Man Utd: Ed Woodward is ‘part of the problem’ says pundit
Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-owner Joel Glazer received the Vince Lombardi Trophy on stage as confetti rained down inside the Raymond James Stadium but rather than thanking coach Bruce Arians or anyone else – the 53-year-old thanked one man and one man only (well, after a tribute to the healthcare workers inside the stadium that is).
“My father had an expression, if you want to know the road ahead, ask the person that’s been there,” Glazer, who also oversaw the Bucs’ 2003 Super Bowl triumph, said.
“We found that person. Ten Super Bowl appearances, seven victories… Tom Brady.”
The Tampa Bay quarterback is the most successful player in NFL history and before the 2020 season, the Buccaneers had not even been to the playoffs in 13 years. In he came from New England Patriots and in his first season, the Bucs are the kings of the NFL once more.
Glazer’s praise for the 43-year-old, now a seven-time Super Bowl winner and five-time Super Bowl MVP, was thoroughly warranted. But it did also raise some questions about the Glazers’ running of Manchester United.
The Americans acquired United for around £790million across a two-year period and completed a rather hostile takeover in 2005. Over 15 years on, there remains a strong dislike for the club’s owners within the city of Manchester. So much so, many were supporting the Kansas City Chiefs against the Glazer-owned Bucs on Sunday night.
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The ‘Glazers Out’ hashtag trending on Twitter remains a regular enough occurrence and under the much-maligned Glazer family, United’s debts have soared to over £1billion. Their running of the club has been widely questioned off the pitch in particular.
On the pitch, United have not won either of the game’s two biggest trophies – the Premier League or the Champions League – since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. That’s despite spending in excess of £1bn on transfers.
They haven’t even come close. They are yet to even really put together a genuine title challenge since the legendary Scottish coach called it a day and the prospects of delivering title No 21 this May already appear extinguished.
Neighbours Manchester City have won all of their last 14 matches across all competitions with United one of the last teams to deny them victory in mid-December in a goalless top-flight draw.
A 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, where United could only muster a 0-0 draw, means City are five points clear of second-placed United with a game in hand.
Unbeaten in 14 league games since losing to Tottenham on November 21, Pep Guardiola’s City appear unstoppable. They didn’t even have Kevin De Bruyne or Sergio Aguero in their match-day squad at the weekend as they clinched their first win at Liverpool’s home stadium since 2003, and in some style too.
United, instead, look likely to settle for finishing as runners up to City but that would be an improvement. With that would come a return to the Champions League next season and they will bid for silverware in the Europa League and the FA Cup in the final months of the campaign.
But as the Red Devils most desperately look to end their title drought, Glazer’s words are poignant. In manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward they have the opposite of Brady.
Solskjaer has done it as a player, of course, and has made positive progress as United boss considering they finished 33 points off of champions Liverpool last season.
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But his managerial CV is questionable and with the Norwegian at the helm United have lost four cup semi-finals and continue to regularly slip up and lose momentum, as they did with a defeat to Sheffield United last week.
Though they thrashed Southampton 9-0, taking ruthless advantage of an early Saints red card, they have only managed draws against Arsenal and Everton either side of that record-equalling victory.
The overwhelming opinion towards Solskjaer from the United fanbase however is positive and the feeling is that he should remain in charge. Many think that if the former striker is backed sufficiently, he can deliver what they crave.
Instead, much of the flak from the fans is aimed at the Glazers themselves and at United chief Woodward, although it has been suggested he has stepped down his role somewhat as chief negotiator, with Matt Judge the main man in terms of sealing signings.
Still, the 49-year-old has received regular criticism in his role overseeing United’s transfer recruitment, which he has held since David Gill retired along with Ferguson eight years ago.
There have long been question marks over whether with Woodward in his role, United can be champions of England again. United have been searching for a sporting director for several years, though the appointment of one doesn’t seem likely any time soon.
Clearly, the Glazers back Woodward – the former investment banker advised Malcom Glazer when he bought United in 2005 and has worked at the club ever since – and Woodward has repeatedly made it clear he is fully supportive of Solskjaer.
Woodward has been a key decision-maker behind the scenes for some time and it looks as though he’s going nowhere for the foreseeable future, even if a sporting director is appointed.
If he isn’t, nor will Solskjaer, provided performances and results on the pitch do not take a drastic downturn. He was supported after United dropped out of the Champions League in December and given the rough patches Solskjaer has come through, he is safe for a while yet.
But Glazer’s comments about Brady show that the United owners know they need greater winning experience. They have recruited some on the pitch in veteran striker Edinson Cavani, who has had a brilliant impact since his free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain.
United boss Solskjaer recently admitted: “We’ve got the example of Edinson [Cavani] coming into our place and how much one player can influence a team. Tom Brady is an example for every single sportsman out there. It’s still possible – even at the age of 42 or 43, whatever he is now.”
Off of it, it’s far from clear whether there is enough experience and know-how – regardless of the steady progress that United have been making – within the hierarchy for United to return to the summit of the table.
With City back to their best again and in the knowledge Liverpool will be desperate to bounce back next year once they get key players back fit, United’s margin for error is small.
In Tampa Bay, the Glazers shook things up and backed Brady to deliver. He did. United have already seen the benefit of adding experience with Cavani, but perhaps it might be time to bring in someone who knows what it takes to deliver success, starting in the boardroom.
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