herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Van Gaal must put muzzle on meddling woodward

Vice chairman's 'top three' target is rich considering role in transfers while Rooney should also watch out

THE headlines have been full of Manchester United's new signings and how Louis van Gaal will fit them all in but I reckon he has an even bigger task to perform first. Muzzling Ed Woodward.

Van Gaal, who laughed yesterday when he was asked the question and pointed out that 14 players have left Old Trafford this summer, will have no problem finding room for them given the fact that the team which started the season was as full of holes as a Swiss cheese.

He has bought tested players who have delivered consistently and Manchester United fans have reason now to be much more hopeful about the season ahead.

AUTHORITY

But Van Gaal has as much work to do to establish his authority at Old Trafford as he has finding things for Danny Blind or Radamel Falcao to do on the pitch.

During the international break, Woodward was speaking at the Soccerex convention in Manchester.

While announcing a drop in profits, he felt the need to throw out a prediction. A 'top three finish' no less.

Apart from the fact that Woodward had a big role to play in the fact that Manchester United's profits are down in the first place, when was it ever part of his brief to make a prediction about the team's performance?

Clearly, Woodward felt the need to say something positive to reassure shareholders disappointed that on his watch, Manchester United has been transformed into a poor copy of the version Alex Ferguson ruled with an iron fist.

David Moyes inherited a poor squad and with the exception of Marouane Fellaini, every target Ferguson's successor asked for didn't materialise.

That's Woodward's job. He gets the list from the manager and then goes and buys the players. Not a difficult concept to understand and one which definitely doesn't include anything about announcing a season's target for the team.

After Moyes was shunted out the door, United found Van Gaal and Woodward was handed another list. From everything I have read, he struggled with that too and when he finally found a few players, he had to pay way over the odds.

In some way, it reminds me of Liverpool when they spent a huge amount on Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson. They paid ridiculous money almost to show that they could. It was desperation.

Manchester United are nowhere near that level yet and they have got quality for their money but there was certainly an element of desperation about everything that has happened since Moyes was sacked.

Woodward needs to put his head down and start working on the next list van Gaal hands him so that when it comes to the crunch in January or next May, he has deals in place and ready to sign instead of a mad unguided scramble for any players he can get.

By then, Manchester United may or not be in the 'top three'. I think it is credible to believe that they can achieve that with the players van Gaal can now pick.

Many have identified Wayne Rooney, his new captain and England's top man too, as the key to Van Gaal's success but I actually think that these new signings shift the emphasis away from him.

It seems deeply ironic that Rooney is handed both of these honours when he has become such a reduced player and I read stuff during the week which made me wonder could I trust my senses any more? The Rooney I was reading about, is ready to ascend to greatness, apparently, and all of this because of two armbands.

The player I know has been moody, inconsistent and at times arrogant over the last four or five seasons. He threatened Manchester United with a move across the city to their derby rivals and is nowhere near the player he was when Alex Ferguson bought him and began to groom him for greatness.

From where I'm sitting, Ferguson never completed that particular project and it is left to van Gaal as a work in progress.

When Ferguson caved into Rooney's demands, he did it because he believed he needed him but Van Gaal has other stars to put in play now. I'm certain he is actively pursuing more players and I'm equally sure that if he believes Rooney is in any way half-hearted, he won't hesitate to bench him.

DEAL

He carved through his squad in no time and all at once he had identified the players he would keep and those who had to go. He has none of the attachments either Ferguson or David Moyes had.

One of the players who left in the cull was Danny Welbeck and I see that Arsene Wenger seems to be suggesting that some business was done by Arsenal while he wasn't looking.

It's difficult to figure out exactly what he is saying but from the way I read it, Wenger wanted to sign Welbeck on a loan deal so that he could see for himself before committing to a permanent move and would not have agreed to the deal if he wasn't away in Rome on the final day of the transfer window. It's a sign of the times.

Even at Arsenal, the last bastion of managerial control in the Premier League and run by a man who seems to think that the club's money is his own, someone has made a decision without clearing it first.

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