Ed Woodward, Jose Mourinho and the propaganda battle

Sarah Winterburn

What kind of words would a Woodward write?
For your delectation, we present excerpts from Ed Woodward’s Jamie Jackson’s piece in the Guardian about the wonderful Ed Woodward – almost entirely without comment.

*  ‘As the Glazers’ man-across-the-Atlantic he answers solely to the US-based owners, so commands full control of day-to-day affairs. This means the buck stops with him – a responsibility that holds no fear for Woodward.’

He’s so brave.

* ‘Woodward brokered the deal for JP Morgan that bought the Glazers United in 2005. He has a physics degree from Bristol University and a power base as formidable as Sir Alex Ferguson’s once was.’

And sexy.

* ‘Woodward, though, is a more relaxed presence than the Scot, possessing a sangfroid that means Mourinho in high‑maintenance mood will not faze him.’

But still cool.

* ‘Ferguson was the greatest manager in United’s history, not the top executive. Yet when he walked away the Ferguson era gave way to the Woodward era.’

We’ll shut up now…

* ‘Before, the Glazers were content for United to be the Ferguson show. But when he – and the chief executive, David Gill – left in spring 2013 Woodward took charge and, under the Glazers’ command, began a United reboot that can be characterised as a near-revolution in financial and football terms.’

* ‘In 2013 United’s count of sponsors stood at no more than 10. Cut to 2018 and under Woodward the number has rocketed. Despite a recent reduction to achieve quality not quantity the tally stands at around 80: the latest, announced this month, is Chivas as the club’s official spirits partner.’

* ‘Woodward’s razor sharp business acumen is used against him by the large constituency of fans who believe the club is a mere cash cow for the Glazers.’

* ‘Woodward’s view – and that of the Glazers – may be that after adding 10 outfield players (Zlatan Ibrahimovic came free and Alexis Sánchez was a swap) to the 20 frontline ones inherited, this is a Mourinho squad and it is time for him to focus on what he does have rather than what he does not.’

Loving the ‘may’ in that sentence, Ed Jamie

* ‘As an astute people‑reader, Mourinho will be conscious that Woodward’s mix of affability and ruthlessness (when required) makes him an operator to be reckoned with.’

* ‘The Portuguese faces the greatest challenge of his career – righting the United tanker – and Woodward may wonder whether the manager remains the best man for the job.’

Ooh, and another one.

* ‘Woodward believes Mourinho can deliver this season but, should the club go into freefall, the former will have no compunction recommending to the Glazers that the latter be removed.’

Forgot the ‘may’ there. Very careless.

Now, we’re not saying much of anything at all but…


The Greatest Downgrade
Second paragraph of The Sun’s back-page EXCLUSIVE about the problems at Manchester United:

‘And things are getting worse for Jose Mourinho with a number of top stars believing he could be gone soon.’

Fifth paragraph of The Sun’s back-page EXCLUSIVE about the problems at Manchester United (though we are now on the inside pages):

‘However, some players believe the United boss could be on his way.’

‘A number of top stars’ becomes ‘some players’ in just three short paragraphs of a story designed to fill a back page on a slow news day.


Mourinho is bigger than your manager/dad
That ‘EXCLUSIVE’ was brought to you by Neil Custis and Neil Ashton (maybe one of them wrote the second paragraph and one the fifth?), but the pair are clearly on different sides of the argument, with Ashton having criticised Mourinho on many, many occasions when he was Mr Chelsea at the Daily Mail.

He writes in Thursday’s Sun that Mourinho is ‘losing the dressing room’ and is ‘running out of tricks’. He also writes – quite rightly – that ‘for Mourinho and Manchester United, it is nowhere near enough’ for the club to finish a distant second in the Premier League title race.

Which is pretty much exactly the opposite of the childish nonsense Custis has been writing on The Sun website (it’s telling that it is Ashton’s words that make it as far as the actual newspaper; rank has certainly been pulled). When the chips are down for Mourinho, one of his great acolytes simply points and laughs at others.

‘THERE are fans throughout the Premier League currently rubbing their hands at Manchester United’s travails.

‘Fans of Tottenham; One League Cup in 19 years, one league runners-up spot in 45 years.

‘Fans of Liverpool; One League Cup in eight years and one league runners-up spot in nine years.

‘Fans of Arsenal; Three FA Cups in 13 years and one league runners-up spot in 13 years.

