Woodward: Ole's objectives are true to United
Ed Woodward insists Manchester United’s process for finding new players is driven by the club's vastly experienced scouting and recruitment staff, working with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaches – not by 'non-football people.'
He also moved to dispel notions about the commercial side holding sway over matters on the pitch, explaining that United effectively has two parts – a legendary football club, alongside a successful commercial operation, with the latter supporting the former, by having its revenues reinvested in the pursuit of silverware.
“The reality of Manchester United is we are a club in two parts. First of all, we are an incredible 141-year footballing institution with all that history, all that legacy, all that tradition and that tradition of success. That can never, ever change. We need to keep that protected... what's important is the commercial side is never allowed to take priority over the football side.
“Like other football clubs, our commercial business allows us to reinvest in the football side. It's how these two interact with each other at Manchester United that results in us having a competitive advantage in this area.”
Woodward feels there is a misconception over signing players.
“There is a myth that we have non-football people making football decisions, and I think it’s insulting to the brilliant people who work on the football side in this club,”said the executive vice-chairman.
“Many of the senior staff on the football side of the club have been in their roles for over 10 years. Some of our scouts have worked with us for more than 25 years.
“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.”
The many calls made by Solskjaer and his colleagues during the summer, including the sale and loan of several senior professionals and the promotion of some exciting Academy graduates, has led to a younger line-up on the field. The average age of the starting XI has been around 25 this season, compared to nearly 27 last term, and that's another early sign of how the club is evolving under the Norwegian.
“Ole’s vision maps exactly to the core three football objectives we have,” said Woodward.
“We must win trophies, we must play attacking football, and we must give youth its chance.
“Last season we were the Premier League's leading club in terms of the most match minutes given to our own Academy graduates.
“We should all be proud that the significant investments we have made in our Academy - spanning recruitment, facilities and analytics - are now bearing fruit.
“There's a lot more we need to do in that but that's coming in the next few years. We know this is a strong competitive advantage for us and an area that we'll continue to focus on and invest in. But this remains the heart of the club.”
Woodward acknowledged there has been a rollercoaster ride on the pitch since Ole took charge midway through last season, from the electrifying first few months of his tutelage to a challenging April and May. The current campaign began with the bang of an emphatic 4-0 home win over Chelsea, but with up to six players from that team absent through injury, victories have since been harder to come by.
“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 Ed.
“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.
“The changes we saw over the summer have resulted in a very young squad. 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.”
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