Following Manchester United’s acquisitions of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw on consecutive days earlier in the summer, I wrote a piece claiming Ed Woodward ought to be given credit for the way he was able to conclude both deals with the minimum of fuss.
A year ago Woodward had become a much derided figure at Old Trafford given his apparent incompetence in the transfer window, but the signing of Juan Mata in January changed the perception of the executive vice-chairman, before a turnaround was completed by the start of this summer.
Woodward played the long game with both Mata and Herrera while he acted decisively to recruit Shaw, even if the club were accused of paying over the odds for a player of his age and relative inexperience. The latter, however, is an unavoidable market trend.
But just a few weeks on and Woodward has undergone another transformation. The new found reputation as a master-negotiator has been extinguished, and he is now once again that much lampooned figure who left last year’s pre-season tour on “urgent transfer business”.
The wrong man
I was wrong about Woodward. Wrong about how he has learned lessons of value from failures of the past, and wrong that he is indeed the right candidate to conduct the club’s transfer business.
It is now clear that Woodward is anything but this. Under his direction Manchester United resemble a bunch of amateurs and it is now clear that an change needs to be made at the top level if the club are to successfully pursue key targets.
This is something of a flip-flop in my own view, I admit. But it represents the short-termism of football - opinions and feelings are always subject to change with the ups and downs of each passing game, season or transfer.
The case of Woodward highlights this perfectly. In July optimism at Manchester United was sky high following the addition of an elite manager and the signing of two exciting players for a combined total around £60 million.
The club were set for a summer spending spree upwards of £200 million and would challenge for the title again. But now, only two weeks from the close of the window, and there is incredibly concerning lack of depth in the squad, while the season began with a confidence crushing defeat.
This lack of depth was something already apparent to Louis van Gaal, of course, and he would have tasked Woodward with immediately addressing the problem. But the campaign has already started and still there have been no new recruits since the first day of the window.
Watch: Manchester United transfer news update
Time running out
We have been told that the club are prepared to break their own transfer record, or even the world benchmark, in order for the manager to have the players he requires. But when will this happen? It is looking increasingly unlikely.
A combative midfielder is still needed, as are two central defenders and another wing-back. There are 14 days left for this to be achieved.
There should still be time, of course. But with Woodward at the helm there is a real concern that there will be a mad dash rather than measured approach.
There is no way Woodward should still be involved in transfers in the winter window, but rather he should stick to commercial dealings - somewhere he excels. And if he is to be chopped in a few months, then the club may as well do it right now. How could things get any worse?
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