Manchester United’s chief executive defends summer transfer window activity

In interview with fanzine United We Stand, Ed Woodward says late arrival of new manager David Moyes and the desire to allow him to assess the squad affected transfer action.

Much of Manchester United time was spent in ensuring Wayne Rooney, left, stays while Marouane Fellaini was the only player they managed to sign. Alex Livesey / Getty Images
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Ed Woodward, the new Manchester United chief executive, has explained his actions in a controversial close-season transfer window which was widely criticised for a lack of incoming players.

Their only significant signing was Marouane Fellaini, who arrived from Everton on deadline day.

In his first wide-ranging interview, given to the long-standing fanzine United We Stand, Woodward said: “It was disappointing that we didn’t sign more players but I always knew it was going to be a tough window.

“We had a manager leaving [Sir Alex Ferguson] and a manager arriving [David Moyes] on July 1st. As a club, we didn’t want to impose a plan on the new manager that had come from the old manager.

“I know other clubs have done that across the Premier League, where a director of football has bought players even before the new manager has arrived. That happened very close to home.”

Manchester City have a sporting director, Txiki Begiristain.

“We didn’t want to do that,” said Woodward. “We have a manager who we want to give our full support to make his decisions about the players and the decisions about the academy. He has the same power that Alex [Ferguson] did. So we knew we have a truncated window, with less time to operate.”

United did attempt to sign several players.

“The early view was that we needed a central midfielder and left-back,” said Woodward, as United also made a bid for Everton’s Leighton Baines.

“That was David’s view, but he also wanted to spend some time with the squad. There wasn’t a long list of people he wanted to go after. He wanted to look at the players who’d won the league. We had 19 (minus one — Wayne Rooney — who left injured after a day) players on the pre-season tour. He could only look at 18 out of 28 on the tour.”

United’s pre-season form was poor, but they were still determined to sign new players.

“It was only in early August when we returned that David could start to look at all of our players,” said Woodward. “David obviously knows the first XI very, very well. He knows other players well, but maybe he didn’t know players 22-28 that well and he quite rightly wanted to see them in his own eyes.”

United were not under pressure to sell players.

“We agreed early on that we didn’t mind carrying a big squad into the season,” said Woodward. “We didn’t need to make disposals, to sell any players, until the manager was absolutely clear in what he wanted to do. So we kept the players and added Fellaini, the first central midfielder we’ve bought in six years. And Guillermo Varela, the [Uruguayan] right-back. Wilfried Zaha [who arrived from Crystal Palace] was paid for with money from this summer, so we spent £42 million (Dh249.5m) in total.”

“But, I do understand why people don’t view it as a successful window. We went for [Cesc] Fabregas …”

In an unusual move, United’s pursuit of the Catalan was made public, though Fabregas claimed yesterday that he never had any intention of leaving Barcelona.

United understood the situation to be very different, though Woodward acknowledged they publicised the Fabregas bid: “Because it was an approach specific to the selling club. They have an ownership structure which means there has to be debate before a player is sold.

“It was a unique window. We had to make certain one-off decisions and messages. The Wayne Rooney situation was another unique one.”

While Rooney’s teammates expected the unhappy player to leave Old Trafford, Woodward did not. Explaining negotiations with Rooney’s people, he said: “It was very important from day one that we made our position very clear. There were a lot of conversations and meetings.

“I’m delighted that he’s still wearing red. I wanted to click my fingers and for it to be September 3rd [when the transfer window closed]. He’s irreplaceable and phenomenal to watch.”

Equally spectacular was Rooney’s header against Stoke City which helped United equalise for the second time at Old Trafford in a 3-2 comeback victory.

Rooney had nearly managed the first equaliser, too, with his head when Robin van Persie tapped in his rebound after Stoke’s early lead.

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