Of Manchester United and their CEO’s

Blog by: Vsu

Ed Woodward (far right) with Manchester United directors at the New York Stock Exchange (Getty Images)

Transfers at Old Trafford have always been characterised by the secrecy and silence surrounding the deals, before they eventually come as a surprise to the world. The last transfer window saw Manchester United fail to nail any of their primary targets, whilst at the same time failing to stop news of their interest in a certain player from spreading.

All summer long Ed Woodward has resembled a punch-drunk boxer, staggering to his feet, trying to overcome the effects of the last crunching hook. Multiple rejections have led to a loss of credibility of the organization, and it would be some time before they regain the trust of fellow operators in the market. Never would it have crossed his mind that getting teams to sell their players to Manchester United would prove to be such a tough ask. A baptism of fire, some would say.

But then, it is unfair to expect anything other than that at United. His Wikipedia page describes his first transfer window as disastrous. However bad the window might have been, calling for his sacking is a little too extreme, too early. Its not like his predecessors always had it good during their times in charge.

Martin Edwards was great as a CEO, lending utmost support to his manager and players. But his handling of the club was questionable on many occasions, as his interest in running a football club was always doubtful. His multiple attempts to sell the club caused the it a lot of instability off the pitch. His listing of the club on the stock exchange failed to achieve the purpose of financially stability. Edwards’ personal life off the field also didn’t help matters as he was constantly in the news, again taking the sheen off of the club and its success.

Peter Kenyon is still known as the Judas who turned his back on the club he supported his entire life. He led United to a period of economic stability, and was responsible for the big money signings of Rio Ferdinand, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron. That being said, some of his shady transfers include the signings of Kleberson, Eric Djemba-Djemba and David Bellion.

Before he jumped ship to Chelsea, Kenyon conducted some of his worst business, bringing the above mentioned players in, and they all went bust. His crowning failure as chief executive though, was the shambolic handling of the potential transfer of Ronaldinho, as it became clear that United lost out on the Brazilian because of Kenyon’s reneging on his earlier offer and sending in an offer for less than what was agreed upon.

David Gill (far right) and Sir Alex Ferguson formed a good partnership when it came to executing deals (Getty Images)

David Gill has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Glazers’ takeover of United, and has been a loyalist through and through. His run-ins with the fans have been pretty public, and the courage of his convictions helped him run the club well enough through times when United were not generously endowed with cash to spend, and yet not compromise on success. Year on year under him, United slowly kept reducing their debts, and started moving back towards the green.

He was not the most popular chief executive around, and his tenure was definitely filled with a lot of tough times. But once he rode that phase out, he oversaw one of the club’s most successful periods on the field, winning a lot of silverware and establishing themselves permanently at the apex of the European game. But then some of his transfer dealings too were suspect, cases in point being Manucho, Bebe (Tottenham got Van der Vaart for 600,00 more) and Gabriel Obertan. His reign also saw the club failing to satisfy a couple of very talented youth prospects, Paul Pogba being a prime example.

Looking at all three earlier chief executives, they each have surpassed their predecessors in terms of taking the club to a different level, and ensuring that the level of success only goes up. They have had to endure sticky situations, but they were given the time to fight it out, and once they did, they came out with flying colors.

Manchester United is well known for being patient with their managers and their executives, and so it is a given that Woodward and Moyes will have time to prove themselves. For all the issues Martin Edwards had, he went out and signed Alex Ferguson to be the next manager of Manchester United in 1986 and made sure he supported the manager all through his initial days, and gave him a team to contend with again.

Woodward has learnt the hard way that working on transfers is not the same as getting a potato snack company to partner with your team. Gone are the days when he could negotiate and haggle with a company for sponsorship, and they would be happy to oblige. Understanding the human element during the course of transfers is very important as it gives him an idea of how receptive the potential seller is.

So Woodward might have had a nightmarish start, and yes it might have resulted in the club really losing face in the market, but then cut him some slack, he’s still learning. And learning from mistakes is what the CEO’s of Manchester United are so darn good at.


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