Former Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward has completely denied reports that Jose Mourinho was blocked from signing one of his top targets while in charge at Old Trafford ‘for commercial reasons’.
It’s been more than a decade since United tasted Premier League title success under legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson, with owners the Glazer family often accused of a lack of investment in the club.
However, fans are now hopeful that could all change after Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s minority investment, with the boyhood United fan taking over football operations at Old Trafford.
Indeed, Ratcliffe seemingly pointed out that lack of investment when his deal was announced, saying he wants to “bring sporting success on the pitch to complement the undoubted commercial success that the club has enjoyed”.
That has not always been the case at Old Trafford, however, particularly during Woodward’s time in charge.
A report from ESPN now claims the former United chief executive actually prevented former manager Mourinho from signing a player back in 2017, with the reason given being that he ‘wasn’t commercially viable’.
The player in question was then Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic, who had just enjoyed an incredible campaign in which he scored 11 goals and laid on eight assists in Serie A.
The Croatian then followed that up with another season in which he had 20 goal involvements, while also helping Bayern Munich win a treble during a loan stint and then returning to the San Siro to play a part in Inter’s first Scudetto win in 30 years.
He eventually moved to the Premier League with Tottenham in 2022 but was not quite the same player and returned to his hometown club Hajduk Split in January of this year.
Mourinho unhappy at Woodward snub
But speaking to ESPN, a former United player revealed how much Mourinho wanted to get Perisic on board, only to be ignored by Woodward.
The unnamed player said: “Mourinho wanted to sign Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan in 2017 but was told by Ed that, as a player, he wasn’t commercially viable.”
Woodward, though, has denied he ever vetoed a transfer on commercial grounds, saying: “That was never a consideration.”
The former player also claims that Mourinho pushed for Anthony Martial to be sold because he did not feel he was good enough or reliable enough, but that suggestion was also knocked back, although this time it was Joel Glazer who stepped in as he was a fan of the forward.
United were, however, heavily backed in the summer of 2017, signing Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Mourinho just wanted one more attacking threat in the form of Perisic to complete the set but ended up bringing in Alexis Sanchez in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the January window instead.
United went on to finish second in the Premier League, which Mourinho still ranks as one of his best achievements in the game.
Ironically, the Portuguese has been linked with a return to Old Trafford, in the midst of Ratcliffe’s arrival, after being sacked by Italian side Roma.
However, it’s claimed that he would prefer a move to another one of his old clubs in Chelsea with Mauricio Pochettino under pressure after a poor first season at Stamford Bridge.
United are back in action on Sunday when they head to Aston Villa in the Premier League.