Sometimes David Cameron must pinch himself, he must pull out a picture of Nick Clegg and laugh heartily before going back to his day and the business of coming up with more ways to make the EU referendum look like a choice between utopia and certain doom.
Why should the Prime Minister be so grateful and amused by his former deputy? I hear you ask. Well despite the Tories presiding over the most decimating series of cuts since David Beckham went into the barbers and asked for a number two all over, it was somehow the Lib Dems the electorate turned their back on. Cameron was voted back into power without the annoyance of having to form a coalition, while Clegg and his party teetered on the brink of obscurity.
It’s a similar trait at United, Louis van Gaal is blamed – and rightly so I hasten to add- for a season that has been a huge disappointment, regardless of the result on Saturday, while others escape relatively unblemished. When the manager addressed the most pitiful crowd for an end of season speech since Manuel Pellegrini gave his one to the City stewards a week earlier, he was booed by many of the Old Trafford faithful but those boos shouldn’t have been aimed just at him.
Van Gaal may not help his cause by claiming that United fans who are unhappy at finishing 15 points behind Leicester City have too high expectations, nor is he blameless in a season where goals have been rarer than a Tony Valencia smile but it’s not solely the Dutchman’s fault United are in this mess, it’s time the finger pointing moved away from the dugout and somewhere a little higher.
Edward Woodward, like David Cameron, has somehow emerged from his third season as Vice Chairman, the third one in succession where the Reds have underachieved, looking like he’s an innocent bystander in the ineptitude taking place on his watch. David Moyes was to blame for the catastrophes that ensued in United’s first Sir Alex Ferguson-less season in the eyes of many, while last season’s stumbling towards fourth spot has been rewritten as some form of glorified triumph and this season has been labelled the fault of van Gaal and he alone.
In many ways it’s amazing that a ‘Chief Exec’ who’s made silly promises he can’t keep, has overseen transfer attempts reminiscent of a drunken virgin on Championship manager and continues to dither over what to do about United’s managerial situation has escaped the ire of many Reds. Van Gaal may have proven to be the wrong choice but he’s a choice made by a man who like so many other decisions he’s made, has blundered badly at the cost of what is good for Manchester United football club. It’s time not just for van Gaal to depart for retirement somewhere far away from our football club in the Summer, but also the hapless ‘Deadwood’ before he does any more damage to the team we all love so dearly.
There’s an argument that Ed’s finally found his feet after the debacle of that first transfer window under David Moyes, where the likes of Fabio Coentrao, Ander Herrera, Thiago Alcantara, Sami Khedira and Cesc Fabregas were pursued and the club ended up with a last-minute overpriced Marouane Fellaini. People point to the acquisition of Juan Mata, the keeping of Wayne Rooney, the signings of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria and the selling of several players surplus to requirements as proof Ed’s finally found his mojo. Well for starters, Mata, Falcao and Di Maria were all fairly easy to purchase as their clubs were willing to let them go for a premium which United duly paid. Rooney was no doubt given even more money than he was already on to keep him happy and not one United player has left this club for anything less than a giveaway price since Woodward’s been overseeing transfers. Ed’s steamed along full of bravado and bullishness during the transfer windows, unfortunately for United fans what he possesses in balls he lacks in brains and his bull in a china shop routine has only managed to pay off once, with Anthony Martial –again a player signed for almost the maximum it was feasible at the time. There’s a case that not a single transfer was a bargain at the time or that Ed was able to make things run so smoothly they made Barry White look like Richard Blackwood.
It’s not just the transfers that did happen that make many of us doubt Ed’s competence; it’s the ones that didn’t. The whole Renato Sanches saga is the latest in a long line of potential signings that looked nailed on before somehow collapsing only for stories to suddenly appear in the press that United didn’t really want them anyway. It’s funny how there’s also reports on how the Reds dithering led to Sanches deciding Munich not Manchester was a better destination for him, shades of Alcantara anyone?
The worst and perhaps most damning indictment of Ed Woodward’s ineptitude and lack of clarity of vision has been his unwillingness to get rid of a manager who barring a six game run last season has never truly looked like having a clue about Manchester United and how to achieve the results or play the type of football that would please the fans. Ed had the ideal opportunity to get rid of van Gaal over Christmas when the Reds went on a disastrous run that saw the likes of Stoke, Bournemouth and Norwich all defeat us. Had he acted then, there’s a good chance the Reds would be enjoying Champions League football next season instead of the Sevilla invitational trophy.
Woodward’s tenure has been so bad it makes me look back not just at David Gill as some form of messiah, but even Peter Kenyon’s tenure at United has a certain fondness to it such is the level of farce we’re currently forced to endure.
There are literally hundreds of candidates out there who could replace Ed, football men – or women- who understand the game, know how it works and can work in tandem with a manager, the media and other clubs while not being afraid to make the tough decisions when the time comes. They may not be revered but when you look at some of the deals the likes of Karren Brady or Daniel Levy get for their clubs it makes you wonder why Ed’s salary is almost the same as the pairs combined and more than any other Premier League Chief Executives.
As Kevin Spacey says in The Usual Suspects “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist” maybe in football, just as in politics Cameron convinced the electorate it was all Clegg’s fault, Woodward’s crowning achievement will be keeping his job while those under him are blamed for the shortcomings he watches over. It’s time for the Louis and Ed show to come to an end- both parts of it.