Showing posts with label Ed Woodward. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ed Woodward. Show all posts

Amid last minute deals United face rejuvenated Spurs

Tough negotiator Daniel Levy had convinced Jose Mourinho to agree deals for Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Matt Doherty and Joe Hart only under the economic circumstances, but later moved to sign duo from Real Madrid in ex-favourite Gareth Bale and left back Sergio Reguilon followed by a loan move for forward Carlos Vinicius while still being in the hunt for a centre-back like Milan Skriniar. This flurry of activities has been done as English Premier League rivals indulged in a spending spree. That rivals does not include Manchester United! Spurs will play their 4th match inside 10 days when they meet United at Old Trafford having cleared the 3rd round and qualified for Europa League, unlucky to not win against Newcastle due to handball rule and beat Chelsea on penalties in League Cup. Form and momentum is with the lilywhites from North London managed by ex-United manager seeking his first win at Old Trafford as Tottenham coach having won the home game last year but lost the away match due to two inspired Marcus Rashford goals.

In contrast United lost their opening home game to Crystal Palace and in the next match away at Brighton, to borrow Don Davies' words, 'were suffering the fortunes of a chicken having its neck wrung by someone with a mighty strong grasp, but who couldn't quite finish the job'. To be fair without pre-season United players performance has gradually increased. Will Solskjaer change the formation by starting with two CDM's or a diamond against master tactician Mourinho? Still without a natural right winger but now has this luxury of adapting formations thanks to the shrewd purchase of Donny van de Beek. Conceded 5 goals in two games and being hit 5 times on their woodwork reveals a porous shield in midfield that is making defense to leak goals needing urgent attention. Anthony Martial will be repeatedly watching the Harry Kane masterclass of holding up the ball, creating and scoring against Southampton. Son is doubtful and Bale is not yet match fit.

Solskjaer did a stellar job of defending the clubs transfer activity by stating he needs to get more out of the squad by giving chance to greater number of players in the first team. Did not confront the owners like Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho. Pressure of playing in the Champions' League will be far greater than far flung exploits to lesser known clubs in Europa League hence the need to add quality depth to the squad. Final weekend before the extended summer transfer window closes has seen United do a panic buy for Edinson Cavani on a free transfer since leaving Paris St Germain in July where he was their all time leading goal scorer. Deal supposedly includes just less than 10 million in agents fee and 10 million annual salary. Fans would think the club could have used this to complete the deals for their primary targets in Jadon Sancho and Alex Telles which they are haggling to come to terms for a long time! 

United bet their entire transfer window success on Jadon Sancho and let it be known to everyone by agreeing personal terms with the player and his agents, and for most part had no alternatives. Selling club set a price that United haven't matched due to the economic implications of the pandemic decreasing the likelihood of reaching the deal unless of course they budge on their stance and pay up. This makes mockery of United. In the last month they have spoken to Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona but pause a while to what the Frenchman might be thinking if he is signed - that he was second choice all along. To complicate matters United seem to have agreed to buy Uruguay's 18 year old winger from Penerol in Facundo Pellistri an exciting and inspired choice, coached by former striker Diego Forlan. In couple of years time he has the chance of becoming the next Ryan Giggs although he reminds more of Michael Platini. This also raises questions of Daniel James' future.

Daniel Levy for years having run the club on tightest of budgets, changed the recruitment structure after selling Dimitar Berbatov to United, converting Tottenham into a top four contenders from mid table club and building a new stadium the envy of everyone in Europe, can do a better job than Ed Woodward who can just concentrate on his specialty of doing commercial deals. Glazers have the right to make every penny count. This change will demonstrate their long term interest in the club and seek an definite upgrade on their current chief executive. Or Ed Woodward hires a competent Director of Football finally. If United fail to get either Sancho or Dembele will they sign Declan Rice or Dayot Upamecano or Harry Kane for Solskjaer finishing 3rd and not just in top four to show the largesse that Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy have at Tottenham? Probably not cause the clubs will not have time to bring in an alternative to fill the gap and that's the major downside of doing deals late, in United case not just one but majority of their deals are pending for final days of this window. Doing transfers in Q2 and not Q1 seem less consequential than last year vs this year for accounting principles. 

Matches between #MUNTOT have been thrilling down the years with United scoring more points against them than any other team in Premier League. Players regaining match fitness and a point to prove especially Anthony Martial will make it another one to remember for sure before the break for International matches. 5th October will be a frenzied day in Manchester as deals get sorted, will they satisfy Solskjaer is not certain. The famous #7 jersey meanwhile remains vacant...

Balance crucial to squad rebuild

Solskjaer finished not just inside top four positions in the English Premier League but third overcoming Chelsea, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. That in itself is quite a remarkable achievement considering the surprise losses suffered to Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, Bournemouth, Watford, Burnley apart from regular concessions to West Ham, Arsenal and Liverpool especially since the inspirational transfer of Bruno Fernandes in late January as they have dropped just 8 points of possible 42 and remained unbeaten! A tale of two halves. All credit must go to the coaching staff who meticulously planned to keep the players engaged through out the suspension, the medical staff who ensured all players were fit for the season finale, the manager who finally found his starting XI by giving everyone a fair chance and MUFC board who backed the manager by spending huge on Bruno Fernandes mid-season.
In this tough economic climate the qualification for Champions' League gives the club a safety net of earnings much higher than otherwise. Though not in the same breadth as gaining promotion just before second world war to ensure funds in global economic recession, suspension of league for seven seasons and bombing of Old Trafford. Future is yet uncertain but the world is perhaps at its most precarious since September, 1939.

