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Manchester United's troubles on the pitch now are a result of Sir Alex Ferguson being so successful for so long. That's the line to take from Martin Samuel's column in the Mail.
Samuel's column focuses on a meeting he had with United chief executive Ed Woodward in the days before Juan Mata joined the club from Chelsea at the end of the January transfer window.
The Mail writer recalls a moment Woodward accidentally put his phone on loud speaker before leaving the room at a rate of knots. A nice little anecdote before adding that even the best businessmen like Bill Gates must make mistakes from time to time.
To sum up, Samuel states that no matter how good Woodward is at his job, he cannot fix overnight a club that is 20 years behind the times.
Samuel takes up the story from here:
Woodward knows United the commercial enterprise, but what about the needs of a football club? The two sides have operated as separate entities at United for too long. And it has caught up with them this season.
The terrace song is incorrect. There is not only one United. There are two. There is the brand, which is the envy of the European elite - innovative, astute, impressively exploited and monetised until its pips squeak—and there is the football club, which is 20 years behind the times.
This is nobody’s fault; not even that of Woodward or David Moyes. What were Manchester United supposed to do when the greatest manager in the modern game was delivering trophy after trophy, across the best part of three decades, using an antiquated model of dictatorial control? Tell him to stop? Ask him to change? Order him to adopt a more collegiate approach so that his departure did not leave football’s equivalent of a sinkhole in the middle of its operation?
Manchester United, the business, are modern, modern, modern. They have a growing network of partners across every field of commerce, and in every country.
United the football club, meanwhile, belong to another time. For all their smart facilities, record-breaking contracts and stable of internationals they are, at heart, almost a Sunday league team: one guy did it all.
Over at the park at weekends it might be a determined old boy who gets the game on. At Manchester United, in a more professional manner, that old boy was Sir Alex Ferguson. He picked the team, he bought the players, he knew the whole family by name - academy kids, too.