Saturday, 14 May 2016

Premier League: Can Ed Woodward's words on promoting youth shed any light on the Jose Mourinho saga?

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward spoke briefly about the club's need to always spend money on players to compete for titles as he delivered his quarterly financial review on Friday. 

But what was more interesting was the time he spent talking passionately about the emergence of young players from the academy.

Woodward described the academy as the "heart" of the club and promoting youth as "in our DNA".

He spoke about Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson being local players who have all been United players from a very young age.

It's part of a long tradition that saw the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville make the step up and goes back to the Busby Babes and much earlier still.

It's clear that Woodward does not want to trade any of that in, while he also specified the importance of not being too reliant in a heavily competitive transfer market that can easily leave a club feeling burned - just ask Manchester City about £30m defender Nicolas Otamendi.

But beyond just admirable dedication to preserve a core Manchester United value, it makes for an interesting question on how any of this could relate to the long and drawn out managerial saga involving Jose Mourinho.

The latest reports on the former Chelsea manager succeeding Louis van Gaal suggested fans would have to wait no more than 'mere hours' for official confirmation.

Unsurprisingly those hours passed and nothing happened - the same thing that has been going on since the very day Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December.

United have had plenty of opportunity to dispense with van Gaal and haven't done so. Mourinho is out of work and instantly available, meaning the transition could have been and easy if the club had wanted it to be, but they didn't and now it's pertinent to ask what the sticking point is.

Mourinho has famously been criticised throughout his career for almost ignoring young home-grown players. He has given to debuts to handfuls of young players wherever he has been, but rarely, if ever, have those debuts turned into much more. A brief run-out at the end of a meaningless game does not constitute giving someone 'a chance'.

He is famously reliant on buying established stars and it's not just even at the expense of home-grown players. A Chelsea scout recently gave an insight into the shocking lack of time that Mourinho had for a young Kevin De Bruyne at Stamford Bridge because the Belgian was still developing.

It's not unreasonable to hypothesise that this dedication to youth development Woodward now speaks of could a factor as to why Mourinho being United manager is no longer the 'dead cert' it once appeared it might be. It's possibly also why Van Gaal has been able to cling onto his job when results have been largely underwhelming.

Could a condition of Mourinho landing the role be a willingness to adhere to this most important of club policies? Is that the reason he hasn't got the job already?

He has never taken well to board level officials telling him how to do his job in the past - a prickly relationship with Roman Abramovich and later Michael Emenalo at Chelsea is evidence enough of that. If he can't do things how he wants, he won't do them at all.

Are Manchester United and Jose Mourinho at stalemate, an impasse about how things would work? If they are, neither is the type to willingly break on this most core of subjects

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