Richard Arnold set to lead Man Utd as 'final touches' put on Ed Woodward's resignation

Richard Arnold will be the new man in charge at Old Trafford
Richard Arnold will be the new man in charge at Old Trafford / Fred Lee/GettyImages

Manchester United are set to promote Richard Arnold to the role of chief executive to replace outgoing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, but he plans to do things a little differently.

Woodward, who has run the club since replacing David Gill in 2013, announced in the wake of April’s European Super League scandal that he would be stepping down by the end of the year.

That time has now come. And even though no formal announcement has been made, Arnold, who has been group managing director since 2013, is expected to step into the role.

Hailed for his business acumen but not his management of sporting operations, Woodward has been a controversial figure throughout his time calling the shots at Old Trafford.

His perceived failings in the transfer market, starting with the ‘urgent transfer business’ that forced him to prematurely leave the 2013 pre-season tour of Australia but never materialised, is the main factor that has made him extremely unpopular with fans. Some supporters took their anger way too far when his home was attacked in both January 2020 and April 2021.

Woodward’s resignation has been dragged out for eight long months since he first admitted he was going to step down – insisting he could not support plans to join the so-called Super League, even though he only resigned after the launch and United had withdrawn amid the backlash. It was also later claimed that he was planning to step down at some point in 2021 anyway.

As recently as November, there were even rumours that he could stay on at Old Trafford in some sort of advisory role and to assist with the search for a new manager. Only time will tell whether those claims ring true, but Arnold is at least now set to take over the day-to-day running of the club.

The Athletic writes that the ‘final touches’ on Woodward’s departure are being made, with his former Pricewaterhouse Coopers colleague ‘ready to take over’.

The first clue as to how things might be different is the job title. It is said that Arnold will be ‘chief executive’, highlighting his preference for the business side of things, as opposed to Woodward’s slightly grander and more all-encompassing ‘executive vice-chairman’ role.

Woodward was perhaps not as hands-on with the football matters as he has often been portrayed, but he was still very influential – the misjudged handing out of new contract to fringe players to ‘protect value’ is believed to have been his strategy, while close contact with agents has regularly led recruitment, including captures of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Edinson Cavani.

The Athletic’s report notes that Arnold intends to be less involved in football matters and grant more autonomy to the likes of football director John Murtough to dictate sporting operations. He will, however, at least have a permanent base at Old Trafford, unlike Woodward, who usually worked from United’s London office.

It is a huge role to take on at a very difficult time, but fans will feel this is one of the many fresh starts the club needs.

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