Challenge will be to add not only 2-3 first team players at right wing, centre-half and midfield but also replace the deadwood of Chris Smalling(36 starts on loan), Alexis Sanchez(15 starts on loan), Jesse Lingard(18), Phil Jones(6), Marcus Rojo(7) and resolve the future of Juan Mata(19), Andreas Pereira(22), Diogo Dalot(7). That's eight fringe players with 51 and 79 first team starts at loan and for United respectively out of 58 competitive matches played so far this season. From previous financial calls its believed United have 135 million euro's available after deducting Bruno Fernandes outlay. If Jadon Sancho is prioritized then it leaves room for perhaps only one or two more signing, there in lies the question of balance.

On losing to West Ham in Sep 2018, Jose Mourinho's in his last season called into question the role of United scouts who had failed to identify and sign a centre-half all summer. Not just first choice like Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Jerome Boateng, Diogo Godin but none of the upcoming players like Issa Diop who played brilliantly for hammers that day. Now the same scouting team has a chance to redeem in getting left sided centre-half Gabriel dos Santos Magalhaes preferably or Pau Torres of Villareal, and left back Fode Ballo-Toure of Monaco to Old Trafford. This will fit the budget constraints if United move for Jadon Sancho who theoretically can move at much lower price next year as he is in final two years of his contract with Borussia Dotmund. Unless Dotmund do not budge from their high asking price of 110 million euro and negotiations conclude by 10th August as requested by BVB the deal could be at risk. Apparently there is no interest from any other clubs for Sancho so its up to United to conclude. Crucial for United to reduce the initial fee to 60-70 million with add-on's to balance the funds for entire transfer window across multiple targets. Deal on 7th August for 20 year old to wear the famous number 7 jersey!
Aston Villa have reportedly increased their asking price for skipper Jack Grealish from #50 to #80 million after avoiding relegation, hence Donny van de Beek of Ajax at about #40 million becomes more viable. If Paul Pogba stays Grealish or Donny van de Beek interest can be put on hold and contract talks need to start immediately with the Frenchman to avoid risk of letting him go for free next season, but if he chooses to leave then already crammed window with Europa League fixtures becomes even more hectic. After Micheal Carrick swooped all awards at the famous West Ham academy at the start of this century and eventually replaced Roy Keane to the number 16 jersey via Tottenham, its time to hunt for Nemanja Matic's long term successor in another east London prodigy in Declan Rice who has matched Carrick's fete. Chelsea remain favourites to resign their ex-academy graduate but as a centre-half where as at United he is viewed as a central defensive midfield which might sway the decision. For James Garner at 19 to fill this crucial role will take 3-4 years for him to develop. United might not be able to sign all three Sancho, Rice and Grealish during this transfer window.

One player who has no issue is keeper Dean Henderson the Sheffield United young player of the year at maximum age of 23 for the award. With Euro 2021 in view, Solskjaer can help him play regularly for one more season at Bramall Lane thus enabling him to make the England squad given that there are questions on current number one Jordan Pickford. From United point of view David de Gea gets a boost of confidence and final chance in his 10th season to resurrect his legendary status. Sergio Romero now enters his final year of contract at the end of which Henderson can be eased into United.

Setting free transfers for Phil Jones to any club and Marcus Rojo to non-EPL clubs will free up their wages from United player salaries as they have proved most difficult to sell. United must not fall for bait of AS Roma asking for another loan but only agree to sell Smalling outright. Sanchez having played well in last few games for Inter must be pushed through with no obligation to pay any part of his huge wages though this will limit the amount of transfer fee. A change of scene for Lingard will be more beneficial to regain his form that has dipped since the semi-finals with England at the 2018 World Cup. United conservatively should expect to make 60 million euros for these sales and also a percentage from Memphis Depay and Wilfred Zaha sale.

Juan Mata's off-field charity work through Common Goal shades his on-field effort but his technique and professionalism is something junior members of the squad can learn from. United players contractually obligated might have to prefer MU Foundation thus one sees no players having joined Mata's charity that now boasts Megan Rapinoe, Paulo Dybala, Serge Gnabry, Kasper Schmeichel, Jurgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann. Pereira and Dalot might have something to offer and should be looked to offload next year if things do not turn out better.

Refreshingly last year United bought Daniel James from Championship and contributed immensely in the early stages of the campaign including a goal on debut versus Chelsea. This approach must not be abandoned. Promotion of Leeds United rules out any chance of signing Kalvin Phillips. Other interesting prospects remain in Matheus Pereira CAM from West Brom, Eberechi Eze CAM from QPR, Jed Wallace RW from Milwall, Joe Rodon CH from Swansea, Joe Bryan and Rico Henry both LB from Fulham and Brentford, Matthew Cash RB from Nottingham.

Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams had a successful breakthrough this season from the academy. Next season expecting right back Ethan Laird, defender Tenden Mengi and midfielders Dylan Levitt and Hannibal Mejbri. James Garner and Tahith Chong are expected to go on a season long loan. Injury to centre-half Axel Tuanzebe limited his appearances this season. Despite losing Angel Gomes and missing out on Jude Bellingham, United have landed 16 year old keeper from Slovakia Radek Vitek in January and striker Joe Hugill and defender Logan Pye from Sunderland. Awaiting clearance for foreign recruits in Marc Jurado from Barcelona, Alvaro Fernandez Carreras from Real Madrid and Isak Hansen-Aaroen from Tromso. United won three awards at Premier League Academy awards: Marcus Rashford for best Academy Graduate, coach Tony Whelan won the Eammon Dolan award and James Garner for PL2 goal of the season award.

