Manchester United: Ed Woodward hate is unwarranted

Manchester United fans have an understandable dislike of Ed Woodward. However, he is not entirely to blame and treatment of him is unwarranted…

Here’s the latest update on “the attack on Woodward’s home” incident. Manchester United have filed an official complaint with Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) claiming that the Sun newspaper had advance knowledge about the attack on Ed Woodward’s home.

We are unaware whether the claims made by the club are entirely true and hence must not make a comment on the said newspaper. But this whole incident throws light on everything that’s wrong with modern football.

Were the actions of these fans justified in the first place? Of course not. Many people around the world have widely condemned this incident, and rightly so. But there still remains a large section of supporters who believe that it was the right thing to do. That brings us to our main topic. Why is Ed Woodward hated so much and is the hate towards him warranted?

What an absurd question, right? Of course, the hate towards him is warranted. Ed Woodward is at the core of the problem at Manchester United. He is the symbol of everything that’s wrong with the club. United haven’t won the Premier League since 2013. The state of the affairs both on and off the pitch is piteous.

There is no strategy, no long-term plan whatsoever. Managers are hired and fired at will. Big players signed for huge sums are failing to produce the goods and are ultimately regressing. There hasn’t been a communication from the owners in ages and seems like they couldn’t care less.

Who to blame then? Of course, Ed Woodward. The Manchester United CEO is the one responsible for making sure the club runs smoothly. He’s the one responsible for making sure United stay competent on and off the field. He is the primary decision maker having the power to approve or veto any new signings. So, if course he’s to blame for all of United’s troubles. Isn’t he?

To clarify, I do agree with some part of the above-mentioned narrative which is commonly used by the majority of United fans. Being one myself, I can see where this thought process comes from. But I’ll have to slightly disagree. As much as we would like to blame Woodward for the club’s failings, we need to acknowledge that he isn’t the biggest culprit here. Sure, he has not been the ideal CEO, but he hasn’t been exactly terrible either (more on that later). But let’s talk about the elephant in the room first.

The incident happened on 28th January, Tuesday evening when some United supporters in hoods attacked Woodward’s home in Cheshire by throwing red flares over the gate of his home. In the subsequent matches, chants were heard in the stadium that were along the lines of “Ed Woodward’s gonna die”. Voicing your concerns is one thing but threatening to kill someone and putting someone’s family at risk is a criminal offence.

As I said earlier, I do understand these fans’ concerns which reached a tipping point recently. But that said, I’d like to draw some attention towards Ed Woodward’s record at Manchester United. After taking over a more prominent role post Sir Alex’s departure, Woodward has managed to turn the club into a financial top dog. The club has regularly featured among the highest revenue generating clubs in world football and has been among the top performers in Deloitte Football Money League in recent years. This is despite not having won the Premier League since 2013.

Woodward’s shrewd business acumen has allowed the club to breathe a little in this wormhole of financial instability in football (point in case, Bury FC). His off-the-field business partnerships and associations have allowed the club to afford the huge wage bills of Manchester United players.

Woodward has been responsible for making various sponsorship deals around the world. Without his financial success, it would not have been possible for United to pay back the interest and principal on the takeover debt which would otherwise have spiralled out of control.

One cannot blame Woodward for not backing the managers either. Paul Pogba, the world’s most expensive player at the time, was signed by Manchester United. Other high profile names coming through the door at Old Trafford include Maguire, Di Maria, Lukaku, Ibrahimovic, Schweinsteiger, Depay, Falcao, Mkhitaryan, and more. As per a report, United have spent a sum of £968 million on player transfers since their last Premier League title in 2013. So it’s clearly absurd to say that the club hasn’t supported the managers.

Agreed that this kind of money should have been spent much wisely, in alignment with a long-term vision. But at least, no one can blame Woodward for not backing the managers enough. Maybe the fans of clubs like Tottenham and Newcastle could help provide a better context to United fans when it comes to spending money on players.

So, what’s the point that I’m trying to make here? I’m no Woodward sympathiser, but we must avoid blindly following the narrative that’s been going around against him. We must question his actions, we must hold him accountable for a lot of things but most importantly, we must adopt some decency to voice our opinions without attempting to harm someone. As a fellow United fan, this is not something I want to associate our club supporters with.

What is your opinion on Ed Woodward?