Manchester United vice-chairman Edward Woodward (centre), Joel Glazer (left) and group managing director Richard Arnold (r) in the stands.
It is difficult to think of Ed Woodward without recalling Edward Woodward. Particularly when the late English actor Edward was appearing in the glorious 1980s American TV series The Equalizer as Robert McCall, a private detective/vigilante with a mysterious past whose job in life was to help people in trouble.
Ed Woodward, the Manchester United executive vice-chairman/CEO, is also a figure with a mysterious past, or certainly one that leaves you questioning his credentials for such a lofty role. Unlike The Equalizer, Ed does not seem to be helping people in trouble. Or a manager in trouble who needs to equalise the odds having been handed a hospital pass from a crafty old predecessor. The plot thickens.
Despite last night’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal, David Moyes remains on course to lead United to their worst finish since the days when The Equalizer was adorning TV sets between 1985-1989, a period in time when United's only trophy of note was picking up the FA Cup under Ron Atkinson 29 years ago.
Still, the Old Trafford boardroom does not sound overly gloomy. Before United departed Arsenal with a result last night, they announced another result.
United went public with the news that the club were revelling in record revenue of £122.9m for the three months to December 31, 2013. Commercial revenues rose 18.8 per cent in the quarter to £42.3m.
Such profits hint at golden times for the Glazer family and Ed until one studies the morass United have tumbled into in the Premier League.
United occupy seventh place in the table. They are 11 points behind fourth-placed Liverpool in the hunt for a Champions League spot. Unless Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton collapse in the final dozen games of the season, Manchester United will not be participating in the Champions League next season. There is every chance they will not be in the Europa League either.
Some might suggest missing out on the latter is a blessing in disguise, but for a club like United to be without European football is an embarrassment. Such a scenario has not visited Old Trafford for three decades.
Much of the blame will be laid at the door of Moyes, but if we are swearing people in, Ed Woodward should also have a case to answer. He is an accountant. It tends to be difficult to marry the wants and needs of a number cruncher with a football coach, but surely harmony should not be this trying.
If people are wondering if Moyes was the right candidate to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, was Woodward the correct choice to replace outgoing CEO David Gill?
Woodward remains most notable among some fans for departing the club's pre-season trip to Australia apparently on his way to conclude a deal to sign Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona.
Fabregas never arrived. Thiago Alcantara opted for Bayern Munich ahead of United when he left Barcelona while they failed to sign Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao.
Marouane Fellaini was purchased for £27.5 million in the final hours of last summer's final day of the transfer window.
Everything about it reeked of panic buy. Fellaini has been a waste of money as last season’s champions have tumbled into a pit of mediocrity. He was not trusted to take any part against Arsenal with a vantage point the best he could hope for.
There has been much back-slapping around Old Trafford over the signing of Juan Mata for £37.5 million from Chelsea, but he will only be found to be effective if United can sprinkle their squad with at least another six new faces of similar quality during the close season.
It has been reported Moyes will be given over £150 million to spend, but such figures will only make sense if Woodward does his job as diligently as the manager.
Players have to be moved on. And quite a lot of them when you study the lack of true creativity against Arsenal. Vidic, Ferdinand, Cleverley, Fellaini, Smalling, Rafael and Evra are players who could all be sold on without too much wailing among the diehards.
Like there is a proven method to coaching, there is a certain decorum and art form to landing the prime targets. Joe Kinnear departed his job as a joke figure under the guise of Newcastle director of football after signing only two loan players in two windows. Woodward has landed only two new faces in his two windows since arriving.
Strangely enough, he could be found rejoicing in the fact that United had increased their awareness on social media.
Woodward revealed that United gained more than 200,000 Twitter followers and 250,000 Facebook likes after buying Mata from Chelsea.
Do any true United fans give a toss about such stats? And not the ones sitting watching a TV in Shanghai or in Timbuktu as part of the global fanbase.
This is a football club, and a football team we are talking about. Its main priority is delivering results for its fans. It is not Tescos or Marks and Sparks.
Somewhere down the line this has been forgotten. During his travails as Liverpool manager a couple of years, Kenny Dalglish bizarrely appeared to lose the purpose of his job during a gruesome run of two wins in 11 games.
"There are many ways you can judge a season and the best way is progress at the football club as a whole," said Dalglish. "I don't think it necessarily relates to trophies or points.
"You can measure it by how the club has progressed and where it is, from the first team to the kids. Off the pitch, especially, the club is a lot stronger than what it was. You go off the pitch and see how much money we are getting through sponsorship and kit deals."
Fans of Manchester United Shanghai fan club react as they watch a telecast of the team's English Premier League match.
A £300 million deal kit deal did not save Dalglish from the chop later that year. Despite the self-satisfied air emanating from Woodward, more Twitter followers will not save Moyes.
Suddenly reaching the top four of the Premier League has been portrayed as the Elysian Fields. Some supporters have been brainwashed by business sorts into thinking this means something. Trophies remain the only real currency.
Like the Arsenal fans paying a grand a season for a seat at the Emirates, who unveiled a banner before the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day last August that read: 'You can't buy class'.
The arrival of Mesut Ozil for £42 million from Real Madrid a fortnight later proves that you can. And clubs with such vast levels of television finance should. Anything else they try to feed the fans is a con.
What United supporters should be asking is why was Woodward not in amongst it like Roy Keane challenging Patrick Vieira when Arsenal were doing the deal to sign Ozil, rather than pursuing Fellaini?
Incidentally, Denzel Washington is appearing in a movie version of The Equalizer this year. It is due out in October. United should sport a shiny new look by then. Moyes' survival may depend upon whether this proves to be another summer of discontent.
If Woodward does not do his job better this close season, it will be Moyes who ends up as the victim. If Woodward fails, Moyes will be sacked. That seems to be an obvious reality that the Scot should make himself aware of when drawing up his list of targets.
Good luck with that, Davie.
Still, splendid news about those fresh Twitter followers.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manchester United
- Edward Woodward
- Ed Woodward
- David Moyes
- Marouane Fellaini