Manchester United chief Ed Woodward could appease fans in transfer window again
Drenched and demoralised, Peter Kenyon ascended the Luzhniki Stadium steps in the Moscow rain and was serenaded.
“Peter Kenyon, is a w—–, is a w—-r.
“Peter Kenyon, is a w—–, is a w—-r.”
It was gone midnight and Manchester United supporters had only just composed themselves from the delirium of Edwin van der Sar’s penalty save; their joyous tears washed away by the Moscow rain. Kenyon, the club’s former chief executive who abandoned United mere months into the Roman Abramovich revolution, led Chelsea’s players up to the VIP box to press the flesh of cronies Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini.
Kenyon was dubbed ‘cuddly Pete’ by the friendlier United fanzines during his three-year tenure as Martin Edwards’s replacement. His final act was to oversee a pimpled teenager inking their name on a United contract. Cristiano Ronaldo is not synonymous with Kenyon’s United legacy but Ronaldinho is.
“Peter Kenyon, who was chief executive then, didn’t get the job done,” Sir Alex Ferguson spat months after Kenyon fled to the King’s Road. Ed Woodward has been accused of similar.
Many who heckled Kenyon goaded Woodward with the same chant on Saturday. It took those of us in the press box around five or 10 seconds to make out the chanting began with ‘Ed Woodward’. The United executive vice-chairman, sat in the directors’ box with his wife, was well within earshot to hear the lyrics.
The chanting became more menacing. Sinister songs, previously reserved for Malcolm Glazer and Manchester City, were rejigged to accommodate Woodward. The chanting was a jolt for how loud and sustained it was. Woodward was understandably quick to head back into the directors’ lounge.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was later than usual in taking his seat in the press room and his walk from the tunnel takes him through the south stand lounge where club dignitaries mingle. “I’m not sure if the players will get it but I noticed, yeah,” he said. “As a club, we’ve got to stick together, we’ve got to be united, we are a family.
“I can only say from when I’ve been here I’ve been backed by the owners, I’ve been backed by Ed and they’re supporting me, so for me, make sure they stick together.
“We are in all competitions. We are still in the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, we’re fifth in the league, still challenging. We’ve improved the position from last season, we’ve got Europa League. They (the supporters) have just got to believe me when I say I feel we are doing loads of good things behind the scenes.”
Woodward’s popularity hinges on results. The morning after that night in Paris last year, supporters requested selfies with him at Charles de Gaulle airport. Some in attendance for a mournful service to remember the Munich air disaster in 2014 at Manchesterplatz chanted: “There’s only one Ed Woodward.” That was not the time nor place to ask what he was thinking with Cesc Fabregas.
In Astana, a supporter approached Woodward for a hug; the ruse before an attempted prank. Whenever Woodward is in Manchester for a game, he maintains a low profile and is unlikely to dine at Piccolino or Victor’s in Hale. A United supporter who accosted him in Mayfair amid interest in Alvaro Morata two-and-a-half years ago was given short shrift.
Woodward cannot bring himself to read certain critiques and someone else has to pick the newspapers up with tongs to keep him abreast. Woodward this month hired Neil Ashton, previously the chief football reporter at The Sun, as a media consultant just 15 months after the incumbent director of communications started.
Woodward could realistically recruit an individual to improve his image without recruiting a player to improve the United squad. In the January transfer window. In the interest of fairness, Woodward has taken a back seat on recruitment, not that the Stretford Enders will factor that into their caustic choruses.
Woodward could not hide on Saturday
Woodward in the stands on Saturday
United are an establishment more fractured than the Royals and panacea could be Bruno Fernandes. Six years ago, United began January with three consecutive defeats and were ejected from both domestic cup competitions in January. In Juan Mata, Woodward identified an appeasement signing.
That Mata had been sparingly used by Jose Mourinho was immaterial; Mata was Chelsea’s reigning two-times player of the year with 32 goals, 58 assists and three trophies in two-and-a-half years. He was a player who transcended rivalries, world-class at the time of arrival and a marquee addition.
Mata cost a club record £37.1million, only the manager did not sign him. David Moyes told journalists who enquired about Ross Barkley the previous month United did not need a No.10 since they had Wayne Rooney. Mata, an elegant playmaker, was crowbarred into the United attack on the right.
Whereas Mata was an opportunistic signing, Fernandes has been an attainable for almost a year. His exotic name arouses unbridled excitement among the Twitterati and Sporting Lisbon want to sell him. His signature would make the highlights of next month’s conference call – as would his social following spike and the Google referrals.
Peter Kenyon could never boast about those.
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