Manchester United do not have their pick of the players in the transfer market anymore and that will continue to be the case so long as Ed Woodward continues to oversee their business.
That is the view of former United and England right-back Paul Parker, who is already dreading the January window as Woodward looks set to conduct matters once again after rumours a new Technical Director would be appointed to help the executive vice-chairman have failed to materialise.
Paddy Power have identified former United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar as the 2/1 favourite to be the club’s next Technical Director, should they appoint one, with RB Leipzig head of recruitment Paul Mitchell (5/1) also mooted as a potential candidate.
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|Edwin Van der Sar||2/1|
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Given the lack of arrivals compared to departures in the summer, January is a hugely important transfer window for United, but faith in Woodward’s ability to identify and sign the right players is at an all-time low among the fanbase.
The club’s owners, the much-maligned Glaziers, appear to be content with Woodward’s performance, but fans – more concerned about on-field results than the company’s balance sheet – have been calling for change.
Former full-back Parker feels their frustration, suggesting the commercially-savvy Woodward is clueless when it comes to closing out a deal that is in the best interests of the team.
“Every professional club has got an Ed Woodward, without a shadow of a doubt,” he told Bookmakers.co.uk. “You need somebody who is experienced and clever at marketing and accounting – all the sort of stuff you can’t expect a team manager to do to a maximum standard.
“But what’s different about other clubs from United is that most of them don’t have their executive vice-chairman – their Woodward figure – getting involved in the buying and selling of players.
“Executives picking and choosing who the club buys is not what they’re good at. The biggest strength in football is knowing what you’re good at, and knowing what you’re not good at.
“Ed Woodward knows his accounting and his marketing, but the one thing he doesn’t know is football, yet he can’t accept or admit that. I get the feeling he loves speaking to all these big names in football, he thrives on it, but it’s doing the club no good on the football field.”
Woodward’s Expensive Errors
With expensive mistakes such as Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez and arguably Paul Pogba, Parker believes United have been overlooking the simplest attribute when identifying their transfer targets.
“The one thing Woodward seems to forget when choosing a player is perhaps the most important trait – a player’s personality,” he added.
“Before you spend big money on a player, you have to know them inside out. Not how good a player he is or can be, not how many shirts he’ll sell. What are they like as a person? Will they be able to fit into the Manchester United dressing room?
“That’s been the club’s biggest problem, getting in the players with the right mentality to succeed at Manchester United. These past seven or so years under Woodward’s tenure have been a nightmare, if I’m honest. He hasn’t got much right.”
According to a Financial Times report, Manchester United PLC projected that revenues would be £560m-£580m this season, which would be the club’s first fall in income for over a decade.
Parker, who played a role in the club’s commercial rise by winning two Premier League titles in a five-year spell in the 1990s, is fearful the club could lose its global appeal if they continue to punch below their weight.
“United’s fortunes all depend on what is happening upstairs,” he said. “It’s no longer a case of what’s happening downstairs with management and the players.
“Sales is sales and marketing is marketing. But if what you’re trying to market isn’t very good, then people won’t throw money at it. I think that’s what’s happening at United right now, and they have to be very careful about how they proceed because the Asian market – where United have a lot of fans – are not the most loyal and will switch allegiance to a better team at the flick of a switch.
“If it gets to that point, then the club will find it very hard to retain this enormous global fanbase they’ve amassed throughout the Alex Ferguson years.”
Man Utd’s Top Four Hopes
Meanwhile, on the field, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are through to the knock-out stages of the Europa League and have moved up to seventh in the Premier League table after back-to-back wins, making a grim start to the season appear a little merrier.
Their top-four odds have only improved ever so slightly – from 5/1 to 9/2 – and Parker accepts it’s a tall order unless they can finally get a transfer window absolutely spot on.
He said: “For United to finish in the top four this season, they’d have to do some serious spending in January and then hope that each of those signings just so happens to hit the ground running and delivers week-in-week-out.
“I don’t know who those players might be – it’s not my job to find out who is the right fit – but what I do know is that they need a central midfielder and a centre-forward.
“Players with energy, a football brain and improvisation – but only if they have the mental capacity to play for Manchester United.
“If they end up with another Alexis Sanchez on their hands, then they can forget about it.”