Resolving the issue of deadwood with reasonable returns is crucial to make this transfer window a success. The oft lethargic and slow negotiating team of Matt Judge needs to act fast and not work on just one transfer at a time. Importantly he needs to be given independence to make calls without back and forth with Glazer's operating in different time zones, this is what Ed Woodward as chief executive needs to fix. At corporate level he must ensure dividends are not paid this year as football reels under economic austerity. In last three days of January window United did sign three players Nathan Bishop, Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo. Rivals Chelsea and Man City moving fast to tie-down their players, United can't afford to stand still. With EPL starting on 12th September and Europa League final on 21st August, Solskjaer will need all signings to be completed in August itself irrespective of end of transfer window being 5th October. Signings and exits in total might reach double digits leaving United no time to lose.

Over to Ed and Matt from Solskjaer and fans.

Quest for 'new normal' in football

'Project Restart' is in full swing to bring a conclusion to the 2019-20 premier league season for which the remaining 92 games need to be completed. That is dependent on a lot of factors the major one being by early June the curve of infected people with the corona virus would have been flattened in the UK to free the NHS staff to conduct tests twice a week on all football players, limited staff and media for six weeks totaling some 30,000 tests. Olympic village style of facility where all players of different teams stay but individually in separate rooms and travel only to and from the ground to play is being mooted. Location is still being worked out with the bottom six teams mainly located in the south except Villa which might sway the decision as a crowded city like London is likely to be avoided.

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish made a well balanced case for 'Project Restart' that "sporting integrity" alone demanded the season must be completed and supported UK governments cause to raise morale through football "It has the power to lighten lives; why not see if we can use that power again?" He ended by quoting Spanish La Liga head Javier Tebas "If important economic sectors cannot restart, in a safe and controlled manner, they could end up disappearing. That could happen to professional football." Few clubs like Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham, Brighton have allowed players to return to training although individually this has started the process of restarting and others including United might follow soon.

Will be interesting to see how following scenarios would be negotiated given that football is a contact sport unlike tennis:
  • What if one of the players test positive during this restart? Will a second XI or reserves team play instead or next match be forfeited or points shared.
  • Will players that have come in contact with the infected player on the pitch be quarantined for 14 days?
  • Will spitting due to constant running or exhaustion invite a yellow or red card offense?
  • Goal celebrations might be muted to limit contact, but can't control the crowded goalmouth while taking a corner.
  • Teams battling relegation will miss their fans vocal home support that acts like the 12th man in crucial matches.
  • Without match-day revenues the top six clubs will be most impacted as they will not be able to fill their large stadiums and perhaps this limited setup might even the monetary imbalance temporarily.
  • Liverpool are so far ahead that they might field their B team and still win the league easily.
  • Few players from each team might decide not play putting the competition in jeopardy.
  • Will be difficult to rule out fans congregating outside the empty stadiums especially for crucial fixtures like Everton-Liverpool derby and other relegation six pointers.
All eyes on German Bundesliga which might return this month. Germany has the best corona virus testing mechanism in the world that resulted in lowest mortality rate that's a testament to the leadership of chancellor Angela Merkel. Luckily DFB is also lead by Christian Seifert since 2005 who has overseen impressive growth in revenues for Bundesliga welcomed the government decision to restart "It is associated with a great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organizational requirements in a disciplined manner. Games without stadium spectators are not an ideal solution for anyone. In a crisis threatening the very existence of some clubs, however, it is the only way to ensure the continued existence of the leagues in their current form." Authorities have reported 10 positive cases across top two divisions. Borussia Monchengladbach has developed a new means to earn revenue by asking fans to donate cut-outs to fill the stadium. Bundesliga games will be played as usual with home and away format without the need for a neutral venue but without fans.

Ed Woodward was pragmatic about the future as well as cognizant about the present situation when he said that big money transfers are ignoring the realities that face the sport. This raised questions about Jadon Sancho being lured with iconic number 7 jersey to Manchester United. Sancho was the first player across the big five leagues to have double digit goals and assists this season. New reality might dry up potential suitors for Paul Pogba who has yet to discuss his future which may include a new deal to extend his stay at Old Trafford or use the proceeds from his sale to complete the squad re-build. David de Gea is a year away from completing 10 years and said "I hope I can be here for many more years." which will auger well with fans.

United hierarchy would be busy pre-planning the work usually done at the end of season like deciding on new jersey, refurbishing Old Trafford facilities and relaying the pitch, possible postponement of summer tour which was to Asia this time, tweaking pre-season training and fitness regime, prospective new shirt sponsors as deal with Chevrolet comes to an end in 2021, finalizing new player recruits. Trafford Council gave approval to barrier seating idea mooted by Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) and Fans Forum for initial 1,500 seats while the atmosphere section at Stretford End is being extended to south-west corner.

Extended time off during this lock down would have turned United's attention to the next stars like Ferran Torres for Jadon Sancho, Matheus Pereira for Jack Grealish, Sandro Tonali for James Maddison, Kalvin Phillips for Wilfred Ndidi, Kai Havertz for Danny van de Beek, Odsonne Edourad for Moussa Dembele, Dayot Upamecano for Kalidou Koulibaly while experience criterion might force Luis Alberto for Saul Niguez and Mauro Icardi for Timo Werner. United remain in contention to sign Jude Bellingham from Birmingham and trying their best to retain Angel Gomes who holds record for being the youngest debutant breaking Duncan Edwards record that stood for 64 years in May, 2017.

