It’s been quite a week for Manchester United in the transfer market. The captures of Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin have got fans suitably excited ahead of the new season.
However, few United fans could have predicted such swift transfer activity after Ed Woodward’s first summer as vice-chairman.
FIRST SUMMER NAIVETY
United were in a difficult position going into the summer of 2013. The club had said goodbye to the most successful manager in their history as Sir Alex Ferguson decided to retire. Another blow came when CEO David Gill followed the legendary Scot into retirement. Thus United lost two of the key figures at the club in one year.
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Gill's retirement resulted in Woodward being promoted to the role he departed. David Moyes took over as manager after being personally recommended for the job by Sir Alex. Woodward said of the appointment: "In David Moyes, we have secured the services of an outstanding manager who has all the skills to build on the phenomenal legacy in place today."
However, a shambolic summer was a sign of things to come. United struggled in the transfer market immediately after Ferguson's departure, despite being linked to some huge names.
The club pursued Fabregas and saw a £25million rejected. Thiago Alcantara was another who they chased, only to see him snub a move in favour of joining Bayern Munich. A double bid for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini also failed, while a late attempt to hijack Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid proved futile.
The arrival of Fellaini on deadline day did little to appease the fans. The Belgian arrived for £27.5m, despite a release clause that would've allowed United to buy him for £23.5m before July 31.
Many believed that Woodward was putting the club's financial interests ahead of the team's performances. United fans wanted his head after a catastrophic initial transfer window.
The club's failure to capture any of its primary targets proved to have an unprecedented impact on the pitch. Under Moyes the team faced unfamiliar struggles as they slumped to a seventh place finish.
It was Woodward himself who told Moyes that he was being relieved of his duties in April 2014. The manager was gone, but Woodward remained.
ROAD TO REDEMPTION
Juan Mata's arrival in January 2014 was a welcome sight for United fans, but the pressure was still on Woodward as he began his second summer window. Van Gaal was named as Moyes' successor. Failure to qualify to the Champions League meant that United faced the difficult task of attracting top players without European football.
The World Cup disrupted transfer business and prevented the club from bringing in players early. Woodward was quick to start his business following the end of the tournament. Ander Herrera arrived on June 26 and Luke Shaw joined the following day for a massive fee.
In a mere two days Woodward had already captured more players than he had in his first window. However, it was nearly a month until further signings were made. Marcos Rojo joined for £16m on the back of a successful World Cup. Angel Di Maria also arrived at the club, for a eyebrow raising fee of £59.7m, the highest ever paid by a British club. The versatile Daley Blind also joined in early September.
Woodward's final act of the summer was to help seal a loan deal that brought Radamel Falcao to Old Trafford on deadline day. Despite Woodward's good work, four of the new signings had arrived after the season had already started. Not ideal, when players often need time to settle in at a new club.
Not all of the signings paid off as Woodward would have hoped. Nonetheless he had set himself on the road to redemption with fans who had wanted him gone just a year before.
WOODWARD THE HERO
United's heavy spending enabled them to seal fourth position and a place in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League. The primary objective had thus been achieved. It was a far better season for United, although the 2014/15 campaign exposed significant weaknesses that remained in Van Gaal's side.
The fans wanted new faces and Woodward would not disappoint them. He moved early to acquire Dutch international Memphis Depay. However, it is the club's transfer activity in the last seven days that has really got the fans excited.
No sooner were the club linked to Italy international Darmian than they had signed him. Was Schweinsteiger to United merely a fantasy? Not when Woodward's involved it wasn't. A deal was swiftly concluded and the German jetted off with the team on tour. Schneiderlin followed shortly afterwards, an arrival that further strengthens United's midfield.
Woodward looked very pleased with himself as he arrived at Manchester Airport ahead of the tour of the USA. He has every right to; he's moved swiftly in the transfer market and stolen a march on many of the club's rivals. To bring in four players before a ball has even been kicked is sensational business.
United fans could not hide their delight at Woodward's dealings. We've seen Woodward memes and endless Twitter reactions. Woodward's even had his head superimposed into the Wolf of Wall Street, such is the excitement over his business.
Such hysteria could never have been predicted after that humiliating first transfer window. The turn around in Woodward's reputation has been nothing short of extraordinary. The fans wanted him gone two years ago, but now they are almost bowing down to the man.
He has proven that he is more than just a pawn to the Glazers and is rapidly establishing himself as a heroic figure around Old Trafford. That first summer is becoming a distant memory as the fans look forward to an exciting future.
United fans, are you happy with Woodward's transfer dealings so far? Is there someone else you want him to sign? Let us know in the comments box below.
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