Ed Woodward has hinted that he did reject pleas from ex-Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho to sign a centre-back.

Reports during 2018 indicated that Mourinho was desperate to bring in a defender to improve United’s frail backline. No such signing was forthcoming.

Mourinho wasn’t backed, as Maguire signing showed

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was given summer funds to sign Harry Maguire from Leicester City, at a cost of £80 million. That signing brought into a focus a major issue at United. Mourinho wasn’t backed to the hilt in his final transfer window. Maguire was reportedly one of his targets that summer.

Fanzine United We Stand conducted a wide-ranging interview with Woodward. The Executive-Vice-Chairman seemed to suggest that he did eventually say “no” to the demands of Mourinho. 

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manager of Manchester United interacts with Harry Maguire of Manchester United following the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Manchester United at Bramall Lane on November 24, 2019 in Sheffield, United Kingdom.
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

“It is true that there was a difference of opinion on one or two players between the manager and the recruitment department,” Woodward said to United We Stand.

Woodward tells UWS: I said “no” to Mourinho

“Sometimes I have to be one who delivers the ‘no’, which isn’t easy, because our natural tendency is to back the manager in every possible circumstance, but we have to listen to the recruitment experts too.”


It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the United board say ‘no’ to the manager on occasion. They apparently did so to stop Mourinho selling talented forward Anthony Martial. However, it’s yet another example of a misguided lack of investment in the United squad. That has left the Reds now sitting in ninth in the Premier League.

This summer, fans saw the club choose not to buy a replacement midfielder for Ander Herrera. Departing striker Romelu Lukaku wasn’t replaced either. 

United’s defence has improved now that they have finally signed Maguire. Woodward didn’t go into great detail as the reasons for signing Maguire, nor did he outright confirm that it was Maguire who he said “no” to. However, it’s thought that United were put off by a £75m price tag in 2018, only to pay £80m in 2019. 

There are deep inconsistencies in the way the club is run and Woodward’s words are a reminder of that. It’s a stark reminder of what managers are dealing with when they are in the hotseat at Old Trafford. An easy ride, it is not. 

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