A clatter of cheapskate bullies not stumping up the requisite wonga

There was something about Ed Woodward and Louis van Gaal’s first photo together following the Dutchman’s arrival in Manchester that was deeply unsettling. Woodward’s smile is one of a man having the delicate bones in his hand crushed into a million pieces, and hearing “just nod and smile” being hissed through gritted teeth directly into his ear. Considering the United chief executive’s, shall we say, iffy start to life as Old Trafford’s big cheese in 2013, a sorry period that resembled a conservatory renovation overseen by the Chuckle Brothers, the theory that Van Gaal would not only be wearing the trousers but also on occasion using them to give his line manager a damn good thrashing didn’t seem particularly far-fetched.

But not anymore. With the notable exception of Saturday, when Van Gaal did everything but explicitly call Real Madrid a clatter of cheapskate bullies who weren’t stumping up the requisite amount of wonga before fixing a confused reporter a glare and growling that David De Gea was none of his damn business, the Iron Tulip appears to have left the business of telling the Spanish giants to do one to the diminutive Ed. Today that looks like a solid move, as according to reports, United have dug their heels in harder than Daniel Levy at an auction, telling Madrid that they will keep De Gea for another season.

All credit to Woodward, who appears to have stuck to his demand of ‘No Ramos, no vamos’, despite the fact a €2000 fountain pen with Fiorentino Perez’s initials on it has looked to be heading inevitably in the general direction of the Madrid captain’s hand for several weeks. Clearly the agreement between Woodward and Van Gaal is that they will stick to the traditional model of ‘you do your job and I’ll do mine’; even if now the manager has the tricky task of coaxing De Gea back to the reality of at least another half-season at Old Trafford. The rub, of course, is that if De Gea goes next summer he goes for nothing.

Considering De Gea himself has wisely chosen to keep schtum throughout the entire process, conducting himself in a manner that can only be described as completely and utterly professional, it’s impossible to know how much of a funk he may or may not be in due the increasing likelihood he will not be shacking up with his girlfriend in Madrid any time soon. What is for certain is that Victor Valdes won’t be darkening the changing room door without a grovelling apology and Sergio Romero is still in ‘unproven at the highest level’ purgatory. Sam Johnstone, meanwhile, doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. With the situation unlikely to be completely resolved until the transfer window closes on 1 September, one can empathise.

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