To show solidarity with the NHS the clubs name in front of Old Trafford was only lit with letters in capitals "maNcHeSter united" demonstrating original thinking supporting the noble cause. Among the many initiatives during this pandemic that earned genuine praise from fans the best one is from former players calling out old and devoted season ticket holders to enquire about their health.

Threat of litigation from bottom clubs who might be relegated is forcing the Premier League to play the remaining matches to determine the final league table. For such an unprecedented event like this pandemic the ideal response would have been to freeze the table as is with no relegation but promotion from Championship, and in the next three years get back to normal 20 teams from 23. This would mean playing 44 games in a league season not 38 putting more pressure on already crowded calendar and necessitate the removal of League Cup introduced by Alan Hardaker the secretary of Football League in 1960 - a competition which lost its relevance long time ago. The inaugural Premier League season in 1992 had 22 teams which was brought down to 20 in 1995. Euro's postponing to next year will make national team games important in the run up to the competition and the governing body UEFA might not like distraction of an overcrowded schedule before the event.

Second wave of the last Pandemic the Spanish flu in 1918 caused the maximum fatalities compared to the first and third wave. Science back then wasn't as advanced as it is now to enable different simultaneous approach's being tried all around the world for a vaccine. Co-ordination on a global scale remains a challenge thus expect a few start, stop and restart's. This remains the most challenging situation facing the world since the second world war, though football in front of human lives fades in comparison its role to restore public morale during and after the last great war amid strict rations in UK and Europe can never be ruled out.

MUFC close in on Fernandes as #SackWoodward gathers pace

The details of Marcus Rashford's injury overshadowed the loss at Anfield and not the expected news about Bruno Fernandes signing. Ian Wright did not absolve Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the blame either and rumours of an internal inquiry at MUFC to look into this issue surfaced. United were outplayed for most of the match as 34 clearances revealed while Andreas and Martial blew two big chances. David De Gea came out like a leader to protest against the foul by Virgil van Dijk as the new Captain Harry Maguire looked on. In form Mata and Greenwood were brought on very late by Solskjaer. Fred and Andreas got into positions where they could shoot for the goal but clearly lacked the skill that Bruno Fernandes can easily provide. The Portuguese is definitely an upgrade on MUFC existing midfield but needs a midfield organizer along side him like Donny van de Beek. This signing could possibly mean the start of Paul Pogba moving out of Old Trafford.
As a big club MUFC can easily negotiate with a smaller club in Sporting and the fact that both clubs had unofficial contact last summer so knew about the internal intricacies involved for more than 6 months yet this deal protracts. No excuses to have this deal not wrapped up by 1st week of January so that MUFC could have benefited by being in the Champions' League positions by now! With Rashford out injured potentially till end of the season can United get one additional player like Moussa Dembele a typical #9 who will cost more than #50million and Olympique Lyon have potentially signed a replacement in Karl Ekambi! Brazilian forward Everton Soares plays on the left of the front three much like Rashford but at the right age of 23 while Jarrod Bowen is of the same age but plays on the right of the front three.

Meanwhile Erling Haaland scored a hat-trick on his debut for Borussia Dotmund in a 5-3 comeback win over FC Augsburg. Cavani is beyond the age to make Eric Cantona type of impact realistically while Krzysztof Piatek is behind Ibrahimovic in the pecking order says everything. One thing is certain that without reinforcements the thread bare squad cannot sustain the challenge neither in the Premier League, Europa League nor FA Cup. As previously mentioned MUFC need to develop relations with the erstwhile G-14 clubs to take players on loan which is the best way to plug this gap while saving big on forced player purchases.

Money has never been an issue with MUFC but rather attaching value to it. If Solskjaer had #150 million to spend which he used it on just three players and could not consequently get a replacement for Lukaku while publicly saying he was satisfied with the summer transfer business does raise questions about squad planning for the whole season.

#SackWoodward got trending after the brave Gary Neville spoke the truth about the state of affairs at Manchester United. "I can’t believe, with the investment that has been put into the squad over the last five or six years and you end up with that out on the pitch. I cannot believe it." Once a Captain always a Captain.
This was followed by another correct analysis by Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol that while Chelsea and Man City owners injected 1 Billion dollars each into their respective clubs the Glazers at MUFC had taken out 1 Billion dollars from the club during the same time. Old Trafford is crying out for modernization.
Jude Bellingham a 16 year old playing in Birmingham City's first team already represents the kind of signings that Real Madrid and Borussia Dotmund regularly do now. 18-month loan deal is a bit too long though for the high transfer fee being placed on him.

MUFC Youth team finally reached the 5th round of FA Youth Cup after their 2-0 win over Norwich and will now face Leeds United. MUFC haven't gone beyond 5th round since 2012!

