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Challenging at the sharp end of the Champion’s League. Challenging for the Premier League title. Mounting serious attempts at both the FA Cup and Capital One Cup.

These are all answers to the question, “Where would you expect Manchester United to be this season?”

These answers would probably have been a lot closer to the truth had Ed Woodward had the courage to sack Louis van Gaal when it became apparent, to everybody except Woodward, that United’s season was actually going nowhere and that a replacement was required.

This became the case reasonably early in the season. United were out of the Capital One Cup almost as soon as entering it and the Premier League challenge was faltering virtually from day one. Elimination from the Champion’s League at the group stage just heaped more humiliation on a once great club.

Now was the time for Ed Woodward to stand up and be counted. To be a hero in the eyes of the United fans he needed to get rid of van Gaal. What he didn’t need to do was dither. Ed had proven himself remarkably good at dithering.

He dithered over the signing of Maroune Fellaini and, because of this, paid £4m more than he needed to in acquiring his services. He dithered over signing Thiago Alcantara, who got fed up and went to Bayern Munich. He dithered over Tony Kroos who went to Real Madrid.

Ed has also experienced visits to the opposite side of dithering. He panic-bought Angel Di Maria, a serial diver and occasional decent dribbler but never a player in the United mould. This was proven when he lost £19m by selling him to PSG a year after buying him. He bought the injury prone Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern. He has proven to be well, er…..injury prone.

More average signings turned up at Old Trafford. So much so that, at one stage, United’s bench included Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Memphis Depay. Players accounting for a large portion of the £250m Woodward spent weren’t even good enough to get into the team!

So, as well as the decidedly below average performances from both the team and the manager, we have to factor in the horrendously bad performance from their Marketing man from Cheltenham, (of all places)!

Had Jose Mourinho been brought in before Christmas, then United may well have been giving the answers outlined above to the question of where their season would lead. Unfortunately, Ed dithered. Van Gaal was left in charge to win the FA Cup and salvage a little from a disastrous season, and Mourinho must now face next season with no Champion’s League football, which would almost certainly not have been the case had he been brought in early enough to affect the outcome.

The upshot of all this is simple. While the United fans appear to be able to finally celebrate the long awaited departure of van Gaal and also appear to have accepted, in the main, the appointment of Jose Mourinho as next manager, they should also be ruing the fact that Woodward, as usual, seems to be emerging from all of this unscathed. Despite costing the club millions in lost revenue from failure to qualify for the Champion’s League, despite costing the club millions in “flawed” transfer negotiations and despite costing the club millions in manager pay-outs he appears to be bullet-proof.

This is one thing for Jose Mourinho to bear in mind as he moves into his new office. Manchester United seem far more adept at firing the monkey, albeit begrudgingly, than they do the organ-grinder.

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