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What is going wrong at Manchester United? Poor recruitment, Ed Woodward, bad managers, and dressing room culture to blame

The post-mortem will be going on at Manchester United about just what is exactly going wrong at the club.

The club have endured their worst ever start to a Premier League season having taken just 34 points from their opening 24 games.

To put that into context, the worst start Sir Alex Ferguson made was in the 1992/93 season where they had 44 points but still went on to win the league title.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man United lost at home to Burnley on Wednesday
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Since Fergie left in 2013, they have finished seventh, fourth, fifth, sixth, second and sixth. He did not finish lower than third in the Premier League era.

Ferguson came to Old Trafford with the goal of knocking Liverpool ‘off their f****** perch’. And he did.

It has been nearly seven years since he left and Liverpool now look set for a period of dominance. Jurgen Klopp has quietly been building an absolute juggernaut of a side while the mess at Old Trafford only seems to be getting worse.

Man United hold the record for most league titles, with 20, but their last came in Ferguson’s final season in 2013.

Liverpool have not win the league for 30 years but look all but certain to claim their 19th.

United are in disarray and there is a multiude of problems both on and off the pitch.

Here at talkSPORT.com, we have taken a look at exactly what is going wrong at the club.


Ed Woodward and the owners

Woodward has been working for the Glazer family since he advised them in 2005 during their successful takeover of the club.

He held various roles at the club before being named executive vice-chairman in 2012. He was promoted to the top operational role following David Gill’s retirement.

Woodward’s first transfer window was in 2013 and things did not bode well from there when they signed Marouane Fellani from Everton.

Poor decisions have been made from the club and that starts with the owners in persisting with Woodward in such a key decision making role.

His background is in finance and having someone with more footballing expertise would seem glaringly obvious.

The financial side of the club is doing very well. The share prices have risen by a third in just three months despite their poor performances on the pitch.

They also generated more revenue (£627.1million) than any other English club last season.

Ed Woodward earned more than any of his Premier League rivals last season
Getty Images – Getty

As long as the value of the club goes up then it is difficult to see Woodward being ousted.

Man United legend Gary Neville said on his podcast: “I can’t change the ownership of United, no one can. I’m struggling to understand why the ownership have persisted in trusting the management team to oversee the building of a Premier League title winning team since Sir Alex left.

“I saw a statistic two weeks ago that United have the second-highest wage bill in the world. And that’s the squad they’ve got. It’s unforgivable. It really is.

“I can’t believe the investment that’s been put into the squad in the last five, six, seven years and you end up with that out on the pitch.

“If you don’t lose your job for essentially overseeing that investment, that wage bill and putting that team out on the pitch then I have to say something is really wrong.

Gary Neville is frustrated by managerial decisions at Manchester United
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“There’s real talent in that executive team… but in terms of what the club needed to do for a number of years now is put the best in class football operators into that club and they’re not doing it. They’re not doing it and it’s a mess.”

It is also worth remembering that Woodward is the highest paid director in the Premier League with annual earnings last season of £3.16million.

Both he and the Glazers were the subject of a series of angry chants from the fans as they were beaten 2-0 by Burnley on Wednesday.

Recruitment

Manchester United have spent roughly £850million on transfers since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

Since then they have failed to launch a serious title challenge and have finished in the top four just twice since 2013.

They are headed for yet another season without Champions League football despite consistent high spending on overhauling the team.

Martin Lipton slammed the squad on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast on Thursday.

“The goalkeeper has stopped making the saves he used to make,” said Lipton. “He is becoming just an ordinary goalkeeper now.

“You’ve got a centre-half [Harry Maguire] who is playing through pain – he doesn’t look 100 per cent fit – and he’s got no faith in the men around him.

“The right-back [Aaron Wan-Bissaka] has done well, but he is a defensive right-back and not an attacking right-back.

“The midfield is a disaster zone.

New captain Harry Maguire was powerless to stop Burnley scoring twice
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“Without [Marcus] Rashford they don’t appear to have a cutting edge.

“From top to bottom, the team is a mess. That is due to recruitment over a number of years.”

There has unquestionably been some poor investment over the years and there are doubts that would improve with the same man making the key transfer decisions.

Players signed since Sir Alex Ferguson retired

Marouane Fellani – £27.5m

Juan Mata – £37.1m

Ander Herrera – £29m

Luke Shaw – £31m

Marcos Rojo – £16m

Angel di Maria – £59.7m

Daley Blind – £13.8m

Radamel Falcao – £6m loan fee

Victor Valdes – free

Memphis Depay – £26.3m

Matteo Darmian – £12.7m

Morgan Schneiderlin – £25m

Bastian Schweinsteiger – £6.8m

Sergio Romero – free

Anthony Martial – £58m

Eric Bailly – £30m

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – free

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – £26.3m

Paul Pogba – £89m

Victor Lindelof – £39m

Romelu Lukaku – £90m

Nemanja Matic – £40m

Alexis Sanchez – swap deal

Diogo Dalot – £19m

Fred – £52m

Lee Grant – £1.5m

Daniel James – £15m

Aaron Wan-Bissaka – £50m

Harry Maguire – £80m

Dressing room culture

Sir Alex Ferguson’s United were renowned for their winning attitude in the dressing room.

He was also a known for his no nonsense attitude and he was quick to get rid of any dissenting characters.

Gary Neville told the Soccer Science Conference last year: “When I was playing you always had three groups – the guardians, the middle group and the younger ones.

“Manchester United doesn’t have the guardians now. Absolutely not, no. There are some good professionals there, But I don’t think they carry the influence in the dressing room to be able to dominate the culture and that’s a real problem.

“In any business, in any football team if the guardians in the dressing room, the ones who have the influence, are not setting the example, then you have a big problem and have to clear them out.”

Sir Alex Ferguson won 13 Premier League titles with Man United
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Plenty of criticisms have been levied towards the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard for their antics off the pitch.

Pogba and Jose Mourinho notoriously had a fractured relationship at the club, especially during the final months of his reign.

It was claimed that Pogba shouted: “He thought he could make a fool of me and turn the fans against me. He f***** with the wrong baller” once Mourinho had been sacked.

Michael Carrick reportedly had to intervene and remind Pogba that no one is bigger than the club.

Poor hirings

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was Man United’s fourth permanent manager since Ferguson retired in 2013 and all have failed.

David Moyes on paper was a solid hire having enjoyed consistent results for Everton over a number of years.

Louis van Gaal was next but fared little better with Jose Mourinho then getting his chance.

Mourinho guided the club to a second place finish and claimed it was one of his best achievements.

Jose Mourinho was sacked by Man United in December 2018
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He said: “If I tell you, for example, that I consider one of the best jobs of my career was to finish second with Man United in the Premier League, you will say, ‘this guy is crazy’,” Mourinho said.

“‘He won 25 titles and he is saying that a second position was one of his best achievements?’

“I keep saying this because people don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.

“And sometimes we, in this side of the cameras, analyse things with a different perspective.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man United lost at home to Burnley
AFP or licensors

Just over a year on from Mourinho’s sacking these words seem more pertinent than ever.

Solskjaer was hired off the back of a good caretaker spell and his status as a popular former player.

He was relatively inexperienced at top-level management and with hindsight you could argue that the club should have gone in a different direction.

It seems every manager since Ferguson has been a victim of poor decision making from the top.




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