Ed Woodward will step down as Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman on 1 February, with Richard Arnold, the group managing director, to replace him as the club’s CEO.
Woodward announced last April he would leave his role in the wake of United’s joining of the failed European Super League, though he did not offer a date. Thursday’s news formalises his departure and ends nearly nine turbulent years as United’s most powerful executive, Woodward having superseded David Gill in May 2013.
Woodward endured a fractious relationship with a constituency of fans who blamed him for United’s failure to compete for a 21st title after Sir Alex Ferguson left at the same time as Gill with the club as champions. It is understood Woodward’s greatest regret was Ferguson’s retirement after an unprecedented 26-and-a-half-year reign that included a record 13 Premier League titles.
The 50-year-old also accepts that fundamental mistakes were made in the recruitment of players and managers. Woodward believes Louis van Gaal, who was made manager in summer 2014, was given too much freedom to decide signings, and is conscious that United might have been more successful if he had made Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp the No 1.
Woodward appointed David Moyes as Ferguson’s successor but the Scot lasted only 34 league games, despite signing a six-year contract, before being sacked. Woodward subsequently recruited Van Gaal, José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær, with Solskjær’s replacement, Ralf Rangnick, as interim manager his final appointment.
Van Gaal’s 2016 FA Cup and Mourinho’s 2017 League Cup and Europa League triumphs were the major trophies claimed under Woodward, who also sanctioned the £89.3m purchase of Paul Pogba, then a British record.
Joel Glazer, the executive co-chairman, said: “I would like to thank Ed for his tireless work on behalf of Manchester United during his nine years as executive vice-chairman and 16 years with the club. We are now looking forward to Richard and his leadership team opening a new phase in the club’s evolution, with ambitious plans for investment in Old Trafford, the strengthening of our engagement with fans, and continued drive towards our most important objective – winning on the pitch.”
Arnold, who was appointed by a process independent of Woodward, said: “I am honoured to have the chance to serve this great club and its fans. I am determined to return that honour in any way I can.”