May 21, 2014 1:25:52 am
After showing David Moyes the exit at Old Trafford, Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s first task was to have a one-on-one with Ryan Giggs and offer him the role of interim manager for the last four Premier League games. At the same time, Giggs was categorically told he wouldn’t be considered for a full-time role next season.
Giggs’s debut as United manager was emotional. The return of his fellow Class of ‘92 graduates in the dug-out added to the drama and there was a clamour to appoint him on a full-time basis after the 4-0 win over Norwich. Alex Ferguson, too, backed Giggs but Woodward was not to be swayed. Carlo Ancelotti was the first choice on his list but on getting a negative response, Woodward whittled down his shortlist to one as Louis van Gaal became the only candidate.
Woodward barely consulted Ferguson on this. Backed by the club owners (the Glazers), he went about his task ruthlessly, removing emotion from the process. He ditched the Ferguson-way and ushered in a new era. Van Gaal was Woodward’s appointment. Giggs was retained as the Dutchman’s assistant only after getting the nod from the new manager.
The entire episode signified a major power-shift in the United boardroom. Woodward has now become all important.
United have tended to let the past influence their present. Sir Matt Busby did that by picking Wilf McGuinness as his successor and subsequently, bringing in Frank O’Farrell, Tommy Docherty and Dave Sexton. Ferguson handed over the reins to Moyes. All the appointments flopped.
But unlike the 1970s, football has become a multi-billion dollar industry and United are one of the biggest brands. It would have been risky for the world’s most-indebted club to give Ferguson a second opportunity and a massive gamble to hand to let a greenhorn like Giggs take charge. Woodward took the safer route.
The next season is going to be a make or break affair for United after finishing seventh in the league. Rebuilding is the order of the day. The owners have chosen Woodward and van Gaal to oversee this process. This is the new reality that the club faithful must accept.
(Shamik is a Principal Correspondent in Kolkata)
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