Its #MUNBUR next in the Premier League without Pogba, McTominay and Rashford. Lindelof was sent off from training due to illness which might lead to Eric Bailly getting into the starting XI. Excellent Mata might start at #10 with Andreas wide on right giving Daniel James much needed rest on the bench. Dalot, Gomes and Chong might get some game time. MUFC have not done the double over Burnley since 1975-76 season. Sean Dyche appreciated Solskjaer for being calm and positive amid all the pressure "It does take time. It’s taken a big transition from Sir Alex (Ferguson) to where it is now and it continues to be that. Ole is doing a good job in staying calm throughout that period." The reverse fixture a 2-0 away win was a resounding mid-week display towards the end of December that won over critics. Repeat performance at Old Trafford will be very difficult with injuries not impossible. Will Anthony Martial lead the forward line, harass the opponent defenders, be injury free and take Greenwood along after that miss at Anfield which he needs to banish as quickly as possible. Burnley have drawn their last three games at the Theatre of Dreams can they go one better?

Woodward steps in after drubbing by City to make a transfer to overshadow match against Liverpool

Ed Woodward intervened to get Manchester United linked with Donny Van de Beek immediately after the drubbing by Man City in the League Cup semi-final first leg. City players were claiming to have slowed down after scoring 3 goals inside 38 minutes to avoid exertion in a midst of a busy schedule and David de Gea made a few superb saves to keep the score down. In the second half MUFC scored via captain Marcus Rashford that started with Angel Gomes' tackle and a through ball by Mason Greenwood - all three Mancunian's involved a special goal indeed. Solskjaer reaction was "From 15 minutes to half-time was the worst we have played this season. We couldn't cope with the setback. Now we have a steep mountain to climb." but prided on winning the second half 1-0.

Reaction from Netherlands about the interest in Donny Van de Beek was muted that made MUFC to rekindle their interest in Bruno Fernandes whom they courted all summer only to reject stating he took too many risks from midfield. Rio Ferdinand's tweet sent MUFC fans into meltdown on Friday.
Sporting's directors concluded the meeting with MUFC and flew back for Saturday's game against Vitoria Setubal. Its claimed the fee is around #60 million plus #10 million in add-ons and if agreed Fernandes can travel next week for the medical and conclude the deal. Sporting play Benfica in crucial League Cup semi-final on 21st January while MUFC travel to play Liverpool on 19th. Credit to Woodward for coming out in defense of Solskjaer ahead of the visit of Liverpool to Old Trafford earlier in the season which ended in a 1-1 draw. This transfer might shadow the outcome of the game against our biggest rivals in England and perhaps act as a cushion to persist with Solskjaer. This is one of those on-off deals that most trusted MUFC journalists can't be sure of until its done.

Start to 2020 has been disastrous with no wins in three matches against Arsenal, Wolves and Man City. Harry Maguire returned to lead the side after missing the derby as MUFC won 4-0 at home to Norwich the bottom side in the Premier League. MUFC thankfully did not repeat losing to bottom team as they did against Watford last month. Rashford scored two goals in his 200th appearance being the 3rd youngest behind George Best and Ryan Giggs to reach that milestone. After being 3-0 ahead the fans chanted slogans against the Glazers and Woodward despite Solskjaer stating earlier that he is forthright in his opinions with them "looking at how we are going to look in one month's time, five months' time, in the longer period" but ended saying "I am happy with these players"!! MUFC are yet to win three consecutive games in the Premier League this season. MUFC midfield is short staffed which apparent to everyone and yet the club waited for the poor result against Man City to try to bolster the personnel in that area of the pitch that once again raises questions about the veracity of planning for this whole season.
Bruno Fernandes though would be most welcome addition to the squad. He should have been signed after excelling in the inaugural UEFA Nations League last summer. He is a two time Portuguese player of the season and scored 31 goals in all competitions in 2018-19 season. MUFC can finally have a specialist free-kick taker and expect goals from midfield especially in the absence of Paul Pogba. It does not make James Maddison's purchase redundant as the duo can play as a pivot on either side of a holding defensive midfielder. Will Mark Goldbridge from the United Stand be present at his unveiling like fan Joe Ruane was at Wayne Rooney's remains to be seen.

Options for MUFC in a difficult January window

Harry Maguire pulled out of League Cup semi-final first leg at Old Trafford with a hip injury that can rule him out for at least a month. The England international has played in 11 straight games in 5 weeks since the seniors were made to skip the away tie at Astana and bizarrely Solskjaer even played him against the minnows Colchester United. Its a huge blow to MUFC as both Cup tie's coming up before the end of the month. Maguire joins McTominay and Pogba on the injury list and all three form the spine of the thread bare team that's why MUFC season can crumble in January if reinforcement's are not added in this transfer window. Note the team are also short of two midfielders since the departure of Fellaini and Herrera. Best option would be to recall Chris Smalling from Roma where he's had a great season but off late errors have again crept in.

After the disastrous 1-3 drubbing to Man City sources from the club immediately claimed to be considering a move for Donny Van de Beek from Ajax who might cost #50 million. His teammate Hakim Ziyech is a tenacious winger who excelled in a 4-4 draw against Chelsea and can fill the right wing slot. While Rio Ferdinand suggested another midfielder Fabian Ruiz from Napoli who unjustly fired coach Carlo Ancelotti for player revolt. Donny Van de Beek would be a marquee signing that will also help to attract creative or attacking midfielders in the summer who might be assured of protection that will enable to express themselves better. Real Madrid tried to sign him in the summer and might get back again thus if MUFC cannot get him they can consider either of Kerem Demirbay of Leverkusen, Daniel Parejo from Valencia, Teji Savanier from Montpellier, Alejandro Gomez of Atalanta who have all excelled for at least one whole season playing consistently and are from clubs outside the traditional top three of their respective leagues. These four are no match to the Dutchman in terms of Champions' League experience thus are not marquee but have elevated their game to earn a move to a new club or moved into the top midfielders category in their respective leagues.

