Manchester United fans hoping for a regime change following the resignation of executive vice chairman Ed Woodward are set to be disappointed as the club looks to promote from within.
Woodward resigned after the European Super League project, involving twelve of the world’s biggest clubs, collapsed under the weight of opposition. The United man was reported to have played a key role in the doomed and misguided project.
Woodward has been a figure of hatred for many United fans since the Glazer family took control of the Red Devils. Many have slammed him for his bumbling efforts in transfer and contract negotiations and his over-interference in team affairs and it was considered by many to be a huge step forward to finally see him go.
It was hoped that his departure would pave the way for a footballing man to be appointed in his place, with former Red Devil, Edwin van der Sar, currently managing director of Ajax, widely touted as an ideal replacement. Van der Sar himself recently hinted that he would be interested in the role.
But The Guardian reports that the probable replacement will be another internal candidate with no football pedigree, Richard Arnold.
‘Richard Arnold, Manchester United’s group managing director, heads a list of three internal candidates to replace Ed Woodward as the club’s most powerful executive,’ the outlet reports.
‘The Guardian understands that Arnold is in pole position to succeed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, with Cliff Baty, chief financial officer, and Hemen Tseayo, head of corporate finance, also being considered by the owners, the Glazers, who are thought to favour a current employee.
‘Baty, appointed in 2016, is in charge of “financial control” of United.
‘Tseayo joined United nine years ago and his position includes “capital structure planning, corporate development projects, strategy, corporate actions and investor relations activity”.
‘Tseayo was also involved in planning for the club’s joining of the now defunct European Super League.’
The French expression ‘plus ça change, plus ç’est la même chose’ – the more things change, the more they stay the same – seems to be particularly appropriate here.
Despite Joel Glazers’ heartfelt grovelling to the fans this week and promises that he and his family are listening, it would seem that they have no intention of changing the status quo and putting football and football people in any important role at the club. Those that they appoint are investment bankers and corporate sponsorship experts with no understanding of football.
Many fans were excited when in March, United finally appointed a director of football. But this appointment, again, came from within – John Murtough, a man with no pedigree whatsoever as a sporting director. Cynics at the time argued that it was a meaningless appointment, especially as the horribly inept Matt Judge, who has bungled more transfer negotiations than he has concluded, was retained as ‘director of football negotiations’.
It is all a horribly bleak, corporate, soulless picture that looks little different without Woodward than it did with him. It is a picture where it is hard to even find a photograph of the most powerful men inside Old Trafford – whether it is the Glazers, Arnold or Murtough – because they are so remote from the fans and from the media, sitting in their ivory towers negotiating shirt sponsorships and paying themselves dividends and bonuses as Old Trafford decays and rots. It is a picture where you have to drill down the organisation chart as far as the head coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with just a handful of years of football management in Norway behind him before he was appointed, before you meet anyone with a genuine professional football background.
Football is an afterthought at Manchester United and if Arnold, Baty or Tseayo are appointed to the executive vice chairman role, that position will be cemented even further.