Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg and Sergio Reguilon will provide him with invaluable cover in some problem positions while cult hero Gareth Bale will hope to regain his lost touch back in the Premier League.

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Arsenal have considerably strengthened their shaky defence with the signings of Gabriel and Cedric Soares while William Saliba will also be at the Emirates after the end of his loan deal at Saint-Etienne.

Signing Willian on a free transfer might prove to be a great deal as well as the Brazilian notched two assists in his Premier League debut for the Gunners. Mikel Arteta is building something special at Arsenal.

Manchester United's transfer inactivity could prove expensive

Bruno Fernandes has shown the impact a new signing can have.
Bruno Fernandes has shown the impact a new signing can have.

To put it bluntly, Manchester United are being left behind. No other top-6 manager can possibly have anything to complain about going into the new season, but Solskjaer has been left out to dry by the Glazers.

The Norwegian, who was one of the heroes of Manchester United's treble-winning season in 1998-99, showed real promise in his first full season as a manager at the highest level, showcasing his penchant for tactics and man-management.

Solskjaer has had to deal with injuries to key players like Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial and faced the daunting prospect of starting Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira week in week out in the first half of the season.

However, the signing of Bruno Fernandes and the emergence of Mason Greenwood helped considerably post-January as Solskjaer led Manchester United to three semi-finals and Champions League qualification.

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The Manchester United squad is starting to show real promise. Solskjaer has brought the best out of Martial and Rashford, the club's academy continues to produce promising young footballers, and the Norwegian also seems to have a clear vision of the kind of players he wants to recruit.

With the proper financial backing, Solskjaer could truly take Manchester United's current crop to new heights. Sadly, that backing doesn't seem to be forthcoming.

Manchester United have exhibited incompetence at the highest levels

Ed Woodward
Ed Woodward's incompetence has been exposed yet again.

Football clubs cannot be run as a business. The goal of a club is to win trophies and not to generate a profit for its owners. So when the owners incessantly suck money out of a club, things rarely end well.

The Glazers have repeatedly made it clear that their goal is not to win trophies but to sustain Manchester United in the Champions League - a competition that brings considerable revenue to its participants - which means more payment in the form of dividends in the Americans' pockets.

Any further success would have to involve more investment in the first-team squad and the unthinkable prospect of the Glazers having to settle for smaller payouts.

In Ed Woodward, the Glazers have the perfect patsy in their complete control. The former investment banker can hardly be trusted to have proper judgement in footballing matters, and yet he finds himself in charge of the biggest football club in the world.

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What Woodward does know is how to make money, and to his credit, he has sucked every penny of profit out of the club as is humanly possible for his bosses across the Atlantic in the current situation.

Hence, the vicious cycle. Manchester United hire a new manager, back him in the market for one season so that the club secures Champions League qualification and withhold funds in his next season (funds that no doubt go straight to the Glazers' coffers). As a result, the club finishes outside the top four, the manager is ousted, a new manager is hired, and the cycle repeats all over again.

The media likes to characterise Manchester United fans as spoilt brats who want the club to spend hundreds of millions of pounds in new signings every year when the reality is much different. Fans only want sensible signings and not expensive ones. Jadon Sancho generates so much excitement on social media not because he could break Manchester United's transfer record but because he is exactly the kind of player to elevate the club to another level on the pitch.

Van de Beek rightly generated similar hype, as did Reguilon, Thiago Alcantara and every other target that Woodward decided not to pursue this summer. These are players who could have solved key problem areas in the squad and created the kind of impact that could have turned Manchester United into title challengers once more.

Sancho's signing is starting to look more and more unlikely with every passing day as Solskjaer prepares to work with an attack with laughable squad depth for yet another season.

Alex Telles has reportedly agreed personal terms. The Brazilian left-back has generated astounding numbers in Portugal over the last three years and could cost Manchester United just €20 million - an absolute no-brainer. But Woodward's haggling to save those extra pennies for the Glazers could well ruin any hope of a deal before deadline day.

Without any further signings, it would truly take a miracle from Solskjaer and his coaching staff for Manchester United to finish in the top four this season. More accomplished coaches in Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho failed in his shoes, and failure for Solskjaer could effectively end his managerial career at this level. But that doesn't matter to the Glazers as long as their cash keeps flowing.

Published 19 Sep 2020, 16:12 IST
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