Ever since 2005, when the Glazers took over at Manchester United, the focus of the club has very much shifted to that of a business. This has become more obvious since the experienced Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill left the club, to be replaced by Ed Woodward in 2013.
Woodward seems to know the bare minimum about football, highlighted through his lack of transfer activity during David Moyes’ reign, something which would later cost the Scot his job. Although Moyes has gone, Woodward, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata are reminders of what was a time that saw a man being let down.
Since then, Louis van Gaal has been bought in. His managerial reign again looks inconsistent, with many high-profile transfer mistakes such as Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao – who both quickly left as soon as they arrived – and a team struggling to make the Champions League.
Yet Manchester United are no longer judged upon their performances on the field by Woodward and the Glazers, but instead as ‘Manchester United brand’. In 2012, the club was floated on the New York stock exchange and has grown to become one of the world’s biggest sports brands.
Even though the fans are growing disgruntled towards the running the club, Woodward’s business approach cannot be criticised. In business, he is the Cristiano Ronaldo, the brand that the world knows. Under Woodward, United have become the first billion dollar football team, leapfrogging Bayern Munich and only being halted by the big two of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
United are easily the biggest team in the Premier League, and their sponsorship deal with Adidas is easily the largest one in history so far. At £500m it will help to spread United further across the globe.
However, unless the results on the pitch improve, then the club can’t go forward. It’s all very fine and well having all this money, but the club needs to be at the top of its game in order to grow. The fact that under Moyes they missed out on Champions League not only saw the club lose revenue but also respect.
Sure, Van Gaal was able to lure in Daley Blind, Di Maria, Falcao, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, but the two biggest signings, Di Maria and Falcao, did not put in a decent enough shift at United. It meant that a team that should be chasing the title only scraped fourth place, and did not compete to a high standard in any other competition.
Although there is a lot of talk about how effective a ‘Director of Football’ is within football, Manchester United look in need of somebody to work alongside Woodward who knows the sport. Whether this be Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Gary Neville, it needs to be somebody who knows football well, who knows the club and knows how to improve it. That way business can not only boom, but be kept separate from football, and United can continue to fight their way to the top.