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MANCHESTER UNITED

Woodward backs Solskjaer, but lays down trophy demand

Ed Woodward is prepared to be patient with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and thinks there is scope for optimism at Manchester United.

Solskjaer has backing of Woodward as Manchester United executive lays down trophy demand

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been backed by Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward - although he is expected to deliver trophies.

United have won only five of their past 19 matches in all competitions, the early optimism of Solskjaer's arrival last December having mostly evaporated since he signed a three-year contract in March.

A dismal 2-0 loss to West Ham on Sunday means Solskjaer has taken 48 points from 27 Premier League games in charge, the same tally Jose Mourinho managed in his final 27 matches in the job before he was sacked.

Woodward not focusing on short-term

With pressure from outside Old Trafford starting to build on the manager, Woodward has pledged to show patience and not become "influenced by the short-term".

However, while he considers Solskjaer's recruitment policy and commitment to attacking football to be laudable, Woodward accepts there is a pressure to win silverware.

Speaking to investors after United announced record revenues of £627.1million for June 2018 to June 2019, Woodward said: "We and our growing global fan base demand success. Success means winning trophies. That target has never changed for Manchester United.

"The success on the business side underpins the success on the football side.

"Much of the progress made around that investment - the academy, the recruitment department and the training ground facilities - is behind the scenes and therefore isn't immediately apparent to those on the outside looking in.

"We've materially expanded our recruitment department to improve efficiency and productivity. Recruitment decisions are worked on day to day by this department and the manager and his team.

"Along with the commitments we made to Ole and his staff in March, this has given us the building blocks for success.

"Whilst we're confident this investment will deliver results, it's important that we're patient, while Ole and his team build for the future. We will continue to focus on the long-term strategy and won't be influenced by short-term distractions."

Plans to evolve footballing structure

United have long been tipped to appoint a director of football to streamline their recruitment process, but talk on the creation of such a role has gone quiet in recent months.

Woodward says plans remain in place to "evolve the structure on the football side" but was nonetheless pleased with the more streamlined way in which United approached the most recent transfer market.

United signed Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire for a combined reported fee of £143million, while selling Romelu Lukaku and loaning Alexis Sanchez to Inter, sending Chris Smalling to Roma on a season-long deal and allowing Matteo Darmian to join Parma.

"The club was linked with hundreds of players, almost all without foundation," Woodward said. "We approached the window in a focused and disciplined way. Our new signings joined a strong squad that included [players with] new contracts.

"We're optimistic for the future. The sale and loaning of players has allowed the manager to involve more young players and lay the foundations and a culture.

"Regarding the speculation around the head of football, we are continually reviewing and looking at the potential to evolve our structure on the football side. Much of the speculation around this type of role revolves around recruitment - an area that we've evolved in recent years.

"As we've already mentioned, we feel the players we've signed in the summer demonstrate this approach is the right one.

"The ethos on attacking football is the right way forward."