From a fans point of view, the transfer market is a dark and seedy underworld that is ruled by greedy agents, overpowering clubs and a large dose of lying.
So, Ed Woodward’s detailed insight into the transfer market from Manchester United’s perspective will come as a refreshing breeze through the window.
How complicated are transfer deals? What does Man United do to prepare for the window and is there an actual list of targets which is handed to Louis van Gaal.
Woodward delves deep into the transfer market mire in an exclusive interview with ManUtd.com and offers a very genuinely interesting insight into what really happens behind closed doors.
“It’s actually fairly straightforward,” Woodward proclaimed when asked about transfers.
“We have a global scouting network that’s all over many countries and key markets from a football perspective. The scouts are watching matches and we have a huge amount of data we purchase and a pyramid approach in terms of delivering that information to our chief scout and his team who are assessing it.
“So we’re always able to look at a position and have our view in terms of the list of targets that we think will suit Manchester United and help our team. That list is then discussed with Louis [van Gaal] and his staff and there’s a process of further analysis done.
“Once Louis sets his targets – and I think it’s always important to have more than one target for each position, because you have to accept that sometimes you may not get your first choice for whatever reason, so let’s plan ahead and look at two and three – then all I do is go and negotiate the deals with the club and the player. It’s straightforward, although it may not be easy in terms of negotiations.”
Woodward makes it all sound so simple but United fans know all too well the difficulties that the club has run into over the years when it comes to signing players.
One interesting point which Woodward makes is how much data and work goes into compiling a list of potential targets, which dispels the theory that Louis van Gaal simply chooses who he wants. There’s a methodical process behind it all.
The nature of the transfer window means the wheel never stops turning even after it has been closed shut but Woodward’s admission that work on the following window starts almost immediately might come as a surprise to some.
“It’s really September,” Woodward responded when asked about when the work begins.
“Once the window closes, your scouts are then starting to look at the key areas where you think you may have a weakness and the whole process starts. The manager will have had four more months of working with the squad [by January] and have had much better visibility of who the ins and outs should be, but the work has to have started to get them.
“Yes, essentially there is [a physical list of names] because we track everything. That’s what the scouting team does. It’s relentless because you’re immediately focused on the next [signing]. To that extent, I am completely aligned with the fans. When we tell them we’ve signed a player, there is a moment of happiness but then it’s about who’s next.
“There is a lot of work involved in terms of negotiations and that is time-consuming, so I prefer to look back at it at the end of the window, see the players on the pitch and see how they’ve been blended into the squad.”
United, and Woodward, have enjoyed a very successful summer so far with four new faces coming in to the club and lots of deadwood being sold as well.
With more signings expected, work is not yet done for the summer and if Woodward can finish off the window as good as it has done so far, he’ll have put United in the best possible position for a league title push next year.