It's 12th May and barely the end of the Premier League season, but Chelsea chief Roman Abramovich has just agreed to shell out £32 million for Atletico Madrid hotshot Diego Costa. Around the same time, Ed Woodward, the man who handles Manchester United's transfers, promises deals should be done before the World Cup starts.
Fast forward exactly one month later, and Chelsea have announced the signing of Barcelona playmaker Cesc Fabregas, and the World Cup begins later that day. At the same time, Ed Woodward sits in his office twiddling his thumbs, it's the start of the World Cup and the only addition United have made is a Vietnamese and Korean pharmaceutical sponsor, Cho-A-Pharm.
Something isn't right at Old Trafford.
The problem is that a man who has spent his whole life as a money savvy accountant, has all of a sudden been put in charge of handling transfers worth tens of millions of pounds for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Woodward isn't a bad man, or bad at what he specialises in. What he is bad at however, is his current job. A man with no past footballing experience has come in to lure the world's greatest footballing talents to the club - needless to say he has failed almost comprehensively so far.
United fans will know the story so I don't need to detail, but in saying that our only summer signing was deadline day flop Marouane Fellaini for four million above his buyout clause summarises the turmoil endured.
It was a colossal mock up and embarrassment, the world's most efficient run club is suddenly a laughing stock, and only have a long ball orientated, overpriced Belgian centre-forward to show for it. Even the acquisition of £37.1 million Juan Mata in January was dealt with 3rd party intermediaries between the Red Devils and Chelsea, and finalized by Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill - who should be enjoying their retirement at this point.
Along with the choice of manager, little thought or planning was put into the appointment of Ed Woodward to such an important role. Had United taken a look at other top clubs across Europe they would have seen a host of successful clubs either operate with a football orientated owner to handle transfers (which the Glazers are not) or a Director of Football. The second option has been extremely popular and has enjoyed more and more success recently.
The Director of Football at clubs handles the non-tactical football aspects of the club, purchases, sales and interacts closely with the owners or chief executive. They will talk through and finalise transfers, contract extensions, manager requests and outgoing players all together- and when executed properly is a fantastically efficient method to help a football club run smoothly.
Take a look at Bayern Munich, where Mathias Sammer takes up this role. The soon to be manager, Pep Guardiola, requested Mario Goetze to join the already so strong attacking ranks. Sammer, quickly and quietly, pulled off a €37 million deal for the young German. A huge shock to the footballing world, but not to FC Bayern, who expected nothing less from their footballing director. Dortmund use a similar system with Michael Zorc handling player requests from manager Jurgen Klopp.
Another example is Manchester City, who hired Txiki Begiristain several seasons ago. After the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini at the helm of the oil-rich side, Begiristain received requests from Pellegrini to find several players to fit his style of football. Begiristain listened, and again, quickly and quietly, bought Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas from Shaktar Donetsk and Sevilla respectively. All these three, especially Brazilian international Fernandinho, were massive hits in Manchester, all thanks to Txiki. Were there Fabregas-like transfer sagas? Not one.
This is the huge difference a Director of Football can make at a club, it's no coincidence that one of the best club sides to have won the Champions League, the Barcelona team of 2011 had Andoni Zubizarreta adding to the team with successful transfers from behind the scenes. Manchester United have been crying out for this well oiled machine of a system ever since David Gill called it a day two seasons ago.
United need a staff member like this, it is a priority signing by the Glazer family, possibly even more so than any new players. The Thiago transfer calamity last summer highlighted the hole in United's plan more than any article can - the Reds had supposedly agreed a deal with him nearly 50 times according to reports in the media, then, out of nowhere, the little Spaniard signed on at Bayern Munich. Sammer, incidentally, had outdone United and their slow paced negotiations. No real surprise to United fans however, this has been all too familiar a story in recent times.
It doesn't seem possible that Manchester United can go on being run so poorly regarding transfers as they are now and continue to hold their high stance within the footballing world. United need to make changes in the boardroom, and fast. One way that should be seriously considered is the Director of Football route, and one that the Glazers will undoubtedly explore should Edward "Woody" Woodward continue to fail so miserably in his job this window.
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