Woodward's negotiating history suggests Man United will pay Sancho fee

Ed Woodward has form for refusing to pay big money but then backing down… just ask Fernandes, Maguire and Herrera. So with that track record, is he REALLY going to walk away from a £108M deal for Jadon Sancho?

  • United are threatening to walk away from talks over £108m Jadon Sancho
  • Old Trafford club believe Borussia Dortmund’s asking price is too expensive 
  • Sancho is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s No 1 target, so will the tactic work for United?
  • Under Ed Woodward, quite a few transfer dealings have become lengthy sagas
  • United tried similar tactics with Fernandes and Herrera but ended up paying the original asking price anyway 

At the start of the week, it appeared Manchester United’s deal for Jadon Sancho was a foregone conclusion to be done and dusted within days.

Now, United fans are feeling a familiar sense of foreboding amid reports they are threatening to walk away from negotiations over Sancho’s transfer fee.

With £108million riding on this high-stakes poker game, it seems United believe the asking price for the England star is too high in the current economic climate.

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward looks set for another transfer saga after the Old Trafford club threatened to walk away from Jadon Sancho talks

United are apparently unwilling to meet Borussia Dortmund’s ‘unrealistic’ £108million price

They think Dortmund are being unrealistic in their demands and clearly want to drive the price down. It’s also understood there’s no agreement over personal terms as yet.

There’s also the factor of not allowing Dortmund to dictate all the terms of the negotiations, which they’re attempting to do by setting deadlines supposedly designed to minimise disruption to their pre-season plans.

United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is well accustomed to these summers of bluff and counter-bluff. It’s rare that United don’t pursue big-name, big-money targets.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had made Sancho his No 1 target for this summer

And the fact this pre-season is shorter than ever only strengthens Dortmund’s hand. United can’t afford to let talks over their No 1 target drag on all summer.

Woodward has been criticised in the past for his negotiating tactics – some deals are wrapped up quickly but there have been instances where talks have dragged on for weeks and months before United pay the asking price anyway.

We take a look at 10 transfer negotiations – successful and unsuccessful – from the Woodward era at Old Trafford and how things played out.


January 2020, £67.6m from Sporting Lisbon

Let’s start with the most recent United acquisition. Given the way Fernandes has saved their season, he has been worth every penny.

But it was certainly a torturous process back in January to get the Portuguese star through the door at Old Trafford.

United wanted to sign Fernandes last summer but prioritised other areas of their team. But following a disappointing opening half to the season, it was clear United urgently needed some creative spark.

Talks started ahead of the January window with Sporting fully aware of United’s need but also conscious of their own precarious financial situation.

Negotiations to bring Bruno Fernandes to Old Trafford in January dragged on for weeks with United eventually paying Sporting Lisbon’s asking price after failing to drive it down

The asking price was around the £65m and United could have paid it at the beginning of the month and got Fernandes into their struggling side.

But they tried to haggle down the fee and talks reached an impasse that lasted for several weeks.

On January 22, United lost 2-0 at home to Burnley and the pressure was mounting on Solskjaer and Woodward. They desperately needed to get the deal done.

Luckily, Fernandes has been superb since his arrival, helping United to the Champions League

Then suddenly came stories of interest in Fernandes from Barcelona. Unable to gauge whether this was genuine or not, United folded and paid the asking price, getting their man about three weeks after they might have done.

They paid an initial £47m for Fernandes with add-ons potentially elevating the fee to £67.6m.

Whether Barcelona’s interest was real or United had been played, at least Fernandes has helped deliver them back into the Champions League.


August 2019, £80m from Leicester City

United had wanted to sign Maguire a year earlier but believed Leicester’s £70m asking price was too high.

But their need for a top class centre-half was more urgent by last summer so Woodward returned to the negotiating table.

But Leicester, with their own ambitions to finish in the top four of the Premier League, didn’t want to sell a prize asset to a rival and knew they could get top dollar out of United.

