Ed Woodward should be sacked by Manchester United’s owners, according to the club’s former captain, Gary Neville.
Speaking in the wake of United’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, Neville said Woodward has presided over too much failure as United’s executive vice-chairman and that the time had come for the Glazers to dismiss the former investment banker.
United have spent around £850 million on players in the six and a half years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and have the Premier League’s highest wage bill but are currently 30 points adrift of leaders Liverpool in fifth, tied for points with Wolves.
They have finished in the top four only twice since 2013 and are at serious risk of missing out for the fifth time in seven seasons. Failure to qualify for the Champions League for a second successive season would also result in a hit to income from the club’s kit sponsorship deal with Adidas, although winning the Europa League offers an alternative route back into Europe’s flagship cup competition.
Neville has been a vocal critic of Woodward’s running of United and claims something is “really wrong” if the executive continues to cling to power given the problems that have mushroomed at the club on his watch.
“I can’t change the ownership of United, no one can. I’m struggling to understand why the ownership have persisted in trusting that management team to oversee the building of a Premier League title winning team since Sir Alex left,” he told the Gary Neville Podcast.
“I saw a statistic two weeks ago that United have the second-highest wage bill in the world. And that’s the squad they’ve got. It’s unforgivable. It really is.
“I can’t believe the investment that’s been put into the squad in the last five, six, seven years and you end up with that out on the pitch.
“If you don’t lose your job for essentially overseeing that investment, that wage bill, and putting that team out on the pitch then I have to say something is really wrong.
“There’s real talent in that executive team ... but in terms of what the club needed to do for a number of years now is put the best in class football operators into that club and they’re not doing it. They’re not doing it and it’s a mess.”
Woodward and the Glazers were the subject of a series of angry, foul mouthed chants during a sustained show of dissent from section of United’s support during the 4-0 win over Norwich City at Old Trafford nine days ago.
Resentment and animosity towards Woodward and the club’s executive team has been steadily building for years while the Glazers have remained the target of fan fury ever since their takeover in 2005.
United fans are still waiting for the appointment of a director of football and injuries to Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba have served only to place a fresh spotlight on the squad’s shortcomings and the failure to bring in more quality reinforcements last summer when the need for midfielders and another forward was pressing.
United have already lost out to Borussia Dortmund for their top transfer target this month, Norway striker Erling Haaland, who scored a hat trick as a second half substitute his debut for his new club at the weekend.
They are now locked in a fight to sign the Portugal midfielder, Bruno Fernandes, from Sporting Lisbon with both clubs at loggerheads over the fee. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer talked post Liverpool about United also needing to consider an emergency loan signing this month now that Rashford - the top goal scorer - has been ruled out for up to three months with a double stress fracture in his back.
Neville believes United should be coordinating a plan behind the scenes to ensure they get back on top in time as Liverpool move closer to ending their 30 year wait for the title but the former England defender doubts the club has the expertise in the right positions to do so.
“Somewhere in the background at United someone has to be plotting the downfall of Liverpool and getting back above them,” Neville said. “That’s going to take wise, smart, good people, and I’m not sure they’re there.
“There is an element of you that has to accept Liverpool are a huge football club, but there are some huge decisions that need to be made in that boardroom at United. I can’t believe the squad they’ve ended up with after the investment made.
“The thing that should shock the owners more than anything, they should see that last minute goal (from Mohamed Salah on Sunday) – they should have that playing on repeat every single day in their office over in America – Liverpool’s fans singing, ‘We shall not be moved.’
“I feel emotional. I was proud to be part of a great United team, I lived through a difficult childhood as a United fan, watching Liverpool win every single title it felt like and then United started to win and maintained it for a long time.”