MUFC can look at other elite clubs in Europe like Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter, Paris St Germain who frequently loan players to each other. Mauro Icardi between Inter and PSG, Philippe Coutinho between Barca and Bayern, Perisic between Inter and Bayern. Even Arsenal got Dani Ceballos from Real! MUFC have let out Alexis Sanchez who they could not handle to Inter and Chris Smalling to Roma but failed to negotiate any incoming players despite being one of the founding members of the disbanded G-14 that has now become European Club Association. Historically MUFC have shunned this type of deal since the Ferguson years and there could be an opportunity for the present management to reassess this route until then any transfers seem unlikely. Example: Arturo Vidal, Samuel Umtiti from Barca, Emre Can, Adrien Rabiot, Daniele Rugani from Juventus, Edinson Cavani from PSG.

Championship has always been a great reserve to scout for future prospects. Brian Glanville used to frequently tell of how Chelsea's first League winning team in 1955 was made up of players from lower division. Kalvin Phillips of Leeds, Matt Grimes of Swansea, Matheus Pereira of West Brom, Jarrod Bowen of Hull, Matthew Cash of Nottingham, John Swift of Reading, Jed Wallace of Milwall. Last season's standout player was Jack Grealish who MUFC might sign in the summer for a hefty fee from Aston Villa while MUFC did sign Daniel James, Neal Maupay is now excelling at Brighton and Reece James at Chelsea.

MUFC can take this window to sign up players in the summer and do the homework in advance like Chelsea signed Christian Pulisic in last January only to be available in the summer. James Maddison is the prime candidate to do such a deal now for #70 million else once he signs a new deal with Leicester then he would cost more than #100 million in the summer. Such a deal would be smart and reduce the cost of acquisition later.

Or look to sign free transfers like Thomas Meunier to add the experience and backup to Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Ashley Young seeking his last contract and in talks with Inter where he can perhaps even extend his playing years in the slow Italian league. Meunier can add the experience at the full back positions that now will have Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, Dalot and Williams all below 25 years of age.

Options are available if search is focused in the right direction. Ed Woodward can overturn his image with the fans and slowly gain acceptance. This season he has been proactive unlike in the past. Being 5th in the table and still in contention for all three Cup competitions, unless the club acts to protect its performance by adding quality players they might collapse like at the end of last season. #GlazersOut movement on social media from fans will definitely re-start towards the end of January if no one is signed.

Will Woodward seize the opportunity to gain acceptance from fans

Wolves are proving to be the bogey team for Solskjaer's Manchester United as once Nottingham Forest did to Ferguson's in his early years. Beating them would be a huge boost of confidence like overcoming a mental block. MUFC in the recent past have done well against teams from top half and that bodes well for this match. The tie is important for Wolves to ascertain if they have emerged out of that shock semi-final loss to Watford in the FA Cup last year or not. Wolves if they had won would have faced Man City a club who they want to emulate and structurally they are well setup to aim for silverware following the steady years under coach Nuno Espirito Santo & Fosun ownership aided by super agent Jorge Mendes.

Squad rotation will be crucial given the League Cup semi-final is on Tuesday against Man City who will put a strong side to win now that they seem to have lost the League. MUFC can't afford to choose one cup competition over the other especially if one is more prestigious and the other just three matches away to winning a silverware. Losing out on both would have Solskjaer staring at eventualities that befell Wilf McGuinness and David Moyes while a win will buy him an opportunity  to win a silverware like Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. Will Solskjaer make the cut?

Will Angel Gomes play again and eventually sign a new contract with MUFC? He is well suited to play the number 10 role that only recently has seen Andreas growing into and Gomes can be a good long term option despite the disadvantages of his height. Matic, Gomes and Chong can sign contract with European clubs in January for a free transfer in the summer. Brandon Williams might start giving that wing a real panache and a goal threat. Romero probably should not just play in the cup games alone but also take David de Gea's spot in the Premier League for a few games in order to get a positive reaction from MUFC's best player of last decade. Fred and Matic might start due to injuries to McTominay and want-away Pogba. Solskjaer has played with three at the back but that hasn't produced positive results than just to block the opposition like the credible draw against LFC while in other matches has put MUFC at a disadvantage.

Ed Woodward should take a call on Pogba for the sake of recognizing the contributions of the team  that without the World Cup winner has taken the club to the fifth position in the league. And in parallel get two more players starting with Grealish or Maddison. It would cement his acceptance with the fans who have seen few positive moves from the banker this season. An opportunity like this does not come often especially with non-big name manager in Solskjaer at the helm. Refusing to do business in January or refusing to deal with super-agents is not a mature way of conducting football transfer instead it needs to be shifted to focus on value-addition with a stable medium-to-long term view. Woodward must take inspiration from the transfer of Denis Law for whom the club took debt for the first time post WW2 to support Sir Matt Busby. Sale of Pogba should not be a precondition to bring players to fill the big void in midfield since the departures of Fellaini and Herrera. That British transfer deal #115,000 also sheds light on how Sir Matt asked Denis to sit quiet in Manchester for a month to force Torino to budge and not sell him to Juventus instead. Woodward should also realize from the same transfer that MUFC would be better off to let Pogba leave now.