United finally concluded a deal for Harry Maguire last summer after Leicester upped the price

United’s first offer in early July was £70m but the goalposts had been moved by Leicester as was always likely to happen.

Maguire was suddenly valued as high as £90m with United, worried that time was slipping away with the August deadline moved forward, offered a take-it-or-leave it offer of £80m.

The Foxes finally accepted this on August 2 with the formalities completed three days later. So United got their man, for £10m more than they would have paid 12 months earlier.

The England centre-half has quickly gone on to establish himself as United’s captain


August 2016, £89m from Juventus

A world-record transfer isn’t exactly going to be completed overnight and Pogba’s return to United in the summer of 2016 was no exception.

Various factors meant the saga dragged on all summer before United finally got the deal over the line six days before the start of the Premier League season.

One was that Pogba was playing for France at Euro 2016, going all the way to the final, before the disappointment of losing it to Portugal saw the midfielder disappear on holiday to the USA for a month.

United welcome Paul Pogba back to the club in 2016 after a drawn out transfer process

Then there was the fact Jose Mourinho was only just getting his feet under the table at United and also rival interest from Real Madrid, who at one stage were Pogba’s first choice until their interest faded away.

In the end, United sealed the deal by paying £89m plus bonuses, beating the world-record fee set by Gareth Bale.

It was pretty much pure profit on the player for Juventus, who signed Pogba after he left United back in 2012, helping him become a world-class player.

At the time it was a real statement signing for United. Whether Pogba has justified his transfer fee since is another matter.


June 2014, £29m from Athletic Bilbao

Back in the summer of 2013, ‘Chosen One’ David Moyes succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson and Woodward replaced David Gill as the man in the charge of United’s transfer dealings.

Their transfer strategy was chaotic to say the least, with Woodward saying money was no object and Moyes spouting about the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Bale and even Cristiano Ronaldo being on the target list.

But somehow United’s rivals knew they were a very different proposition without Ferguson and Gill, as the shambolic effort to sign Herrera proved.

United’s botched efforts to sign Ander Herrera in the summer of 2013 proved embarrassing

Bilbao place a premium on their star assets because they only use Basque players and so they’re difficult to replace. And Herrera was very much a star, with a £30.5m buy-out clause.

They made it very clear that Herrera would not be sold for anything less but United ignored this and offered around £24m, obviously rejected right away.

United continued to haggle and at one stage had an outline of personal terms with Herrera, who was poised to sign a five-year contract.

By deadline day, United had finally matched the £30.5m asking price but were then humiliated when hoaxers, claiming to represent the club, turned up at the Spanish league’s offices in Madrid to pay the buy-out clause in full.

United finally got their man 12 months later, paying the same fee they could have done in 2013

Despite being given an additional hour to complete the paperwork, the deal collapsed when Woodward decided the price was too much to pay.

It just exposed the inexperience of Woodward when it came to closing deals. As we know, United returned a year later and paid essentially the same amount to sign Herrera anyway. They might easily have signed him 12 months earlier.


September 2013, failed to sign

As the clock ticked down towards that deadline in September 2013, United became increasingly panicky in their efforts to sign players.

They adopted a scattergun approach, especially when it came to midfielders. A £12m offer for Roma’s De Rossi was rejected, with the player in good form and happy where he was.

Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira was one of several players United tried to sign in summer 2013

There was reportedly a last-gasp £34m bid for Real Madrid’s Khedira and efforts to sign his Bernabeu team-mate Fabio Coentrao.

United also tried to hijack Arsenal’s £42m move for Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid and then enquired about Luka Modric in increasingly desperate efforts to fill their midfield void.

There was absolutely no cohesion or strategy to any of this following a frustrating summer of failed negotiations.


September 2013, £27.5m from Everton

Which leads us to the player United did eventually sign on that fraught deadline day in the summer of 2013.

It’s hard to know precisely where Fellaini ranked on United’s very long list of targets that day but at least he knew Moyes well from their time together at Everton.

