Let's face it, they have nothing left to say, spin is spin whichever way you spin it. What can you say after that Summer? Actions speak a lot louder than words. It's good to see the little worm squirm for a change though.
The only thing that will convince fans is a restocked squad and possibly a fully independent DoF with a track record. Y'know things big-boy clubs do.
You can but sit tight atm and watch it unfold and draw your own lines.
Daniel Taylor: An open letter to the Glazer family Daniel Taylor Dear Joel, Bryan, Kevin, Avi, Darcie, Edward.
Perhaps you might not consider this an appropriate time to make acquaintances when, as you have discovered more times than you probably wish to remember, it never feels like we are too far away these days from the next occasion when the whole of football is rubbernecking in Manchester United’s direction.
But it has not been particularly easy to get your attention on the fleeting moments our paths have crossed and, with all the security you pay to get you in and out of Old Trafford, I wasn’t entirely confident what might happen if I was ever close enough to your car to tap on the windows.
Let me begin though, by offering an olive branch and acknowledging that maybe I was wrong with some of my assumptions when you came down Sir Matt Busby Way for the first time and there were protest banners letting you know what they thought of it.
It has been 14 years and perhaps this is the time to cut you a little slack, particularly in your case, Joel, when I can see now that I was mistaken in those early days to believe you would prefer to run everything via remote control from Florida.
A little thing, perhaps, but I heard from one of your colleagues recently that you keep a framed shirt at home from the fixture against Manchester City at Old Trafford in 2008 when the two clubs arranged a ceasefire to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster.
I know, Joel, because I have seen you, that you and Avi like to fly over for as many matches as your schedule allows, and I have heard the story of your celebrations on that epic night in 2008 when the Champions League final in Moscow was settled on penalties.
Apparently you wanted to sit outside that night to take in the noise and colour rather than watching from behind the windows of an executive suite. Your colleagues still reminisce about the moment Edwin van der Sar kept out Nicolas Anelka for the game’s decisive moment and how, in the sort of euphoria that was once the norm for this club, you tumbled backwards and ended up on top of Ed Woodward in the next row.
It tells us that maybe you care more than we realised and that you do have the basis of an understanding of what it takes to invest emotionally, not just financially, in a football club. It tells us that perhaps it was unfair to assume your knowledge of football could fit on the back of a postage stamp.
Except, it doesn’t really make much difference, does it Joel?
Financially, of course, it has been an absolute triumph for your family if we tot up how much you have already drained from Old Trafford, the tax benefits of registering the club in the Cayman Islands and the jaw-dropping sums that will eventually come your way when you sign the business over to Saudi Arabia or whoever else makes you an offer you can’t refuse. On that front, you have won. However anyone tries to dress it up, the facts are irrefutable. You have won, big time.
Equally, let’s not kid ourselves that it is working out in any other way besides your collective ability to turn Old Trafford into your own giant fruit machine.
You see, there are certain things you ought to realise about Manchester United and what it is that makes this club so widely cherished. After all this time, it is not greatly encouraging that you still appear to need reminding of them here.
The first thing is that the club’s supporters do not automatically assume their team is going to play majestically all the time. They might have seen great things and, granted, they have experienced the kind of adventures that can breed a certain haughtiness. But there was always a realism, believe it or not, that there might be some difficult challenges once you, and everybody running the club, had lost the safety blanket of Sir Alex Ferguson’s management skills to snuggle against.
What they are they not so willing to tolerate, however, is the kind of stagnation that has sent what was once a team of serial champions towards the relegation quicksands of a league when, in different times, United’s participation near the top was the closest thing to a guarantee the sport could ever provide.
What they cannot excuse is the lack of care — for that is what it is — that has left a famous stadium showing its age and badly in need of some TLC over these last few years.
Nor can they excuse the absence of joined-up thinking from the top of the club that helps to explain why the current side are grubbing round for points in the lower reaches of the league and why, six years after Ferguson’s retirement, it is already starting to feel like nostalgia to remember the times when Old Trafford was a monument to brilliant and progressive work.
What none of us outsiders know is how you feel to have the finger of blame pointing in your direction. This is, after all, your watch. They are your fingerprints. And it was you, ultimately, who placed a level of trust in a regime, with Woodward at its forefront, that on the evidence so far has not come close to justifying that faith. Do you feel anything? Is your intention to do something about it?
Or, should I know better and concede it is futile hoping you might provide an insight into your business strategies when, despite all your PR about maintaining an open dialogue, there has been only one interview since your first day in Manchester, and it was boxed off with MUTV (not a station, let’s face it, known for Paxman-esque interrogation) to create the illusion of a good-news story?
That was you, Joel, and no doubt you remember very well the rancour of those days.
