The return of the Premier league is upon us. As with last year it begins with Manchester United taking on Swansea.
However that is where the similarities end for the Red Devils. Whilst last season they began with the golden patches reserved for Premier League champions emblazoned on the shirts, this time around they begin on the back of their worst season since the formation of the division.
They also begin with a new manager, Louis van Gaal, a new captain in Wayne Rooney and a new formation, with out and out wingers gone from the United team for the first time in recent memory. The one thing they are lacking is new players.
Whilst the signings of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw were tied up early in the transfer window the time since has become eerily similar to last summer. Big targets have been identified, chased; deals have been close but with little success. The question appears to be who or what is causing this issue? The answer would seem to be Ed Woodward.
Woodward at fault?
Whilst his predecessor, David Gill almost always got his man and Sir Alex Ferguson rarely worked beyond the end of July to get his targets in through the Old Trafford door, it does not appear to be so easy for Mr. Woodward. Last season there was an almost comedic scatter gun approach to United’s attempted transfer dealings. One player after another was talked about and deals were put in place before eventually falling flat.
Whilst part of the blame can perhaps be assigned to David Moyes’s lack of a clear strategic blueprint for his team, no such issue can be blamed this time around. Van Gaal knows how he wants his team to play and he knows the players capable of making them play that way; yet still nothing.
From Cesc Fabregas in 2013 to Arturo Vidal in 2014. How can a man in charge of one of the world’s biggest sporting teams with a supposed war chest of over £200 million not force these transfers over the line?
Perhaps it is Woodward’s lack of experience in this line of work that is the problem or his background as an accountant which makes him reluctant to invest so much money when he has been used to accruing it rather than spending it.
Whatever the reason it is clear he is naive in the way he has carried out his business thus far. Who in their right minds would tell the world that their team has money to spend and has no qualms in breaking transfer records? Surely that type of talk will just add an extra zero on to the price tag of any potential targets.
Whilst we must sympathise slightly with Woodward for being thrown in at the deep end and having to entice top talent to United without the lure of Champions League football, something Gill never had to do, we should also question why he got the job in the first place. He has never held a similar position before and had never worked within a sporting back ground before 2007.
Whilst previous experience within a similar position does not always guarantee success it certainly would have helped a man taking charge of a club the size of United.
Will it matter?
The fact of the matter is without two or three more quality signings before the end of the transfer window, United will finish fourth at a stretch and whilst that is the minimum requirement for this season it could have been so much more if Woodward was up to the task of handling the club's transfer dealings.
The problem is he doesn’t appear to be and more and more United fans are beginning to see that with each passing day this summer.