Even that was an absolute farce. United had been in touch with Everton the previous month, making a joint bid of £28m for Fellaini and Leighton Baines, which the Goodison club dismissed as ‘derisory’.

David Moyes tries to put a brave face on things as United end up signing Marouane Fellaini

After deals for other players collapsed left, right and centre, United went back and paid Everton £27.5m in the dying embers of deadline day.

Worse still, Fellaini actually had a cheaper release clause of £23.5m in his Everton contract which had expired a month earlier.

Fellaini was United’s only signing that summer following a succession of poor negotiations and hindsight tells us that the writing was already on the wall for Moyes.


July 2017, £75m from Everton

Woodward had certainly become much more comfortable in transfer negotiations by the time United went back to Everton to sign Lukaku in the summer of 2017.

They had gone head-to-head with Chelsea to sign the Belgian striker, who’d scored 26 times in the previous campaign for the Toffees.

United won that battle, paying £75m to seal the deal. Though Chelsea matched that fee, only United were willing to match the £12m Lukaku’s agent Mino Raiola insisted on.

United paid the fees demanded by Lukaku’s agent Mino Raiola to sign the striker in 2017

It came at a time when pretty much every United signing was represented by Raiola, with Lukaku following on from Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic the previous summer.

It seemed that Chelsea had taken a moral stand over the agents’ fees while United were happy to pay them. 


August 2014, £59.7m from Real Madrid

Di Maria didn’t feature anywhere near the list of players new United manager Louis van Gaal wanted to bring in during the summer of 2014.

But Real Madrid were offering the Argentine around, despite the fact he’d just helped them win the Champions League, and the chance to sign such a talent for a British record £59.7m was too good to refuse.

Louis van Gaal didn’t especially want Angel Di Maria but Real’s offer was too good to turn down

Van Gaal later admitted that ‘I was satisfied… but I had other players on the list’ and was forced to squeeze the big-money arrival into his team.

Di Maria flopped big time, scoring just four times in 32 games and failing to adapt to English football or life in Manchester.

United were forced to cut their losses just a year later, selling him to Paris Saint-Germain for £15m less than they’d paid.

It was a lesson learned for Woodward that such statement signings can prove to be expensive mistakes, with Real laughing all the way to the bank in the meantime.

The Argentine proved to be a major disappointment and United sold him at a loss of £15m


Summer 2015, didn’t sign

Van Gaal was in need of some defensive reinforcements, especially as he’d just returned United to the Champions League.

They made a £28.6m bid for Real Madrid’s Ramos that summer, believing the Spain international wanted to leave the Bernabeu.

Ramos later admitted that he did consider making the switch from Madrid to Manchester but decided his ultimate loyalty was to Real. He’s still there now.

In the end, United failed to sign a new centre-half that summer and promptly ended up finishing fifth in the table following a succession of mind-numbing displays that ultimately saw Van Gaal fired.

Sergio Ramos considered moving to United in 2015 but decided to stay put at Real Madrid


January 2018, swap deal with Arsenal

At the time, the purchase of Sanchez seemed like a move that could take Mourinho’s United to the next level.

After all, Manchester City and Pep Guardiola had been in the chase to sign the Chilean just six months earlier, so they appreciated his qualities too.

It didn’t exactly work out that way. Though there was no transfer fee involved, Sanchez’s extortionate wages of £350,000 a week basic rising to as much as £560,000 a week with bonuses and add-ons, make him a very, very expensive failure.

Alexis Sanchez signs for United in January 2018 but proved to be an expensive mistake

United were repaid with just five goals in 45 games before loaning him to Inter Milan, a deal which still saw them forking out for most of his salary.

With Mkhitaryan doing very little at Arsenal, nobody came out of the arrangement well. Except City, of course, who dodged a bullet and went on to sign Riyad Mahrez instead.

Quite how those at the highest level at Old Trafford agreed to such enormous wages leaves the mind boggled. 

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