Manchester United: Ed Woodward hits back at critics and backs boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
Ed Woodward
Ed Woodward (left) has been Manchester United's executive vice-chairman since 2013

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward says claims non-football people take major football decisions at the Old Trafford club are "a myth" and "an insult".

United are 12th in the Premier League and 15 points behind leaders Liverpool, who they play on Sunday (16:30 BST).

It has been claimed Woodward has too much influence on Solskjaer's squad, and Jose Mourinho's before him.

But Woodward says decisions on players are "not made by senior management".

Amid United's current struggles, particular attention has been paid to their failure to sign a striker once it became obvious Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez would be leaving for Inter Milan.

It is understood Juventus front-man Mario Mandzukic was considered but the club decided against making a move at that time.

The decision seems to have backfired as United have struggled for goals - scoring just five times in their past seven league games.

Woodward, speaking at the club's annual all-staff meeting, says some of the allegations that have been made in recent times are wrong.

"There is a myth that we have non-football people making football decisions," he said. "I think that is insulting to the brilliant people who work on the football side in this club."

He added: "We've expanded our recruitment department in recent years and we believe this now runs in an efficient and productive way.

"Player recommendations and decisions are worked on by this department and by the first-team manager and his staff, not by senior management."

Woodward backs under-fire Solskjaer

Woodward has come under fire recently, while the club's owners, the Glazer family, were the subject of supporter discontent during the dismal 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on 6 October.

However, it is being stressed funds will be available should potential signings emerge in January, which is seen as a key month by some in making sure a disappointing season doesn't career out of control.

Club sources are aware the current situation is far below expectations.

This is United's worst start to a league campaign in 30 years, with three wins from 11 games in all competitions and no more than one goal in any game since the 4-0 victory over Chelsea on the opening day of the campaign.

Yet any mid-season recruitment will be done with a long-term view. Signing older players for the sake of it is being ruled out.

United's three summer signings - Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James - have all made a positive impact.

"The changes we saw over the summer have resulted in a very young squad," said Woodward.

"But it's also a squad, with the players and the culture, that provides a base camp for us to build and grow from as we start our new journey."

Solskjaer has power of veto over any signing and faced with the prospect of either operating with a slimmed down squad or signing players below the level he wanted this summer, went for the former option.

Senior United figures accepted this even though everyone, from the manager down, knew it brought inherent risk, especially if injuries struck in the way they have.

Now, Solskjaer is under pressure to turn the present situation around.

Well-placed sources are adamant the 46-year-old retains the support of Woodward and the Glazer family.

Woodward said last month the club needed to be patient and it is understood that even a heavy defeat at home to Liverpool on Sunday would not change the situation .

"The middle section of last season, after Ole's arrival, feels most relevant to what we want to achieve and where we want to be," said Woodward.

"We saw a team playing fast, fluid football, with a clear representation of the style and philosophy the manager wants.

"Ole has also instilled the discipline back into an environment where we may have lacked it in recent years. He is building a squad that respects the club's history, in which players work hard and respect their team-mates. No-one is bigger than the club."

I don't feel the job is too big for me - Solskjaer

'A chance to get in the history books' - Solskjaer on Man Utd v Liverpool

Speaking at Friday's news conference before Sunday's game against the league leaders, Solskjaer was asked if the Manchester United job was too big for him.

"No, I've never felt it's too big for me," he said. "I'm confident in what we're trying to do and I'm confident in my staff - the coaching and what's happening here every single day, I've been so impressed."

United have not won in the Premier League since the 1-0 victory over Leicester on 14 September but Solskjaer says "the improvement is there to see" for the coaching staff.

He added: "It's about results: start winning games, start scoring goals. We need to create more chances because at the back we've looked solid. But we haven't been adventurous enough, taking enough risks.

"If you watch the best teams they take more risks with the ball, they make more runs in behind and that's part of the process for the boys. When they're losing confidence maybe they want to play it a bit more safe but it's not safety that does it here - at this club you do take risks."

On United's transfer policy, he said: "We know that we have made some decisions that maybe in the short term would harm us but we know in the long term will benefit us and that's part of the plan."


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