‘Meanwhile In the past THREE seasons of apparent chaos at Old Trafford Manchester United have won; one FA Cup, a League Cup, the Europa League, reached another FA Cup final and finished second in the league.’

Firstly, Mediawatch is very amused indeed that Custis has included in Manchester United’s impressive haul a trophy won by Louis van Gaal, a man who famously called Custis ‘Fat Man’ during a feud that lasted almost the entirety of the Dutchman’s reign. Custis certainly didn’t consider thattrophy to be a success at the time.

Secondly, in the past THREE seasons of apparent chaos, Manchester United have enjoyed the highest revenue of any club in the world; their turnover is pretty much double that of Tottenham’s. It’s almost like different clubs have different expectations.

Thirdly, it’s worth noting that Arsenal’s manager has left precisely because of that lack of trophies.

Fourthly, if you are including a losing FA Cup final appearance in a list of United’s great triumphs, should you perhaps mention the three cup finals reached by Liverpool in the last THREE seasons of apparent failure?

Anyway, Custis continues…

‘At Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino there has been a closing stumble to the 2015-16 season with the title in sight and one second place finish under him to match that achieved by Jose Mourinho last year.’

No, no and thrice no. Spurs finishing second does not ‘match’ what Mourinho achieved last season. Just as Leicester winning the title was not equally as impressive as Chelsea winning it the year before. And Everton avoiding relegation did not match Huddersfield Town’s exploits of last season. How many times do we have to point out that different clubs have different expectations? Apparently an infinite number.

‘Oh and they lost to United in the FA Cup semi-final last season too when Harry Kane was tactically driven into a black hole by Mourinho.’

Sorry, what? That’s not quite how we remembered that game. Or indeed how The Sun reported it at the time. They wrote that Spurs went ahead and then ‘could have added to the punishment and Harry Kane was almost on the end of Heung-Min Son’s cross but failed to get a touch’ and then ‘Eriksen also dragged an effort wide after Dele and Kane went through United’s defence again’. They then said that ‘it needed some inspiration to get United back into the game – and Paul Pogba provided it’.

We have scanned for any mention of Kane being ‘tactically driven into a black hole by Mourinho’ and come up with nothing. It’s confusing.

‘Thankfully most fans City fans of a certain age have enough experience and humility to remember where the club has come from rather than act like it has been going on for decades.

‘Having said that some of the lines in their recent fly on the wall documentary series ‘All or Nothing’ were needless from a club that has done enough talking on the pitch to silence any detractors.

‘The most unbecoming was when Ben Kingsley said ‘Guardiola versus Mourinho….attacking football versus park-the-bus’.

‘I seem to recall that bus getting into fifth gear in the second half of the derby at The Etihad last season…but that’s by the by.’

It really is when you finish the season 19 points adrift, Neil.

‘Three trophies in three seasons as United have achieved is something that was only a dream for City at one time.’

Yes. At one time when they were not as rich as United. So 100% unrelated to the situation in hand.

‘Liverpool are the biggest spenders this year, so let’s see what they turn that into.

‘Or will Klopp remain immune from any sort of criticism because, well, he’s Jurgen Klopp.’

Nope. No, he will not. Should Liverpool not win a trophy this season, Klopp will be roundly criticised. He has said as much himself.

To conclude…

‘There is no greater spotlight in the game than that which falls on United.

‘It takes a strong man to stare down that glare and still come out with trophies – any trophies.’

Which is odd because in 2016, Custis said this on Sky Sports:

“I don’t think [the FA Cup semi-final win] should mask what we have witnessed over the last 18 months under LVG, which has been pretty poor.”

Make your bloody mind up, Custis.


Schpecial Schteve
Meanwhile, the Steve McClaren propaganda continues apace.

Writes Neil Ashton in The Sun:

‘He has been dealt a dreadful hand at QPR, foolishly taking a job in West London to work with low-rent Championship footballers.’

To repeat ourselves: Yes, after failing in his last seven jobs including a 23% win ratio at Newcastle and Nottingham Forest, being sacked six times in six years – thrice at Championship level – and being out of work since leaving a role as coaching consultant at Maccabi Tel Aviv last December, what baffles us most about this situation is that McClaren agreed to sign a two-year deal at another Championship club, not that another Championship club agreed to take him on.


The oddest intro you will read all day
‘MESUT OZIL has been the victim of another drive-by monstering from motor-mouth Uli Hoeness’ – The Sun.


Recommended reading of the day
Rob Conlon on the worst season in Football League history
The Gegenpress on Arsenal and Unai Emery