The relationship between Manchester United and Real Madrid since Ed Woodward joined the party in 2013 has been icy at best. The last player to move between clubs in a mutually benefial manner was Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009. Before him were Heinze, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, and David Beckham between 2003 and 2007. Chicharito and Di Maria made moves, but their transfers did not last.
The two clubs have been going tit-for-tat with each other over the years, with the most famous fax machine episode over David De Gea the most recent high profile moment between the two clubs. The spotlight has more to do with the dynamic of Florentino Perez and Ed Woodward.
When did it all start? With the egomaniac, Perez. He has been in control of Madrid twice: From 2000-2006 and from 2009 to present day. He’s overseen two waves of Galacticos, and has brought Real Madrid Champions League trophies in 2002, 2014, 2016, and 2017. Madrid’s finances are in good shape overall despite spending copious amounts of money on players like Ronaldo and Bale (amongst a plethora of others), and the most recent domination in all competitions by Barcelona looks like it has passed.
Perez has definitely delivered the players, the results, and the trophies for the club over the years, and Madrid are looking more and more like the number one team in today’s game.
Woodward’s path doesn’t have as much history when it comes to football, as he replaced David Gill in 2013 after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson changed the club’s on-pitch fortunes. Woodward has taken an extremely aggressive stance with the revenue streams for the club, securing many corporate deals and partnerships worth more money than ever before. Manchester United are currently the most valuable franchise in all of global sport, even though they are not the best team on the pitch, and credit has to go to Ed Woodward for setting the club’s platform for permanent future success.
United and Madrid differ in their on field success, yet are very similar on a brand scale. Both teams have shuffled around managers in recent years to find a winning combination. Perez seems to have found that with Zidane for now. Woodward has continued faith in Jose Mourinho, but the latter will have to deliver more if he wishes to continue on.
Perhaps there are strategic reasons that Woodward and Perez have a hard time doing business with each other. Woodward was welcomed to the scene by Perez with a failed loan move for Fabio Coentrao in September 2013 due to “late paperwork”. This favour was returned later after Madrid’s attempt at signing David De Gea, with both parties taking strategic moves to rid themselves of the transfer blame and settling on the famous faulty fax machine.
Perez’s refusal to sell Morata to United (overpricing the player at 90 million and later selling him for 60 million to Chelsea) should definitely be the last bit of confirmation that there is definitely a competitive edge between the two corporate hotshots. However, Woodward blew off Perez to get Lukaku in his own strategic move, throwing off the media. Meanwhile, the countless rumours of Ronaldo’s return to United have grown old and boring, but have never fully subsided. It is hard to say who really has the upper hand in this relationship between the clubs.
Manchester United are certainly showing some ambition with their purchases and would love to have the amount of success Madrid have seen in the past four years. Madrid enjoy nothing more than being the biggest and most successful club in the world.
The platform for these clubs has been set now, with the two facing off in the upcoming Super Cup, as well as a pre-season friendly. There is also every chance that they could face off against each other in the Champions League next season. Madrid are very much favourites on the pitch, and have the upper hand over United in European competition. However United do well when they are underdogs, almost as if they perform better when they are doubted.