Ed Woodward is the executive vice president of Manchester United, whose current assignment has been in Red Adair mode for the first time since the start of his position five years ago.
Simply put, the Essex businessman is responsible for resolving the dilemma of José Mourinho's stewardship, because wherever Woodward looks, there are fires that have to fight.
His manager was dissatisfied with the fact that he was not assigned a choice center in the summer. Paul Pogba, his star-midfielder, remains inconsistent and wants to leave for Barcelona. Manchester City and Liverpool – the two fiercest rivals of United – started the season with flying, while the 20-time champions on Sunday broke a deflation at Brighton.
Woodward must decide how best to bring the club forward. As the man-over-the-Atlantic of the Glazers he responds exclusively to the US-based owners, so it recommends complete control over day-to-day affairs. This means that the buck stops with him – a responsibility that Woodward does not fear – as evidenced by his remarks in discussing the murderous world of his previous banking sector.
Woodward worked for Flemings when it was taken over by JP Morgan – an action that concerned colleagues, but not him. "I kept my head down, but it would make me cheat when people moaned about losing their jobs there," he told the United We Stand fistine in 2014. "Part of the high yield was the high risk."
Woodward brokered the deal for JP Morgan who bought the Glazers United in 2005. He has a physics degree from Bristol University and a power base that is as formidable as that of Sir Alex Ferguson. Woodward, however, is a more relaxed presence than the Scot, and possesses a sangfroid which means that Mourinho will not confuse him in a well-kept mood. Ferguson was the biggest manager in United's history, not the top man. But when he walked away, the Ferguson era gave way to the Woodward era.
In the past, the Glazers were happy that United would be the Ferguson show. But when he – and the chief executive, David Gill – left in the spring of 2013, Woodward took the lead and began under the Glazers command to a United reboot that could be characterized as a near-revolution in financial and football terms.
The addition of a women's team, the restructuring of the academy and the scouting system and the imminent move to appoint a first football director in the 140-year history of United have renewed the sporting side.
Monetary was the assessment that the club was seriously underperforming. In 2013, the number of United's sponsors stood no more than 10. Cut to 2018 and Woodward increased the number. Despite a recent reduction to achieve quality, not quantity, the counter stands at about 80: the last, announced this month, Chivas is the official partner of the club.
The razor-sharp business sense of Woodward is being used against him by the big constituency of fans who believe that the club is only a cash cow for the Glazers. They point to a title drought that is five years old and decisions like bales on the prices asked for Harry Maguire from Leicester City and Bayern Munich Jérôme Boateng – two central defenders earmarked by Mourinho.
The reasoning here, however, seems good. Woodward and the board looked at two earlier signings in the function – Victor Lindelöf and Eric Bailly – and wondered why they were out of favor last season and not the confidence of the man who had made their purchase. They also factored in Mourinho's three other rearhands – Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo – and wondered if Maguire or Boateng was a real improvement.
This is how it works in all clubs and Mourinho can not say that no money has been paid: in five windows since Louis van Gaal was replaced in the summer of 2016, the expenditure is £ 364.3 million for eight purchases.
Woodward's view – and that of the Glazers – may be that after adding 10 outfield players (Zlatan Ibrahimovic came free and Alexis Sánchez was an exchange) to the 20 first-line inherited, this is a Mourinho squadron and it is Time for him to focus on what he has instead of what he does not do.
As a smart human reader, Mourinho will be aware that Woodwards's mix of sympathy and ruthlessness (if necessary) makes him an operator to be reckoned with. The Portuguese face the biggest challenge in his career – targeting the United tanker – and Woodward may wonder if the manager is still the best man for the job.
Woodward is hardly amused by the recent antics of Mourinho. Since the statement in mid-July that the pre-season is "very bad", a gloom has settled on the club that the manager has to lift quickly.
If that is not the case, Woodward and his bosses will discuss the future of Mourinho. But do not expect hasty moves. Even if United lost on Monday from Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley in the last game before the international break, it would be smart money that Mourinho would get more time.
But the biggest brand against Woodward is not the transfer policy or the urge to make United a worldwide commercial force, but that its management appointments have not yielded a title so far.
The successor of Ferguson, David Moyes, lasted 34 league matches. Van Gaal was fired because he did not claim a Champions League berth. Mourinho has the Europa League, League Cup and second place last year at his United résumé, but this is not what he had adopted. The course of the club reached a highest point ever on Tuesday, but for Woodward a 21st title is the holy grail.
Woodward believes that Mourinho can deliver this season, but if the club goes into free fall, the former will not make any recommendation to the Glazers to remove the latter.