Mark Robins goal got MUFC the victory over Nottingham Forest in '90 FA Cup 3rd round and the first major trophy was subsequently won by Sir Alex Ferguson who was supposedly on the brink of being sacked if he was to loose the 3rd round tie. The significance of today's match is certainly not lost especially on the protege Solskjaer whom Ferguson called 'Our Man of Destiny'.  

Year when Woodward finally turned the corner

At the end of 2012-13 Premiership winning campaign Manchester United were dealt a double blow firstly the decade long successful chief executive David Gill announced that he would step down in February and in May Sir Alex Ferguson retired finally on his second attempt. On his first attempt Peter Kenyon had lined up Sven-Goran Eriksson as the successor in 2002 but thankfully Sir Alex stayed on to overhaul LFC's 18 league titles and win another Champions' League in 2008. Promises were made to fans by the board that the succession was properly taken care of and a repeat of a disaster that ensued Sir Matt Busby's departure would not happen again.

All of Ferguson's successors would have been ideally suited to helm different roles that he single- handedly played. David Moyes as head of the academy, Louis van Gaal as technical director, Jose Mourinho as manager and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as an assistant with media duties. Instead David Moyes walked in with his own staff from modest Everton and quickly banished the entire Ferguson back room team of Mike Phelan, Rene Muelensteen and Eric Steele. Departure of Paul Scholes while Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs were in their final year and Darren Fletcher struck down by ulcerative colitis meant MUFC needed an big squad overhaul. It is widely believed that MUFC won their 20th league title largely due to Sir Alex Ferguson's brilliance in getting the maximum of a thread bare ageing squad and goals from Robin van Persie an inspired signing.With new chief executive Ed Woodward who had played a key part in the Glazer take-over in 2005 MUFC struggled to sign players despite being linked to Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas and managed to sign only one new player for the new season in Marouane Fellaini from Everton and later Juan Mata was signed in January for a hefty #37 million from Chelsea.

MUFC finished in 7th their lowest position in 23 years suffering double loss to LFC, Everton, Man City, bowed out in 3rd round of FA Cup and David Moyes was sacked in April for failing to deliver European football for next season. Under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho MUFC saw a flurry of transfers largely done through three super agents Jorge Mendes for Radamel Falcao, Angel di Maria and Mino Raiola for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Fernando Felicevich for Alexis Sanchez. Overall spending on player acquisition post Ferguson retirement is a staggering 1,053.55 million euros. Under LVG and Mourinho MUFC won the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Europa League, finished 2nd in the league within 4 years of Ferguson's exit while it took 8 years for the 1st trophy after Busby had left in form of FA Cup in '77 after suffering relegation in 73-74 and brief comeback by Busby for 2nd half of 70-71 season. The catastrophic failure of Alexis Sanchez deal was a wake-up call for Woodward who was thus far not intervening on decisions if the player will be a good fit as per the MUFC traditions or not. He only allowed the signing of Lee Grant, Fred, Diogo Dalot and blocked the deal for Jerome Boateng while Raphael Varane could not be persuaded to leave Real Madrid despite willing to spend #100million in the summer of 2018.

This season Woodward came out in defense of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the pivotal game against Liverpool, led the tributes to Munich victims at Belgrade and agreed to an open interview with 'United We Stand' fanzine celebrating their 30th year. Got all the three summer transfers right and importantly all of whom have integrated well with the first team playing regularly: Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka & Harry Maguire. Rightfully pulled out on agreeing a deal to bring Erling Haaland another of Mino Raiola's client due to excessive demands on his future transfer including a buyout clause. Talent wise this is a loss for MUFC given that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had personally flown to meet with Haaland's representatives and having managed him at Molde. Questions still persist over perhaps the biggest scouting team employed in football worldwide that consistently fails to spot the next exciting prospect whom the club can entice at valuations that save considerable money and the negotiations team that takes for ever to conclude a deal severely impacting the number of players that club can sign in a transfer window.

Solskjaer has set a trend of former players returning to manage the clubs they played for and that in turn has increased the percentage of British managers in the Premier League. MUFC end the year in 5th position within 4 points off 4th place: crucial to secure Champions' League football else the club will receive reduced fees from sponsors next season. Based on the progress thus far this season fans feel encouraged that club will not have to wait another 26 years (i.e., 2038) before winning the league again. 

Right time to push Ed Woodward for Jimmy Murphy stand

In an unusual development Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward has given an interview and chosen a sensible, long running fanzine in United We Stand whose editor is the well known Andy Mitten. It appears as a first in a two part series of interview where wide-ranging topics about MUFC will be openly discussed. Here is a link to Simon Stone's analysis for the BBC. Clearly the commercial arm of MUFC has grown from 28% to 48% of total revenue under the Glazers but unless broadcasting rights do not improve by participating in the Champions' League the club might have just reached a plateau necessitating the urgent need to get back into top 4 for which they might have to invest in players even in January.

Yesterday 22nd, October marked the anniversary of Sir Matt Busby signing on the contract with MUFC in 1945 and the club announced it has added the original contract to be displayed at the MUFC Museum while it was purchased from a private buyer in May, 2018. Such moves about preserving the rich heritage of our club certainly bodes well with the fans. Sir Matt Busby transformed the war damaged Old Trafford stadium and built a philosophy of football against which players and managers of every era shall be forever measured against. As Sir Alex Ferguson put it “I’m privileged to have followed Sir Matt Busby because all you have to do is to try and maintain the standards that he set so many years ago."

There appears to be an initiative to reach out to the media, ease the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and reduce the impact of #GlazersOut movement. Ed Woodward is trying to front up by answering questions while trying to become the face of MUFC in an event of potential takeover that is never out of news.

