Hated, adored, but never ignored is the beloved Red Devil mantra, but a monumental 2021 chapter in the chronicle of Manchester United really brought home the message: for one sunny week in April, the most successful club in English football history were truly impossible to avoid, as hatred and adoration formed a potent concoction, with fans of the beautiful game seeking to protect its honour from the grip of greed.
A cataclysmic couple of days saw the attention turn to that infamous pocket of Trafford, the imposing red lettering on the East Stand of The Theatre of Dreams representative of the collective outpouring of fury across the footballing, political, cultural, and social spectrum through the actions of the biggest sporting institution in the world.
Man United were one of six breakaway Premier League clubs - now dubbed the ‘Greedy Six’, amongst other less flattering monikers - to signal their intent to form a project due to descend into ignominy in the annals of football history, a European Super League composed entirely of a fascistic wealthy elite of clubs across the continent, with it reported the 20-time league champions were firmly within a triptych of instigators towards the move.
Man Utd co-chairman Joel Glazer, son of the late Malcolm, the American businessman who purchased the club in the mid-2000s despite widespread opposition, was to be appointed vice-chairman of the competition.
The Bastille of Old Trafford was ready to be stormed, and may yet still, but Man United supporters could salvage a slither of a satisfying taste of victory, with widely reviled executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward announcing that he would be departing his involvement with the club at the end of the calendar year in the wake of the controversy, ending his 16-year spell silently lurking in the shadows.
Is the Revolution here?
What time has once again told us, is that writing the story before the narrative has been concluded is folly. But speculation is our speciality, and though predicting what awaits Man United and the future of English football is almost impossible, observing six names to take over Woodward’s watch is decidedly not so...
Edwin van der Sar
Arguably for many a Man United fan the ideal man in the picture is the one with the imposing 6’5” frame.
The main name is Edwin van der Sar. One of the most respected goalkeepers to have played for the club, and still perpetually jostling with Peter Schmeichel for that coveted Dream Team slot.
The reciprocal affinity between van der Sar and supporters has never dissipated in the 10 years since he ceased being Man United’s Number One with a quadrilogy of Premier League titles and one of the club’s three historic European Cup victories.
The Dutchman’s decision to remain in the game came with a swift bureaucratic appointment in his first club Ajax’ backroom.
Success on the sidelines has seen him soar to CEO of the Amsterdam outfit, and consequently ticking most boxes for an appropriate candidacy back in the north-west of England.
“Besides my wife and children I have two loves in my life,” Van der Sar told The Metro in 2019, “They are Ajax and Man United.
“So of course I am interested in a position at United. But I think I need to learn a little bit more about myself as a chief executive at Ajax and develop myself even further. United is a fantastic club. So let’s see what the future brings.”
Who better to save the soul of Man United than the man who saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s side on countless occasions?
Could Edwin van der Sar become Man Utd's new executive vice-chairman?
His name is Leonardo, he appropriately looks like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, but is he ready to rise up and lead the Red Renaissance?
Currently neighbouring the Eiffel, Leonardo is in the figurative high tower next to the literal one, being responsible for helping Paris Saint-Germain flood the transfer market with their enviable riches.
He’s left Les Parisiens once before, for a short-spell with former flame Milan, though his questionable relationships with managers - most notably instigating the removal of Thomas Tuchel from the French capital - and being reprimanded for individual infiltrations beyond his role in the stands, might bring an unnecessary vitrolity to overshadow performances at The Theatre.
Though likely to be observed as sweet, late revenge for the Peter Kenyon saga for those of memory when Man United and Chelsea were battling to be top of the parapet in the immediate post-millennium.
Chelsea’s Roman Revolution saw boyhood Devil Kenyon swap Stretford Enders for WestEnders, and take his little black book with him.
Woodward’s successor couldn’t likely become better qualified than Marina Granovskaia, the Executive Director at Stamford Bridge, who is said to virtually control the behemothic Blues in Roman Abramovich’s stead, shrewd at securing staggering sponsorships and unafraid to go after the most sought-after players in the global game, including most recently Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
Prising ‘the most powerful woman in football’ away from the oligarch’s Titanian talons will take some dastardly deviousness of Oberonic proportions.
A Marina Granovskaia appreciation tweet🙏, Chelsea have truly turned into one of the biggest powerhouses in the transfer market thanks to her🐐 Signing Timo Werner🇩🇪 & Hakim Ziyech🇲🇦, about to sign Kai Havertz🇩🇪 & close on Thiago Silva🇧🇷. She really does go under the radar💙 #CFC pic.twitter.com/qWU3sxNwG2— Sam👊💙 (@CFCSaam) August 21, 2020
“I am not only looking for good players I am looking for interesting people... capable of making a commitment to a club's sports project': Luis Campos is the man you need to know, the Portugeezer who can hand-on-heart take responsibility for procuring and presenting some of soccer’s most sizzling contemporary superstars. Bernardo Silva. Anthony Martial. Kylian Mbappe. He has nurtured and sold over One Billion Euros worth of talent.
“More important than the money involved is my great passion for the contribution that I can make to my club and my coach, in the acquisition of high-potential and high-level players, that allows him through the training to get the team playing well and winning games,” Campos explained recently to The Telegraph.
Best thing about it, he’s currently out of a job having left Ligue 1 Lille at the turn of the year.
With Campos in the camp, Man United may no longer have to spend the big bucks on bringing in the best - the best will already be there.
Making Manc Lives Mata may very well be a popular choice, but probably not a very pragmatic one.
It is clear that the Spaniard’s spot in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s set-up is arriving at an end, with the 32-year-old’s contract set to expire at the conclusion of the season.
The fans love him, and he loves the fans, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Juan Mata remain in some capacity at the club, with the Jolly Boys of old-hand experience in Michael Carrick and Mike Phelan that Solskjaer has constructed around him, and Darren Fletcher gazing down like a wise old owl.
After seven years in Manchester, Mata has become wholeheartedly part of the furniture, embodying the mythical Man Utd ethos.
It is virtually impossible not to like the midfielder, regardless of allegiance.
The Spaniard is affable, highly regarded across the game for his pioneering of the Common Goal project (encouraging professional football players and coaches to pledge at least one percent of their salaries to charity), and not to mention possessing lashings of talent evidenced across an exceptional decade-long career in England. Mata’s experience in the Woodward role may be lacking, but you try turning the Smiling Spaniard down.
Like spurned Spartan Menelaus hugging Paris after the latter tried to take his beloved Helen behind the walls of Troy, it’s currently unthinkable to think of Red Nev shaking hands with any member of the Glazer hierarchy, with the Sky Sports pundit impassioned pleas seeing Man Utd’s former right-back becoming the voice of a nation (of football fans).
But if the Glaz-era is to be finally fazed out after almost two decades, however, and a Red Robespierre needs to arise from the murky depths of the Bridgewater Canal, look no further.