No defence for Woodward this time

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iol spt aug20 Woodward Getty Images Pressure is mounting on Manchester Uniteds Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward as the latest transfer window nears closing. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Marcos Rojo is on his way to Manchester United, we are told. He needs to be. Not just for Louis van Gaal, as the deficiencies in his squad bite.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward must also start landing the big ones if he is to remain in his elevated role at Old Trafford. The buck won’t stop with the manager this time, if United fall short.

After Woodward’s dramatic intervention last season, United cannot continue sacking highly paid coaches to cure dysfunction. Sooner or later, they have to address a wider issue: the capability of the man charged with making the signings.

Woodward got away with it under David Moyes. He failed to deliver in his new role every bit as much as the manager, but had huge credit with the Glazers from his previous work at the club. It was easier to remove Moyes and keep the executive who had almost doubled United’s commercial revenue. Van Gaal’s track record, however, makes him an unlikely fall guy. There was no prior evidence that Moyes was a title-winning manager, but that is not true of Van Gaal.

History suggests that given the tools, he succeeds. This time the blame rebounds on his floundering facilitator.

The Glazers will not wish to lose the services of the admired Woodward — but they may prefer him to return to his area of expertise. Last summer was a bust, the winter bought Juan Mata at vast expense and now United are running out of time again as the window closes. There has been no transfer activity since June and, even allowing for injuries, United’s weakened state is troubling. It was never going to be easy to replace Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, but at least the club had lead time. It has been known for eight months that Vidic was leaving and Ferdinand’s performances increasingly represented the end of an era. There should have been planning. Rojo, and Daley Blind of Ajax, should have already been in the team come Saturday’s match with Swansea City.

The pursuit of Angel di Maria would appear to be a recent, opportunistic request by Van Gaal. After an outstanding season with Real Madrid, few would have thought he would be available this summer. It makes sense to take advantage of Madrid’s overcrowded roster. Yet replacing Vidic and Ferdinand? That should have been done long ago. Shorn of European competition this season, Manchester United have been reduced to paying outlandish sums and can ill-afford another season out of the Champions League.

Yet they are already playing catch-up on their rivals.

The worry, if the defence cannot be overhauled successfully at this late stage, is that they end up with what is available, rather than what they need. Woodward has to get his business done, and quickly.

If not, the consequences for the club, and their executive vice-chairman, are potentially status-changing. – Daily Mail


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