One of the key long standing demands to award knighthood to Harry Gregg who saved so many lives on that fatal day 06, February 1958 at Munich was partly realized when in June, 2019 he was conferred with an OBE. While this was definitely late in coming and out of MUFC control, another demand of dedicating the K-Stand on Jimmy Murphy the first signing of Sir Matt Busby to become his assistant from '45 till '71 who kept the club going on the football field despite the Munich tragedy deserves a more fitting tribute than just a memorial in the Munich room of the Museum, a media center at Carrington or MUFC Young Player of the Year award being named after him.

Renaming the Scoreboard end or East Stand will not diminish the fans favourite Stretford End where MUFC usually end their 2nd half attacking the visiting teams. Solskjaer led MUFC to top 4 after beating Southampton 3-2 with a late winner by Romelu Lukaku and said "I have been part of so many games like this, towards the Stretford End in the second half. That Stretford End will always suck a ball into the net for you. That is the best place to score a winner." Wikipedia is split with K-stand fans moving to both top tier of Stretford End and on to Scoreboard End. Plaque dedicated to victims of Munich is also at south end of the East Stand. Renaming Scoreboard End will complete the quartet - others being Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, and Stretford End.

Steve Donoghue has the petition on change.org already set up while Brian Mulholand's is at thepetitionsite. The petition for Harry Gregg is rightly closed after receiving more than 14,000 signatories while this petition at change.org for Jimmy Murphy is just at 1,093. Better to have a single petition at change.org which is widely recognized while Brian has more updates. Requesting fans of MUFC esp the Busby Babes to help secure more signatures. Hoping Andy Mitten might ask Ed Woodward about it and publish the response in next months edition of UWS. Old Trafford's development has been rightly chosen as a question which is indeed good.

Pivotal game against arch rivals amid the shadows of 73-74 relegation

Fans and media must keep the pressure on Ed Woodward esp since Oliver Holt's article in the Daily Mail which hit the nail on its head. There are parallels with end of Busby and Ferguson illustrious trophy laden reign - towards the end the investment in the squad dried up which meant they did not replace their key players like Herd, Foulkes, Stiles, Charlton, Law from 1967 on wards and Keane, Ronaldo, Neville, Giggs, Vidic, Ferdinand from 2005 on wards. In 1974 MUFC hurtled downwards to relegation with a very decent defense in Buchan and Holton but without any prolific striker, a situation very similar now. Is the MUFC team now too good to go down? This accentuates the urgent need for MUFC to buy a proven striker in January.

Ed Woodward has come out with his justifications on wasting most of #850 million dollars under his watch and how can any sane MUFC fan believe him. What worries fans further is that this 6 years & #850 million mess is not the benchmark to rectify other areas like youth policy where they are well behind most of their rivals. He has however backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the most crucial fixture in our calendar but has it come a week early? Does Ed believe that MUFC will get anything out of this game?

MUFC have in the past ended Arsenal's 49 game unbeaten run that stopped the invincible's in the famous 'Battle of Buffet' and now despite being in bad form, crucial players in Paul Pogba and David de Gea injured and the squad being low on confidence, given the nature of this fixture between the two most successful English football clubs they can stop LFC's run of 17 game winning streak. Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Axel Tuanzebe being the academy lads will be crucial to channel their high emotions into decent performances belying their age given the thread bare squad. While the wide area's at full back need to counter LFC surge and Ole might play a three man defense to release Dalot and Young while another exciting prospect at left back Brandon Williams might get some game time.

Huge credit to Marcus Rashford for carrying on despite his lack of form and non-coherent midfield where he does not know where the through ball is going to come from. Yet he has backed himself for the cause of the team and being on the pitch. Having aspirations to be central striker is not bad which means he is prepared to work to make it happen despite being found out a few times or missing a few runs. Marcus Rashford is of the same age as Tammy Abraham and already with 36 caps for his country while Mason Greenwood a good four years younger. One of the traits of players like Cristiano Ronaldo who reached 700 career goals is how they personally look after themselves and avoid injury in spite of  training regimes at club and country. Rashford has at least kept himself in the reckoning for a start always where as Anthony Martial who finally gets his chance at being the No 9 is returning from injury. Martial though has still scored a third of MUFC goals this season and hoping the Frenchmen adds to his tally against LFC to cement his favourite position #AM9.

On paper and form its a 0-3 defeat and anything better especially team coherence and fighting quality with a plan from Ole will take it as a positive sign. 1973-74 season after 8 games 10 points(3W, 4L, 1D - 8GS 10GC) and in 2019-20 season after 8 games 9 points (2W, 3L, 3D - 9GS 8GC) a serious cause for worry. Coincidentally the 9th game of 1973-74 season was against Liverpool at Old Trafford which ended in a 0-0 stalemate, even a similar result in 2019-20 might not be good enough in the eventual league standings at the end of the season.

As for LFC it will be crucial to not only win but do the double over their arch rivals MUFC similar to 1963-64 season that setup them up for a first League Championship win after 1946-47 and not mind the margin of victory. In hindsight Klopp might seek to improve the performance at Old Trafford where they dropped two points last season while at the end they lost the league title by only one point to MCFC. Old Trafford is the last summit LFC need to conquer to avoid complacency of last season and lay down the fears of a meltdown that accompanied Arsene Wenger's Arsenal after the 49 game unbeaten streak was ended by MUFC.

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