Perhaps you also recall – because many people don’t – the clear impression left by David Gill, the club’s then chief executive, that he was initially opposed to your takeover. Gill, awkward as this might seem now, took the view that “debt is the road to ruin” and, to this day, is reminded of that infamous quote among the protest banners.
As for Ferguson, maybe you remember that he, too, didn’t seem too keen initially about putting his name to your empire. He did, of course, become your biggest ally and, if I can lighten the mood for a moment, I can still chuckle about his sulphurous reaction when Stuart Mathieson, of the Manchester Evening News, had the temerity to name-check the fans’ breakaway team known as FC United of Manchester.
Enough of the nostalgia, though, when there is so much to discuss about the modern United and the gathering evidence — if you are aware of the quote — that Liverpool are clambering back on their perch and that it is the team from Anfield, as well as Manchester City, producing football of butterfly beauty. The kind of football, you may recall, that was the hallmark of the great United teams.
Were you aware that the crowd of 71,203 for the recent game against Arsenal was United’s lowest for a Premier League encounter in the post-Ferguson years? Or that the Europa League tie against Astana a fortnight earlier produced the smallest crowd — 50,783 — for any fixture at Old Trafford since 2012? Still a decent turnout, you might think, but 7,000-odd fewer than any other time United have played at home in that competition.
If this strikes you as a negative tone, maybe that is because this is the first time in 20 years of covering United that the club feels more synonymous with a leaky stadium roof and a disenchanted fanbase than everything it used to represent in happier days.
They were the days, even if it was subconscious sometimes, when match-goers at Old Trafford found themselves quickening their pace on the walk to the ground. I can vouch for that personally. Every single game — here’s the thing – felt like a showpiece occasion.
True, there were times when the club made bad signings and the team put in disappointing performances. Ferguson was not immune. Even on the difficult days though, there was something mesmerising about the sight of United chasing a game.
It was the era when David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, then Wayne Rooney and so many others, wore the club’s colours with distinction. It was the time Ryan Giggs, the boy who played football like a man, became the man who played football like a boy. And it was against this backdrop, in 2003, that I watched a skinny 18-year-old with gelled hair, braces on his teeth and a pimply forehead terrorise the defenders of Bolton Wanderers in what George Best described as “undoubtedly the most exciting debut I have ever seen.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, you might remember, made it clear he was going to take a malicious sense of pleasure from menacing opposition defences. When he did the same to Bolton again a couple of seasons later their manager, Sam Allardyce, was asked if his players might have been left with psychological scars. “Scars?” he replied. “We’re going to need a fucking plastic surgeon after that.”
And now? Perhaps the place to start is to ask why it is that Paul Pogba, the player you gave away for nothing in 2012 then bought back for £89 million four years later, wanted out again over the summer.
Maybe, Joel, you are feeling rather pleased with yourself after the Europa League tie against Partizan Belgrade, bearing in mind the match-winner, Anthony Martial, is said to be your favourite player. Indeed, the word behind the scenes is that you regard Martial as “the club’s Pele” and that may have been one of the reasons why the former manager, Jose Mourinho, who was not such a fan, was prevented from moving him out.
But it is 10 years since Ronaldo decided there were better adventures to be had elsewhere and I have to break the news that it is not just Mourinho who has misgivings about whether Martial — a good, occasionally excellent, forward but not one to bet your mortgage on — is the player to help United remember who they are, and what they are supposed to stand for.
It is a touchy subject, I presume, when the men you hire to find the right personnel have squandered untold sums on Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria among a list of vanity projects and transfer-market fails that is far too long to dissect here.
How did they get it so wrong?
Or, to put it another way, how did you get it so wrong?
The real mystery is what you, the Glazers, get out of it, other than the obvious, when you and your security detail must have picked up the vibe that the people who spend fortunes following the team are straying dangerously close to mutiny once again.
Someone, you see, has to ask these questions when so many of the club’s former players, with their freebies and their perks and their reluctance to burn bridges, plainly find it preferable to skirt around the subject.
I will not anticipate a reply, but it is time you thought about providing a few answers, unless you want to risk more of the opprobrium you faced in those early years. It wasn’t pretty, was it? But, can anyone say those people got it wrong?
In 50 years of following Manchester United, I have experienced nothing as dispiriting as the final 20 minutes of Wednesday night’s defeat to Burnley. Watching them as a schoolboy sink into the second division, spending my student grant observing them stumble through the Dave Sexton years, seeing those stodgy early days of Alex Ferguson: nothing compares to how utterly useless they were on Wednesday. But this was not a one-off, a bad day at the office. This was hard evidence of accelerating ineptitude.
