Wednesday 26 June 2019

Kevin Palmer: 'Change is not in the air at Manchester United and that should worry Ole Gunnar Solskjaer'

Ed Woodward
Ed Woodward
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

After months of speculation, numerous links with high profile candidates and suggestions that change of structure was imminent at Manchester United, Ed Woodward is now overseeing his 13th transfer window as the club's decision-maker-in-chief.

The latest vibes emerging from Old Trafford's hierarchy appear to confirm that Woodward will continue in his role as the club's chief transfer negotiator, despite his long-established lamentable track record of expensive mistakes in the transfer market.

A glance at the players bestowed United's fabled No.7 jersey during Woodward's reign as the figurehead of the club's sporting operations sums up his failings, with Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay and Alexis Sanchez three symbols of United's false promise since their last Premier League title triumph in 2013.

In total, Di Maria, Depay and Sanchez have contributed a mere eight Premier League goals collectively to the United cause, with the investment of well of £100m in the trio highlighting the scale of their failure and while Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have taken a fall for the failings of Woodward's signings, a theme has developed before, during and after their exit as the club's manager.

Di Maria, Depay and Sanchez represent only a fraction of the transfer calamity Woodward has overseen, yet suggestions that the former accountant and investment banker may be shifted into a role that would allow him to build on his prowess of recruiting sponsors to the club's already crowded array of business partners appear to have been set aside for now.

Even though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United's latest manager trying to work with Woodward, has expressed an eagerness to endorse a transfer guru boasting credible experience in football, United sources made it clear on Wednesday that no changes to their structure are imminent and again hinted any newcomer into the club's set-up would not be given a hands-on role in transfer planning.

While RB Leipzig Sporting Director Paul Mitchell and former United players Edwin van der Sar, Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand have all been linked with a potential role that was viewed by many as pivotal to changing the club's fortunes, it appears the position being conceived by United will not see Woodward step aside from his current duties after all.

Acting as a buffer between Solskjaer and the board, United's version of the Sporting Director position appears to be little more than an addition to the discussion forum around footballing matters at the club, with Woodward still appearing to be the key figure running operations for the club's American owners.

Confirmation that youthful Wales winger Daniel James has signed from Swansea signalled the start of another summer of spending for United, with the futures of Sanchez, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku among the numerous issues Solskjaer and Woodward will work through in tandem ahead of the club's opening Premier League game in early August.

Yet this is not the scenario United fans were expecting after a disastrous season that saw Mourinho sacked and the club finish a disappointing sixth in the Premier League.

The story of failure - coming as it did in tandem with success for local rivals Manchester City and Liverpool - appeared to be a catalyst for change, with United legend Gary Neville most vocal in demanding that shift in focus at the club.

"Ed Woodward has had seven years now at this, so I think he's had his chance personally at running the football side of the club," Neville told Sky Sports last month.

"That two-person structure has not worked for the last three or four years, it's now a situation whereby they've got to bring a different structure in. They need to bring in the best in class.

"Over the last five years, the club has ricocheted and bounced like a pinball from one manager to another with different philosophies. They've been pulled around and played in the transfer market time and time again.

"If you've not delivered success on the pitch for five, six, seven years - there comes a point where you say, 'Hang on a second, it can't just keep being the coach.'

"It's got to be people above that step aside and move into a different role. It has to deliver performance and results and it's not. There is a cultural problem at the football club. It's deep. The decisions are bad, the choices are poor.

"Who's signing the players this summer? Every other football club in the country I can tell you who's in charge of signings, I haven't got a clue at Manchester United."

They were sentiments that resonated with the vast majority of United supporters and may well be echoed by Neville's close friend Solskjaer, who now finds himself cast as the latest fall-guy in waiting as Woodward prepares for another summer of big spending masterminded by executive vice-chairman who boasts a record of failure matches only by the team he has been tampering with for far too long.

After a disastrous end to last season, Solskjaer will be the man under pressure to turn around the fortunes of a club that has got used to seeing their biggest rivals winning the biggest prizes in football over the last seven years.

Only United's owners can explain why Woodward's prominent role in United's demise continues to be overlooked.

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