Ed Woodward gave himself a mountain climb right from the off as his first two transfers windows as Manchester United chief executive were unspectacular, to say the least
Richard Arnold faces a monumental task at Manchester United as he looks to put out the fires that were ignited during Ed Woodward’s reign.
Arnold was named as United’s chief executive on February 1 with executive vice-chairman Woodward stepping down from his role before leaving the club for good in April.
Woodward has been United’s chief executive since 2012 and his tenure has come under fierce criticism as the Red Devils have gone without a league title during that span, spending £1.22 billion on transfers in the process.
Woodward gave himself a mountain climb right from the off as his first two windows were unspectacular to say the least – here are his first ten signings and how they have fared since.
Guillermo Varela: £2.4m – 11/06/13
Woodward’s first signing was Uruguayan full-back Guillermo Varela in a deal worth up to £2.4million from Penarol.
Varela joined the Red Devils as a 20-year-old after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement but he was definitely a Fergie signing as he spent the last few weeks of the 2012/13 season on trial.
He played four times for United over four years with loans to Real Madrid’s B side and Eintracht Frankfurt. Varela returned to Penarol on a permanent deal before coming back to Europe with Copenhagen and now Dynamo Moscow.
Marouane Fellaini: £27.5m – 03/09/13
Marouane Fellaini was Woodward’s first big signing as he joined from Everton on Deadline Day for £27.5m. United failed to trigger his release clause of £23.5m, which expired on July 31, meaning they had to shell out the extra cash for the midfielder.
David Moyes linked up with his former player and even though Fellaini didn’t quite reach the same levels he achieved at Goodison, he was a solid addition. United fans were underwhelmed by his signing but started to warm to him as he produced his best performances under Jose Mourinho.
He didn’t get a sniff under his successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, before his five-and-a-half spell at the club came to an end as he moved to China with Shandong Luneng.
Saidy Janko: £700,000 – 03/09/13
Saidy Janko has been one of the least impact United signings of the Woodward era arriving from FC Zurich. He was voted Reserve Player of the Year before making one solitary appearance for the first team. He was loaned out to Bolton before signing a four-year deal with Celtic in 2015 – a move that didn’t work out.
The full-back’s time at Parkhead was cut short as he joined St-Etienne in 2017 before landing a five-year deal at Porto a year later. He didn’t play for the Portuguese side with loan moves to Nottingham Forest and Young Boys before joining Real Valladolid in 2020.
Juan Mata: £37.1m – 26/01/14
Man United paid a club-record fee of £37m for Juan Mata as the Spaniard joined from Chelsea in January 2014. He has been one of Woodward’s better signings with the playmaker set to end his eight-year spell at Old Trafford this summer.
Mata has been on the fringes in recent years but he has played almost 200 games for United adding 34 goals from the middle of the park.
Mata has turned into a great role model in the dressing room as his career has progressed but there is no denying he was an integral part of the first team when he initially arrived. The only criticism is that United thought they were signing a player coming into his peak aged 25 after blossoming at Chelsea, but looking back, it’s fair to say his best days were at Stamford Bridge.
Ander Herrera: £29m – 26/06/14
Ander Herrera was another player who got a lot of stick but turned out to be a valuable signing arriving from Athletic Bilbao in 2014.
Herrera was a big player for United in winning the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League under Mourinho and was named Man of the Match in the victory over Ajax. He also picked up the Player of the Year award in the 2016/17 season but he fell down the pecking order with the arrival of Nemanja Matic.
The Spaniard would eventually join Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent and has been a regular in their side ever since, In all honesty, United could use a player like Herrera in their current midfield.
Manchester United via Getty Imag)
Luke Shaw: £27m – 27/06/14
United continued their heavy spending in the summer of 2014 as Luke Shaw became one of the world’s most expensive teenagers arriving from Southampton.
The defender’s career didn’t get off to the best of starts with various run-ins with Mourinho but the left-back thrived last season under Solskjaer and was arguably one of the best in his position in the Premier League.
Shaw has been hampered with injuries this term but there is hope he can rekindle that form under Ten Hag next year.
Vanja Milinkovic-Savic: Undisclosed – 05/8/14
Not many football fans will remember Vanja Milinkovic-Savic playing for United and that’s because he never did. The keeper failed to make an appearance after joining from Vojvodina as he couldn’t get a work permit.
United released him as he signed for Lechia Gdansk before eventually moving to Torino where has been farmed out on loan several times. At 25, age is still on his side but his career is on a downward trajectory.
SIPA USA/PA Images)
Marcos Rojo: £16m – 20/08/14
United were wooed by Marcus Rojo’s impressive World Cup in 2014 as Argentina reached the final but it was clearly just a small sample size.
Rojo joined from Sporting Lisbon, with Nani moving in the other direction, following the conclusion of the tournament. The left-sided defender was serviceable at first but then encountered several injury problems before joining Boca Juniors last summer.
Rojo is one of a long list of players who weren’t good enough to play for United.
Angel Di Maria: £59.7m – 26/08/14
Angel Di Maria is arguably Woodward’s biggest bust after spending just one season at the club.
On paper, it looked like a brilliant acquisition after four tremendous years at Real Madrid, but the winger never settled into life at Manchester – repeatedly complaining about the cold weather.
Di Maria’s performances on the pitch were well below par as he was widely called the worst signing of the season. United were able to recoup £44m when he joined PSG a year later but it was a failure of an experiment. The Argentine has bounced back in Paris though with seven successful years but it’s reported he will join Juventus as a free agent.
AFP via Getty Images)
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Daley Blind: £13.8m – 01/9/14
Daley Blind’s versatility was a huge asset for United during his four-year spell at the club after joining from Ajax. He moved from left-back to defensive midfield and then centre-back and was a brilliant signing considering he cost just shy of £14m.
Blind would lose his spot in the starting XI in the 2017/18 campaign in what would be his final season for United.
He returned to Ajax in the summer of 2018 as United would cash in on the Netherlands international for around the same price they paid for him.