When the line up was announced before kick off my son texted me to say it was as bad a United team as he had ever seen. He was right. And it transpired they were even worse on grass than they were on paper. A centre forward plagued by an apparent phobia of straying into the opponent’s penalty area, in midfield the only two Brazilians who can’t pass a football and at the back a defender whose principal contribution across nine years of United duty is to keep the internet supplied with memes of comedy pratfalls: they were every bit as hapless as expected.
And on the touchline was the manager, an unquestionable United hero, responsible for the most glorious few seconds in the club’s history, but now making a rabbit caught in the full beam of an advancing lorry's headlights look a model of strategic thinking.
For the fans in attendance at Old Trafford, there was no doubt who was to blame. As their team was being schooled by a side so recently in danger of being sucked into the relegation mire, nigh on 60,000 United supporters stood up and denounced the Glazer family, before turning on their heels and deserting the stadium long before the final whistle.
And they were right to direct their ire upwards. Except it is not straightforward parsimony that is the United owners’ failing. Nobody could deny money has been flung at the team. No, the problem has been the absolute incompetence with which that money has been spent. Transfer records have been constantly broken, largely bringing in a succession of players whose best days were well behind them. Meanwhile, the wage bill has soared in the relentless reward of inadequacy: the aforementioned Phil Jones is paid more than £6million a year to fall over gurning.
This is the owners’ biggest crime: they haven’t a clue how a football business should be run. Fifteen years ago, when they parked their huge pile of debt on a club that until then had been almost entirely debt free, the Glazers bought the finest machine in world football. But when the architects of that success left at the same moment, they proved themselves wholly incapable of finding suitable replacements. Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be a tough act to follow. But David Gill, the retiring managing director, has proven equally difficult to replace. Although oddly the Glazers are now, including temporary stand-ins, on their fifth attempt to find the right man for the technical area, they have retained the services of the chief executive who, from the very first, has daily demonstrated his inability to step in to Gill’s sizeable shoes.
While everything at Liverpool purrs in happy harmony, Ed Woodward presides over an executive structure at Old Trafford of staggering cack-handedness. Take recruitment. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been cursed by losing his three best outfield players simultaneously to long-term injury this season. In a squad as thin as his, that is catastrophic. But in the January transfer window, in which Liverpool quietly brought in Takumi Minamino, perfectly suited to fill in the one area of the team previously not covered (back up to Roberto Firmino), the only piece of business Woodward has managed to conduct thus far is to weaken the squad further by selling the captain.
It speaks volumes of United’s standing in the market that a forward who reveres the manager, whose father is his best friend, who even played for Solskjaer at a previous club, this month decided to join Borussia Dortmund rather than head to Manchester. Mind, watching Erling Haaland score a hat trick on his Bundesliga debut, you could understand why he might choose to go elsewhere: he was unlikely to receive the sort of passes he converted with such aplomb last weekend playing alongside Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard.
Yet last summer, Woodward briefed that the United recruitment department had been successfully revamped and was now absolutely up to speed. The trouble was, even in his urge to prove his competence, Woodward did nothing more than shed further light on his failure to understand the game over which he presides. He claimed that over 800 right backs had been scouted before Aaron Wan-Bissaka was bought. Which, if true, is evidence of astonishing misplaced effort. Anyone with a brain could have told him that 775 of those who were watched would not be up to standard. Instead of wasting time and money in the close observance of most of the full backs in the world game before buying the one everyone knew was the best available, maybe the recruitment department could have cast their eyes about lining up adequate cover in midfield. Or up front. Or in the centre of defence.
Woodward’s latest sizeable investment in furthering the progress of the club is to bring in a hugely expensive personal PR consultant. Apparently he worries his image among the supporters is poor and requires tens of thousands of pounds to put right. That will help deliver three points. Though as it happens I could tell him the only thing that would improve his standing among United supporters for free: he should publicly acknowledge his central culpability in a great institution’s embarrassing decline by announcing his immediate resignation.
