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Woodward & Man Utd accountability: Why Barcelona wouldn't tolerate same

COMMENT: Are you ready? We can do it together. Let's count them. One. Two. Three. Four...

...Five. Six. That's how many sporting directors. Technical chiefs. However you want to brand them. That's how many Barcelona have been through since Ed Woodward took charge of the football department at Manchester United almost six years ago.

Where Woodward, having built his reputation on exploiting to the hilt United's commercial potential, was put in charge of all football matters at the biggest club in the world. Barca have run through six football men. From title winners. To ex-coaches. Legends. Icons. Andoni Zubizarreta. Robert Fernandez. Ariedo Braida. Carles Rexach. Pep Segura. Eric Abidal. They've all held the keys to Barca's hiring and firing. The protection and maintenance of the club's culture. The coaches. The players. The staff. They've all been managed by a higher up with clear football authority and credibility.

And in these six years. As Barca have run through these football chiefs. They've collected a Champions League trophy. Three LaLiga titles. And four Copa del Reys. United? Under Woodward's management? Well, nothing's comparable. The Europa League? The FA Cup? Sure. But won with managers he would sack. A project started. Then stopped. Again. And again. And again...

At Barca, the demand is to win. And to do it on their terms. If you fell short, changes would be made. It's what United used to strive for. But today..?

This week. After the degrading of Goodison. The players are copping it. And rightly so. But we've seen this movie before. Time and again. These past six years. There's been a different face in the dugout. Different names on the team sheet. But there's been one constant in all this.

It's broken record stuff. And that's what's so frustrating. This column even called it upon Ole Gunnar Solskjaer landing the job permanently. Though to be fair, we didn't see it all collapsing so soon.

The culture of a club. Of an organisation. It's set by it's leadership. The performance of those employed reflects this. That display at Everton wasn't produced in isolation. It was reflective of what is occurring upstairs.

And the most pathetic aspect of all this has been the way Solskjaer has been left to handle it all on his own. Once again, Woodward is nowhere to be seen. Matt Judge? the same.

This isn't how the giants of the game handle a crisis. Again, Barcelona for example. If it's not Ernesto Valverde, the coach, to address the media. Then it'll be former teammate Guillermo Amor, as team manager. If not him. Then vice-president Jordi Mestre will step in. Josep Maria Bartomeu will front up. As could Eric Abidal and Pep Segura. Any number of them. Ex-players. Directors. All available to take the heat away from the coach.

That just doesn't happen at United. At least not at Woodward's United. And it's bordering on cowardly.

How else could you describe it? The man who effectively signed off on this squad. Who has declined to introduce any fresh face to the front office with a football background. He has refused to justify his choices to the support. The fans don't even get a PR-controlled word from him in the matchday programme.

Instead, it's Solskjaer who's having to carry everything on his shoulders. Just as those before him. This isn't how an elite football club should be managed in 2019.

And what about that technical director? The historic hire? Well, the latest is it will be an internal appointment - as this column was warned at the beginning the season. That Mike Phelan, Solskjaer's No2, is now being actively discussed as the man to fill the breach suggests all those claims of big name, foreign candidates were the stuff of fantasy calcio.

Jose Mourinho, before his December dismissal, was serious about seeing such a role created. And he did put forward several names. Andrea Berta (Atletico Madrid) and Luis Campos (Lille) among them. But the rather convenient prospect of convincing Phelan to stick around by offering the post smacks of tokenism. The assistant coach's biggest claim to fame persuading Usain Bolt to do a preseason with Central Coast Mariners. Though the Aussie club still failed to agree terms when it came to a playing contract. Again, is such a hire worthy of a club of United's status?

It'll still be Woodward who has the ultimate say on transfer policy. It'll be he who'll decide where the team needs strengthening and what the priorities are. And all, as it has been clear over these last six years, without a skerrick of public accountability.

The players. That performance on Sunday. They're just a symptom for how this club has been run over these past six years. Beyond those we see on the Carrington training pitches today, changes need to be made.

This wouldn't be tolerated at Barcelona.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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