'Man Utd Chief Executive Ed Woodward has left the club's tour of Australia early to carry out some urgent transfer business' read the now infamous headlines.


The date was 17 July 2013. Fast forward exactly six years to the day and we're still in the dark as to what proposed deal, or deals, it was all about because there was never any follow up.

United were reigning Premier League champions at the time, but the club found itself entering uncharted territory. Legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson had announced his retirement a little over two months earlier after 27 years in the job. Not only that, long-serving chief executive David Gill had also resigned his position, leaving the club at something of a crossroads.


Tasked with kicking off the next era of success was a new pairing of David Moyes and Ed Woodward, the former handpicked by Ferguson himself, the latter a trusted Glazer aide.


Little was known of Woodward at that time. An accountant and investment banker by trade, he had arrived at Old Trafford in 2005 as an adviser to the Glazer takeover. He was then hired permanently and later enjoyed huge success in charge of the club's growing commercialism.


Woodward was appointed executive vice-chairman in 2012 at Old Trafford and, although his title didn't actually change, he filled the chief executive role left by Gill a year later.

David Gill,Sir Alex Ferguson

Despite winning the 2012/13 Premier League title at a canter ahead of Manchester City, it was clear that United couldn't afford to rest on their laurels if they were to stay ahead that summer. It was a squad starting to creak, one that needed refreshing in the transfer market.


Manchester City didn't waste any time adding to their team. Fernandinho arrived in the first week of June, while Jesus Navas arrived a few days later. The pair would play 63 Premier League games between them in 2013/14 as City claimed a second title in the space of three years.


Without Ferguson and Gill, United were struggling in the transfer market. There was much talk of signing Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona, until he wound up at Bayern Munich. There was also talk of Toni Kroos - years later Moyes claimed the German star gave a verbal commitment. Woodward was famously after Gareth Bale before he moved to Real Madrid, even offering more.

Florentino Perez,Gareth Bale

The long and short of it was this. By mid-July and barely more than three weeks ahead of facing Wigan in the Community Shield at Wembley, United still had exactly the same squad that had finished the previous campaign two months earlier.


There had been early concerns about Ferguson and Gill leaving at the same time, but as the new season appeared on the immediate horizon those concerns grew into full blown fears that United were standing still in arguably the most important summer in the club's history.


Then came the news, however, that Woodward had suddenly left Australia, where the squad was based for the second leg of a multi-stop tour of Oceania and East Asia, to conduct what was being described as 'urgent transfer business'. Great news!


This was it, we thought, finally! A marquee signing, or two, or three, that would ensure United stayed ahead of the chasing pack and the transition from Ferguson to Moyes be seamless after all.

David Moyes

But...nothing. The days and even weeks passed, still nothing. Having opened up with an embarrassing defeat against a Thai All-Star XI, the United squad continued with pre-season preparations - they won only one of their remaining three games in Asia - and returned to Europe. That 'urgent transfer business'? Still none the wiser.


A week into August and literally days before the Community Shield there was talk of a double bid for Everton pair Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini. Was this the urgent business Woodward had so suddenly left Australia around three weeks earlier to attend to? It was hardly the marquee transfer United fans had been left hoping for, and it pointed more to an increasing desperation to refresh the squad with someone - at least Moyes knew them well.


But even that pursuit turned into an embarrassment. The offer made for both was a low ball figure of £30m and it was rejected out of hand by Everton, who called it 'derisory and insulting'. An improved joint bid didn't happen for another two weeks as United took a frustratingly laid back approach to it all. That was of course rejected as well.

Leighton Baines

There was talk of a £15m bid for just Baines - what United would have paid for him as part of the dismissed earlier joint offers. No one was surprised that Everton were unmoved. Fellaini had a £23.5m release clause that was allowed to expire in the misguided belief it would force the price down. It didn't and when United eventually completed that deal it was for £27.5m.


Baines didn't happen at all, making Fellaini, following a similarly farcical approach for Ander Herrera in the final hours before the deadline, the only first team signing that summer.


Whatever the 'urgent transfer business' was, combined with the Baines/Fellaini saga that eventually followed, it summed up a disastrous first transfer window of a crucial new chapter for United.


A never quite fully fit Fellaini was unfairly cast as the scapegoat by fans and the media thirsty for blood, but it was a misplaced arrogance in a rapidly changing marketplace that cost the club and was largely responsible for the awful season that unfolded.

Marouane Fellaini

The sad part is that lessons were not learned and for six long years United have been extremely poor in their recruitment, a fact made far worse when certain rivals have been so good.


Fans can only hope that the new youth oriented policy in 2019 marks a permanent positive change. It feels like little consolation right now, but better late than never...