Full summary of Antero Henrique’s time as Sporting Director for PSG Original Content
• since signing with the Club on May 2017 (during which he faced legal problems in Portugal that slowed down his signing), his predecessor Kluivert commented: “he knows nothing about football, it’s business”
• back when we were looking for a Centerback, we were offered Pepe by Jorge Mendes, everything was going well, until contract duration was brought up. Mendes wanted 2 years, Antero rejected that and offered 1 option of 1 year extension (same as Buffon currently), both stood their grounds and Pepe signed for Besiktas a couple hours later
• Thiago Motta’s contract was ending and we were without a 6, Antero negotiated with Canovi (his agent) and they reached an agreement, suddenly the verbal agreements turned out to be very different to those on the written contract, which ended in Thiago Motta remaining a free agent for 4 days
• after being offended by Mendes sending Pepe to Besiktas, Antero put an end to the very advanced negotiations with James Rodriguez. he was loaned to Bayern with a €40M purchase option (we could’ve had the same deal and what a signing this could’ve been for our midfield, perfect Pastore replacement)
• even with the 2017 transfer window being a general success,we can see the failure in negotiations for Fabinho and the lack of a CDM replacement for Motta
• off to the Winter 2018, Antero harassed Lucas Moura in order to force him to leave the club, including using some very racist remarks such as “hey little n word, when will you leave the club?” He even arranged for Kia Joorabchian to ship him off to China, which Lucas firmly refused as he wanted to stay in Europe, he signed for Spurs
• after the poaching of some youth players (Like Zagadou), Antero and Luis Fernandez offered at least 24 professional contracts to our youth players, which a dozen players signed in May and August
• Emery contract as manager was ending, 4 managers were considered:
Neymar and his agents’ pick: Luis Enrique
The owners’ choice: Pochettino or Tuchel
Antero’s Choice: Sergio Conceicao!
• behind the scenes, Rabiot’s extension was already a problem, one that Henrique didn’t take seriously, Rabiot demanded €7.2M and the guarantee of PSG signing a CDM, we’re still waiting for the latter
• From the end of May until the middle of August, Antero made multiple meetings with Kanté’s representatives while trying everything including threats to sign him. The little bugger stood firm as he wanted to stay with Chelsea, and during that wasted period we missed out on signing one of William Carvalho, Steven Nzonzi, Arturo Vidal or Radja Nainggolan.
• Antero worked with 2 certain agents (Moussa Sissoko and Laurent Schmitt) on multiple occasions, including Lassana Diarra’s signing, his wasted time with Kante and promising talent Arthur Zagre’s contract for example, while multiple unknown Portuguese bizarrely joined PSG’s board, Jaime Teixeira for example
• In search of a renowned Centerback at the request of Tuchel, PSG reached an agreement with Jérôme Boateng. who even rejected an offer from Manchester United at the deadline, waiting for the Bayern - PSG deal for his transfer. Antero Henrique ended up never making an offer to Bayern Munich.
• with a gaping hole in midfield, Antero called and promised a PSG signing for Lobotka, the player was enchanted with the idea of joining the capital club, he waited for a Celta Vigo - PSG agreement until the end of the transfer window. Antero ended up never making an offer to Celta Vigo
• despite months of negotiations, and after rejecting offers up to €60M for Guedes, he finally gave in at the end, he sold Guedes to Valencia for €40M paid over 6 years, a disaster of a deal
• despite a gaping hole in midfield, Lo Celso was loaned out at the very end of the transfer window:
Obligatory €25M purchase if Betis reaches a European football spot, Optional purchase option if they don’t
• that transfer was entirely Henrique’s handiwork, who arranged his friend and agent on the deal so he can receive a commission
• the PSG summer window was a failure, no midfield signings, a late Bernat arrival and Rabiot not extending
• in October 2018, Luis Fernandez was close to getting booted by Antero for no reason, no motive whatsoever, without being told or warned in any way, right now he is being paid to do nothing
• although relations between Henrique and Rabiot with his representatives was already heated, he announced in November 2018 there will be no contract extension, an extension that should’ve been done and dandy way back in June 2017
• after being in contact with Eder Militao for ages, he refused to pay the €5M demanded by his club, so he signed for Porto in July 2018. Real Madrid is preparing to sign him for €50M next summer because he turned out to be a beast
• here comes the big one, while he was searching for a financial solution to pay the €75M demanded by Ajax, Barca came in and it was a done deal only in 48 hours. Another botched transfer by Antero
• the reason the talented youngster Nsoki’s contract signature was delayed is: Antero was pressuring him to change his agent in order to have a lucrative professional contract, he suggested his associates Moussa Sissoko and Laurent Schmitt
From the end of May until the middle of August, Antero made multiple meetings with Kanté’s representatives while trying everything including threats to sign him.
Threats? Damn. What did he say?
in October 2018, Luis Fernandez was close to getting booted by Antero for no reason, no motive whatsoever, without being told or warned in any way, right now he is being paid to do nothing
What’s Luis Fernandez up to these days any way? I always liked Luis Fernandez, he’s a club legend.
despite a gaping hole in midfield, Lo Celso was loaned out at the very end of the transfer window:
Obligatory €25M purchase if Betis reaches a European football spot, Optional purchase option if they don’t
Lo Celso is gone. Real Betis is not winning the Europa League, but they’re 7th in La Liga, and I’ll think they’ll qualify for next years Europa League.