Last summer was the first in charge of transfer business for Ed Woodward, Manchester United's CEO. With Sir Alex Ferguson gone, the Glazer family wanted to change the way the club did business. Rather than one person in charge of everything, the new Manchester United put a limit on the manager's power: new boss David Moyes had significant input on transfers, but it was Woodward who actually made the deals. This worked out disastrously, with United failing to pull in most of their top targets and overpaying for Marouane Fellaini.
The winter saw United sign a world class player in Juan Mata, but not one at a serious position of need. Mata's signing marginalized budding star Adnan Januzaj, moved Wayne Rooney out of position and ensured that United would never recoup what they spent on Shinji Kagawa, either through his on-pitch contributions or a sale. Issues in midfield and defense remained unsolved.
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Growing pains were inevitable for Woodward in his new role, but he deserved time to work through them and figure out how the transfer market works. He’s a successful businessman, after all, and should have picked up something while working at the same club as Ferguson and former CEO David Gill for many years. But that hasn't been the case, and he appears to be making the same mistakes that he made last summer. The Premier League season has started, Manchester United's squad isn't good enough and a new manager has been put into a bad spot.
Saturday's loss to Swansea can't really be blamed on anyone in particular, but it probably falls more on Woodward than Louis van Gaal or any of the players. Luke Shaw has been brought in, but two left backs have left. Ander Herrera was a good purchase, but United have needed a couple of new central midfielders for a long time. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are gone, but no defenders have been bought to replace them. United's squad is thin, mostly because Woodward has been extremely slow to execute his transfer strategy.
Fans are beyond fed up with how badly United have screwed up the last three transfer windows. Here's a small selection of reactions.
No Vermaelen, No Hummels, No Benatia. Could this transfer window BE any worse? With Woodward and Glazers leading the ship, no doubt about it— Juan Sebastián Melo (@Jusemeca) August 17, 2014
What does ed Woodward actually get paid to do? Kroos, hummels, Di Maria, Reus, Vidal, Blind & Vermaelen-that's just his failures this summer— josh black (@J0shBlack) August 15, 2014
Cuadrado is also going to Barca after Vermaelen. Vidal is still unconfirmed & every week a new player emerges. Ed Woodward, what're u doing?— Ankur Sinha (@sinhankur) August 15, 2014
You get the gist. United came into this window needing a couple left backs, a couple defenders and a couple midfielders. Six players, to replace the three that were out the door no matter what and three or four more that were deemed surplus to requirements. Instead, two have been purchased and only one outside of Ferdinand, Vidic and Patrice Evra — Alexander Buttner — has been sold. There are less than two weeks remaining in the transfer window.
This is all leading to United paying upwards of £15m for Marcos Rojo, a center back/left back tweener who isn't anywhere approaching world class at the moment, and another £20m for Blind, a useful utility man who will not be the team's best player at any position. They don't appear to be any closer to locking up rumoured long-term targets Angel Di Maria or Arturo Vidal, both of whom would cost them upwards of £50m this late in the transfer window. They're going to spend upwards of £100m net in this window, if not more, while spending lots of that money on players who are not as good as their counterparts at Chelsea and Manchester City, and who are arriving so late that they won't be blended into United's first team until well into October.
Teams with the global name recognition of Manchester United and nine figures to spend in one transfer window shouldn't have any problem improving their team significantly in one summer and doing it in time for new signings to be ready to start the season. Instead, United are spending that much money on becoming a borderline top-four team that's going to look lost trying to learn their new manager's system for another month-plus. Ultimately, this is on Woodward.