The easier question to answer would be what is right with Manchester United. Manchester United is in dire straits. There are more desperate times ahead for one of the biggest club in world, with results in a tail-spin and no long-term planning in place off the field. Questions are being asked about all aspects of the club, from the players to the coach to the boardroom, but cleaning up Manchester United is going to be no easy fix. When Sir Alex Ferguson was there, there was no need for a long-term strategy. Ferguson was the long-term strategy. He delegated some responsibilities, but he had good instincts about what would be best for the club. Whether it was recruitment, a style of play, Ferguson usually got it right, certainly in the last two-thirds of his reign.
Poor decisions have been made from the club and that starts with the owners in persisting with Woodward in such a key decision making role. Simply put, too many managers have been allowed in too many windows to recruit too many of their own players. This point ties into the one about long-term strategy. Clubs have got to be in charge of signing players, not coaches. And if the coach doesn’t like the players the club signs, then he’s the wrong coach. Manchester United have spent roughly £900million on transfers since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Since then they have failed to launch a serious title challenge and have finished in the top four just twice since 2013.
Our own legend Gary Neville said on his podcast: “I can’t change the ownership of United, no one can. I’m struggling to understand why the ownership have persisted in trusting the management team to oversee the building of a Premier League title winning team since Sir Alex left. I saw a statistic two weeks ago that United have the second-highest wage bill in the world. And that’s the squad they’ve got. It’s unforgivable. It really is. I can’t believe the investment that’s been put into the squad in the last five, six, seven years and you end up with that out on the pitch. If you don’t lose your job for essentially overseeing that investment, that wage bill and putting that team out on the pitch then I have to say something is really wrong. There’s real talent in that executive team but in terms of what the club needed to do for a number of years now is put the best in class football operators into that club and they’re not doing it. They’re not doing it and it’s a mess.
This mustn’t ever be forgotten. Whether the ball strikes De Gea’s leg and goes into the goal – or whether Pogba could try harder – are very, very small issues when the overall health of Manchester United is considered. The responsibility for this mess begins and ends with the Glazer ownership. But do they care? Probably not. The six children of Malcolm Glazer, who completed the takeover of the club in 2005, continue to reap fat dividends along with other major investors. A total of over £1bn has been taken out of Manchester United to pay those dividends, fees, costs and interest since that day the club was delisted in 2005. Money that could otherwise have been spent on strengthening the football operation has instead ended up in Florida.