Ed Woodward is standing alone in his office. He’s looking wistfully at a faded photo of himself and the Glazers raising champagne flutes towards the camera. There are boxes full of files on the floor and a general sense of a life in transit.
He sighs, sits down at his desk, puts his feet up and starts flicking his cheek, making a water-drip sound. This goes on for a few minutes.
Suddenly the loud silence is punctured by a ringtone. It’s an Ed Sheeran song. It doesn’t matter which one.
Ed (looking at the name): Tsk. Murtough.
(ecstatically happy) John!!! Wonderful to hear from you, old boy.
Murtough: Hi Ed. Have you got 5 minutes?
Ed looks around the practically empty room.
Ed: Biiiiit pushed for time actually. It’s pure chaos over here at Woodward Towers.
Murtough: It’s important Ed. I’ll be quick.
Ed: Okay John, I’ll make time. Shoot.
Murtough: It’s about Sancho. People at this end are getting edgy about the delay. Should we be worried about this?
Ed: Of course not. Nothing to worry about.
Murtough: So, we’re close to announcing? It’s been cleared with legal?
Ed: Listen John, you’re new to the cut and thrust of high-level transfers, so let me impart some hard-earned wisdom. A good signing is like tantric lovemaking. Its fingertips brushing gently across the exposed arm of a dour German CEO. It’s a whisper in the ear of a grotesquely rotund agent. It’s the slow waltz of business. It’s –
Murtough: When can we exp–
Ed: A fine wine left to breathe…it’s…it’s
Ed: Imminent. I’ll link in with communications about getting a suitably epic announcement together ASAP. OK?
Murtough: It doesn’t need to be epic, Ed. Basic is just fine. The football lads want it done and dusted so they can start working him into their plans.
Ed: Makes sense. OK, let’s compromise on something epically basic. Like a ham baguette the size of a Bentley. You like a monumental ham baguette, do you, John?
Murtough: Erm…I do. As long as it’s ready to eat today. Thanks Ed.
Ed: Speak soon John.
3 hours later, the same room, the same atmosphere…
Ed Sheeran bellows into the void.
Ed: John! Read my mind.
Murtough: Hello again. So…Sancho?
Ed: Our spanking great ham sandwich is being trussed and prepared. You’re going to love this.
Murtough: It’s done then? Legal are happy?
Ed: Details John. We’re going big with this one. I’ve spoken to communications and they’ve said they’ll get working on the video. We batted around a few ideas and a few names and it’s going to break the bloody internet.
Murtough: Will it be breaking the internet tonight?
Ed: Tonight, tomorrow, next week. You’re thinking small again, John. I chewed over what you said about going basic and, I’ll be honest with you, I spat the idea out a kid with a sprout. This is too big for a tweet and a few graphics. This is going to be my moon landing.
Murtough: But we said-
Ed: PICTURE THE SCENE! A rock, HURTLING through space. We see it from space at first. We’re sat on the great thing! Cut to Earth. Sancho is sitting on his yacht in Sardinia. He’s scrolling through texts and everyone’s going ‘ANNOUNCE SANCHO!’ and he’s smiling at the bloody hilarity of it all – meta! – when, suddenly, an ominous shadow falls across him as he’s scrolling.
Murtough: I don’t have time for–
Ed: So, he takes off his shades and looks up. It’s-
Murtough: The asteroid. Look Ed, when is this going to be–
Ed: Shush! Just listen, it gets better. Where was I? Ah, yes. Sancho. He sees the asteroid and we cut to global news reports warning of the end of days, there’s panic in every accent: Chinese, Japanese, American, Aussie – all the places we tour – so we cut back to Sancho and he starts running across the water like a 21st century Jesus and we follow him speeding all the way to…
Murtough (sighs): Manchester?
Ed: Yes! Now you’re on board. We’re hive-minding now, John! So…Bruno and Rashers and Poggers and the gang are all there waiting for him and they’re kicking the ball about –
Murtough: During an apocalypse?
Ed: Pah! More boring details! They’re kicking the ball about in the new shirt – lots of close-ups of the crest and new sponsor – when they see Sancho’s dust cloud on the horizon. Pogba nods knowingly and chips it to Bruno. Bruno volleys it towards Sancho, who does some bloody air ninja, spinning whip volley type-thing and the ball flies up into the ether and we follow the ball as it RUSHES through the air scoring a direct hit on the asteroid which VAPOURISES in mid-air and falls like ash into the sea.
Murtough: And then we say ‘Sancho is Red’. Great. How long is this going to take Ed? I did say that Ole and the gang are keen to-
Ed: You’d be surprised. It takes years to make an action film but Spielberg reckons he can do it at speed.
Murtough: Spielberg? Are you serious?
Ed: That’s the coup de grace! He’s almost finished his latest film and can start on it within a few weeks. It could be finished in no more than 6 months. What a coup eh? How brilliant is that?
Murtough: Just tell me straight Ed. Is this a done deal?
Ed: 100%. He’s flying in from a shoot in LA by the end of August.
Murtough: NOT Spielberg, for Christ’s sake! Sancho! Is Sancho a done deal?
Ed: Well, last I heard legal were wittering on about missing pages and obscured signatures but, honestly, who has time for all that hoopla?
Murtough: You have got to be kidding?!
Ed: You pick that up with legal and I’ll get back to the announcement. I’m thinking of getting one of those director’s chairs with ‘Big Ed’ on the back. What do you think?
Murtough: I think you’re out of your mind.
Ed: And a megaphone! “More Sancho! Less Van de Beek! Cut!” (Ed emits a high-pitched laugh and then sighs contentedly) God, I love all this. Good luck with legal. Get back to me within half an hour, pronto.
Murtough: You useless little shi-
Ed ends the call.
It’s August in Sardinia and Ed Woodward is sat on a yacht with a film crew. His seat is emblazoned with the words ‘Big Ed’ and nestles cosily alongside one named, ‘Bay’. Ed Sheeran starts echoing timidly across the Mediterranean.
Ed: Ed Woodward, CEO and maker of dreams!
Murtough (shouting down the sporadically broken line): IT’S…OHN!
Ed: Johnny boy! How’s Manchester?
Murtough: KICK OFF…1 HOUR…NEED CONFIRMATION…
Ed: I can confirm that Sardinia is beautiful in August. If anything, it’s too hot!
Murtough: NOT F…ING FILMMAKING…WAT..OLE NEEDS…KNOW IF…CAN…SANCHO FOR TODAY…GAME …LEEDS…VITALLY IMPORTANT!
Ed (picks up his megaphone and directs it towards his phone): NO NEED TO SHOUT JOHN! (laughs) Honestly though, there’s no chance. But it’ll be worth it when you see the footage.
Murtough: YOU…PROMISED…WHAT…I SUPP… TO…ELL OLE?!
Ed: Just tell him to make do with the little Welsh chap until January. Even he will have to admit that the wait was worthwhile when he takes his seat for the premiere in (picks up megaphone again) LEICESTER BLOODY SQUARE!
Murtough: WE SOLD JAMES…LEEDS…AST WEEK
Ed: You’re breaking up John. Just tell him to make do! That’s what I’m doing! Gotta go!
Ed switches off his phone and looks at the sun hovering over the beautiful green sea. He raises his champagne glass and smiles.
Ed: Ed, you little genius. They’ll talk about this for a long, long time.