Manchester United

The possible candidates to replace Ed Woodward at Manchester United

Max Parsons
Ed Woodward will leave his role at Manchester United at the end of 2021
Ed Woodward will leave his role at Manchester United at the end of 2021 / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
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It's been quite an eventful few days at Manchester United and for Ed Woodward.

In a club statement it was announced that the executive vice-chairman would be stepping down from his role at the end of the calendar year after 16 years (nine of which have been as chairman) at the club. The announcement coincided with the club's withdrawal from the proposed Super League - a project Woodward had played a key part in pushing forward.

The 49-year old's resignation means Manchester United could aim to introduce a more football-orientated mind to the role. One recent ex-United player described Woodward to The Athletic as a "great marketing man, awful at football".

So, who could replace the infamous Woodward? Well, here are some of the proposed candidates.


1. Sir Alex Ferguson

Man Utd Parade
Sir Alex Ferguson is Manchester United's most successful manager / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The Athletic report that some at Old Trafford are hopeful that Sir Alex Ferguson may increase his role at the club.

The 79-year old is currently a regularly involved consultant and ambassador for United and, of course, no one knows the club as well as he does.

However, with his health issues in the last few years, Manchester United chairman may not be what the doctor orders.

Suitability: 9/10
Likelihood: 1/10


2. Darren Fletcher

Darren Fletcher
Darren Fletcher is Manchester United's technical director / Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Darren Fletcher is the club's current technical director, having been appointed in March.

While we haven't been able to see the impact he can have in an official role at Old Trafford, there is no doubt that he knows United inside out. He would also bring a more football-heavy approach to the running of the club.

Having said that, his lack of experience in a commercial sense makes his appointment very unlikely.

Suitability: 7/10
Likelihood: 2/10

3. Edwin Van Der Sar

Edwin Van Der Sar
Edwin Van Der Sar has done a fantastic job as Ajax chief executive / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar knows exactly what it's like to work at the club and is, arguably, at the top of most United fans' list - although it may prove tough to lure him away from Ajax.

As well as being a fan favourite at Old Trafford, the Dutchman is very qualified for the role. He has been chief executive at Ajax since 2016 and, under him, the Dutch giants have had a resurgence in European football, notably reaching the Champions League semi final in 2018/19 and finishing Europa League runners up in 2016/17.

The youth system at Ajax has also had a boost under the former goalkeeper. Players like Mathijs De Ligt, Frenkie De Jong, Donny van de Beek and Justin Kluivert all came up through the ranks under Van Der Sar's supervision before heading off to Europe's top clubs.

Suitability: 9/10
Likelihood: 5/10

4. Richard Arnold

Richard Arnold
Richard Arnold is a director at Manchester United / Fred Lee/Getty Images

Although this would by no means be a showbiz appointment, it is very likely.

Richard Arnold is the current director at United and has been at the club since the 2007/08 season, taking responsibility for sponsorships, commercial business, digital media, retail and all that stuff the fans don't really care about.

The last three executive vice-chairmen have been internal appointments and, given Arnold's similarities to Woodward, we might have found the man to fill his spot.

Ah s**t, here we go again.

Suitability: 5/10
Likelihood: 8/10

5. Michael Emenalo

Michael Emenalo
Michael Emenalo has been successful at Chelsea and Monaco / Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Former left back Michael Emenalo has held the position of technical director at both Chelsea and Monaco in recent years.

He helped oversee transformations at Chelsea between 2011 and 2017, during which time the Blues won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and League Cup, a Europa League and a Champions League title.

He's been heavily praised by Ian Wright. On the Kelly & Wrighty Show, the Arsenal legend said (via Express): "We're talking about under (Roman) Abramovich with three different managers and he still managed, because he's a football man, to get the job done. What happened with Chelsea was that when we say 'another manager's come in', but they're still winning trophies.

"This is the thing because he's put culture in where they can just put that player in, bring that manager in, and they can go forward and do it.

"That's what Man United need and that is what they haven't got and that is the elephant in the room."

A football man with proven success; suitable enough?

Suitability: 7/10
Likelihood: 5/10

6. John Murtough

John Murtough was made director of football at Manchester United last month and has been with the club for seven years, previously holding the role of head of football development.

While he has only held a director's role for a month, Murtough's experience come the end of the year may be enough to bag him Woodward's seat and, with a football-orientated mind, would be preferable for the United fans.

Suitability: 6/10
Likelihood: 6/10

7. Antero Henrique

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Antero Henrique was most recently sporting director at Paris Saint Germain / FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

You don't get much more experienced than Antero Henrique. The Portuguese worked at Porto from 1990 until 2016, rising up to the rank of vice-president before leaving.

He was responsible for discovering gems such as Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Hulk and Jackson Martinez before bringing them to Europe, gaining the reputation of a 'transfer guru' for his extensive scouting network.

After 26 years with Porto, Henrique joined Paris Saint Germain as sporting director in 2017 where he managed to land deals for Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, and helped secure four domestic trophies in two years.

Henrique was heavily linked with United back in January to take the role of director of football (which Murtough now holds) but was quickly disregarded, however, because of his keenness to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with Max Allegri - so perhaps not, eh?

Suitability: 7/10
Likelihood: 3/10


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