Sky Sports News' James Cooper reports from Los Angeles, where Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been speaking to the media...
Thursday 24 July 2014 06:07, UK
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is looking forward to the squad’s tour of North America, as he insists the Old Trafford club remains the biggest in the world, writes Sky Sports News' James Cooper.
And while Woodward is not ruling out competing with the biggest spenders in the game, he is refusing to set any objectives for new manager Louis van Gaal.
Woodward said: “We don't have a target this year. Let’s be totally clear. We don't have a target.
“I am not sitting down giving targets to anybody. We want to strive to win. That is what we want to do. That expectation comes with the history of the club. You have to accept that. I have to accept that. Everyone has to accept that. Everyone has to have that benchmark for Manchester United. That is what all the fans want. That is what our history demands. We want to win.
"There is no budget, there is money. We are in a very strong financial position. We can make big signings. That doesn’t mean we are going to throw money around. Louis is the manager. We have a lot of scouting output through the last 12 months that is flagging various things to us.
The reality is that we're not afraid of spending significant amounts of money in the transfer market. Whether it's a record or not doesn't really resonate with us. What resonates is a top, top elite player that the manager wants that is going to be a star for Manchester United.
“Louis is the one who makes the ultimate decision around who he wants in his squad. I am not going to force feed him with a player he has not selected. The reality is that we're not afraid of spending significant amounts of money in the transfer market. Whether it's a record or not doesn't really resonate with us. What resonates is a top, top elite player that the manager wants that is going to be a star for Manchester United."
Woodward has been impressed by Van Gaal’s impact since the Dutchman arrived at the club less than a week ago, and only a few days after the 62-year-old guided the Netherlands to a third place finish at the World Cup.
And Woodward concedes that finding a successor to David Moyes after a season that saw United slump to seventh in the Premier League and miss out on European football was one of the biggest decisions he’s ever made.
“Yes, by some distance it is the most important job in the club. And we didn’t take the decision lightly,” Woodward said.
“We ran a process and we thought very carefully about the characteristics we were looking for in a manager. We were looking for a manager who would sync with the Manchester United philosophy.
“If you pause and take a step back, it is attacking football, it’s giving youth a chance, and both of those things are core to Louis’s philosophy of football - and a track record. If he brings so much energy to this, we felt he was the right choice.”
While United endured difficulties on the pitch, the club’s commercial momentum has not been affected, as Woodward points to a new sponsorship deal with US car giant Cheverolet and a world-record £750m kit agreement with Adidas.
Woodward said: "What the deal shows and what we are seeing and everything we are doing from a commercial perspective, also from talking to agents and players about wanting to come to us, we are the biggest club in the world. There is no question in my mind about that.
“All I am saying is that there is a different expectation at this club. It is a different size in terms of interest level, fan base, a lot of what we tried to do. We also have a commercial arm that interacts with the football club in a way that doesn't disrupt the football club."
One factor that may have disrupted Manchester United in recent weeks is the departure of their captain Nemanja Vidic, his centre-back partner Rio Ferdinand and full-back Patrice Evra. Their exits leave Van Gaal short of defensive cover and relying on the likes of Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to deputise. Luke Shaw's arrival from Southampton will certainly help, but Woodward is expecting his new manager to use the US tour as a fact-finding mission to decide who stays, who goes and who comes in.
"We are still assessing things and looking at options," he added. "We are not sitting on our hands and waiting for Louis. He is indicating clearly what he wants.
"All I am saying is there could be some other things that happen as a result of the time he spends with the players in the next few weeks. If you think about it, for an experienced professional like him from a football perspective, maybe he knows the first 15 players really well but the next 15 not so well. He is taking time to see."