The Manchester United rollercoaster is set to take yet another detour. With Ed Woodward set to leave his role as chief executive on February 1, it means that Richard Arnold will take over as soon as the January transfer window closes.
For Richard Arnold, it won’t be an easy start to one of the biggest jobs in football. There is lots of unrest at United with many divisions in the dressing room, disillusioned players, and many questions being asked about the squad’s lack of character.
Before now, Arnold was never involved in these kinds of issues with him being the managing director from 2013. His raison d’etre has been centered around the commercial aspects of the club. One example of his commercial impact was the £253 million shirt sponsorship deal that was agreed upon by him with TeamViewer last year.
His promotion from managing director to chief executive will result in a change of focus. He will be held accountable for what happens on the pitch even if he tries to do things differently to Woodward.
Whilst Woodward’s role was labeled as the executive vice-chairman, Richard Arnold’s title can be seen as a chief executive which is a signifier of his primary problem being the business of Manchester United.
In contrast to Woodward, Arnold plans to take a less hands-on approach to the sporting side with football director John Murtough set to take the lead on the footballing side of things with the assistance of Darren Fletcher.
What United fans will be hoping for, is a more measured and calculated approach to running a football club compared to what has been seen under Woodward’s leadership. Woodward’s method of handing out new contracts to players has been unsuccessful with the squad now seriously bloated and several on the sidelines unhappy.
At this current time, there are 29 senior professionals at United which does not include loan players, and Ralf Rangnick is said to be finding it difficult to motivate that large of a squad.
A few examples of new contracts being handed out to players who hardly feature for United. Eric Bailly, who we know is very injury prone and is one of the less preferred defenders, was given a new contract until 2024 with the option of a further year. Juan Mata, who is nearing the end of his career, was given a year’s extension at the age of 33. Phil Jones, who last week made his first league appearance since January 2020, was given a new five-year deal in 2019. Woodward’s decisions have left fans bewildered and rightly so.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson left, there has been a distinct lack of trust in the United board with the likes of Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho calling Ed Woodward a ‘banker’ and that he shouldn’t be running the football side of things.
A manager needs to have trust in those that work above them and needs to have faith in executives to make the desired signings a reality or else United will continue in the same vein that they have done since 2013.
Ed Woodward dug himself a deeper hole last summer when he took United into the newly formed European Super League which tarnished anything he had done well for United but that isn’t a very long list. Last summer also highlighted how poor United’s recruitment has been over the last eight years with the club spending over a billion on transfers in that period. That figure is similar to the likes of Manchester City but the quality and success are not.
The transfer of Daniel James to Leeds United last summer was good business but that was only the seventh sale of £10 million or more since Woodward took charge in 2013. United needs to be sharper when it comes to offloading players, they have Andreas Pereira, Axel Tuanzebe, and Tahith Chong out on loan who are all sellable players, and the likes of Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard wanting to move on. Selling Martial and Lingard last summer would have recouped £50 million or more.
John Murtough and Darren Fletcher will now be responsible for transfers and dispensing deals. Murtough is still building his name within the industry but his good work around the youth academy resulted in him moving into a more advanced role last year. United’s academy looks to be on the rise again with heavy investment happening around the youth sides with the hopes of some of them following the paths of Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford.
Fletcher’s presence on the sideline prompted United to make him the technical director with the belief that he and Murtough can sort United’s recruitment out and take them back to where they should be.
When Richard Arnold takes over on February 1, he will have all eyes on the way he operates the club and what he does with the contractual situation of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard.