Manchester United mess sums up sustained failure of the chaotic Ed Woodward era

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·4-min read
Manchester United mess sums up sustained failure of the chaotic Ed Woodward era
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So the chaotic era of Ed Woodward will go on until his final day in the job.

But the spectacular mess that is Manchester United right now usurps even the most calamitous of mis-steps made by their departing executive vice-chairman over eight-and-a-half years of sustained failure.

Michael Carrick assumes the role of caretaker, while United begin the search for an interim to take them until the end of the season. That is happening at a time when they are yet to even appoint a successor to Woodward, who will leave his post by the end of December.

There is nothing like good forward planning. And this is nothing like good forward planning. United are the joke that keep on giving.

On Saturday night, at an emergency board meeting, it finally dawned on Woodward and the Glazers that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was out of his depth.

It took a 4-1 defeat at Watford to convince them. Not the 5-0 defeat at home to Liverpool — nor the 2-0 home surrender to Manchester City, which saw them manage just 32 per cent of possession and muster a single shot on target in 90 minutes.

The six defeats in their previous 12 games failed to provide compelling enough evidence to the hierarchy to think about a succession plan.

In a sport where the hire-and-fire policy is more prevalent than ever, the determination to give Solskjaer time is commendable to an extent.

But to blindly stick with a sinking manager, without consideration to a replacement, is bordering on negligence. United believed Solskjaer deserved the chance to turn their form around. And while they stuck their head in the sand, Daniel Levy acted.

For all the criticism the Tottenham chairman has faced, he recognised his mistake by sacking Nuno Espirito Santo swiftly and replacing him with a game-changing appointment in Antonio Conte. That is decisive leadership — something United have lacked throughout Woodward’s reign.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Likewise Chelsea in January. Frank Lampard was shown the door in the morning — and Thomas Tuchel was ready to board a flight to London soon after. It was brutal. It incensed supporters. It was four months later that Chelsea were celebrating a Champions League triumph.

Tuchel was someone Woodward saw as a future United manager during one of Solskjaer’s previous crises. Had he acted then, things could be a lot different right now. The same could be said of his decision to dismiss Conte as a candidate less than a month ago.

The Italian is understood to have been interested in the job when defeat to Liverpool looked being the final nail in Solskjaer’s coffin. United were not interested. Not interested in a man who wins titles in every job he has.

Not interested in a man who knows the Premier League and already got the better of Pep Guardiola in his first time around in this country.

Not interested in a man who was ready, available and just waiting for the call. Had he been appointed two defeats ago, this season might have been salvageable. Instead United have effectively written it off in November.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

But what else should we expect from Woodward — who has proved himself incapable of appointing the right man for the job.

So Solskjaer becomes the third United manager under his reign to be sacked less than a year after being handed a long-term contract.

David Moyes was gone nine months after starting the job. Jose Mourinho was handed a new deal in January 2018 and sacked the following December. Solskjaer extended his contract in July, when suitors were hardly queuing up to lure him away. He lasted just four more months.

Woodward was also keen to extend Louis van Gaal’s deal just five months before the Dutchman was sacked.

Chaotic — yes. But to a definite and depressing pattern. The fact Woodward will not be in position to make the next permanent appointment might be the only cause for optimism for despondent United supporters.

But he may still have a hand in the interim. And with his track record, Carrick might be a couple of wins away from landing the big one himself.

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