Richard Arnold will become Manchester United’s chief executive on February 1, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward stepping down from his role before leaving the club in April.
Arnold, who will succeed Woodward in running the club, has been the driving force behind numerous commercial deals since becoming United’s group managing director in 2013.
Woodward will continue to attend football board meetings until the end of the season but he will have no involvement in the day to day running of the club.
Arnold 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.”
Joel Glazer, 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.”
United had announced in April 2021 that Woodward would be leaving at the end of last year but his time at the club is now drawing to a close.
Woodward, who advised the Glazer family on their acquisition of United in 2005, was appointed to the club’s board of directors and named executive vice-chairman at Old Trafford in 2012 and took charge of operations following the retirement of chief executive David Gill in 2013.
£1bn in transfers but no Premier League title under Woodward
Manchester United have spent over £1bn in transfer fees during Woodward’s time in charge, including the world record fee to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford. While there have been notable players graduate from the club’s academy in that period as well, including Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, the club have failed to win a Premier League title during Woodward’s tenure. With Sir Alex Ferguson as manager, who like Gill, left in 2013, United had won five of the previous seven.
Permanent managers David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – who was sacked in November – have failed to come close to recapturing those glory days since, with United only winning one Europa League, one FA Cup and one League Cup during Woodward’s time at the helm.
Ralf Rangnick is currently interim boss, with a permanent appointment expected to be made in the summer.
United did, however, seal significant commercial deals during the Woodward era, boosting off the pitch revenues and operating profit, despite the pandemic.
Speaking in April 2021, following the announcement Woodward would be leaving United in the wake of the collapse of the European Super League proposals, which the club had initially been a part of, Woodward said: “I am extremely proud to have served United, and it has been an honour to work for the world’s greatest football club. The club is well-positioned for the future, and it will be difficult to walk away.
“I will treasure the memories from my time at Old Trafford, during a period when we won the Europa League, the FA Cup and the EFL Cup. I am proud of the regeneration of the club’s culture and our return to the Manchester United way of playing.
“I am sure that with the changes we have made on-field and to the coaching and football staff in recent years this great club will soon be lifting silverware again. It deserves to.”
Who is Richard Arnold?
Arnold’s elevation to the chief executive’s job will make him one of the most powerful figures in British sport.
A former executive at InterVoice, a Nasdaq-listed technology company, Arnold, who is 50 and from the north west, has worked for United for over 14 years, operating as the club’s commercial director since August 2007 before taking on the group managing director role in March 2013.
As group managing director he has also had an active track record of fan engagement via his role as chair of the Fans’ Forum and through dialogue with supporters’ groups. That has led to a number of fan-focused initiatives, such as no increase in season ticket prices for the past 10 years, and he has supported expansion of junior discounts, barrier seating and a trial of safe standing.
He will become the first person to hold the CEO title at Old Trafford since David Gill stepped down in 2013.
Analysis: Regrets on the pitch but Woodward era a success off it
“If you look at his record you have to say on the pitch it hasn’t been good enough. He would be the first person to hold his hand up and say, ‘we made mistakes, we haven’t won the title since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club, our recruitment was poor, especially at the beginning when Sir Alex left, and also there’s been a big turnover in managers. We went from stability under Sir Alex to having lots of different managers’.
“But then, to be fair to d Woodward, off the pitch he’s done a great job. The revenues of Manchester United have almost doubled since he’s been at the club, operating profit has almost doubled. There are issues with the stadium and training ground – they need redeveloping – but that is going to be done.
“So it’s been a mixed picture under Woodward.
“A lot of the criticism is fair. But if he’d got a manager like Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp then he wouldn’t have got much criticism at all because he could have left them to run the football side of things, United would have carried on winning, and then Woodward could have concentrated on things off the pitch, the business side.
“But unfortunately they didn’t get the manager appointment right. They gave David Moyes too much responsibility and there wasn’t the structure there at the club. They needed a director of football, they needed a technical director and they needed Moyes to run the team. They now appreciate that was a mistake.
“Then they had Louis van Gaal who was a fantastic character, box office, and you can’t argue with his record but the style of football was just not right. A lot of Manchester United fans were totally bored by watching the football Van Gaal was producing. But he had a fantastic relationship with Woodward.
“Then they had Jose Mourinho, and we know what happened – although he’s on pretty good terms with Woodward as well. Woodward appreciates the job he did – Mourinho did bring trophies to the club. Then they had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who looked like he was going to achieve something but it ultimately didn’t work out.
“If you look at the record of United while Woodward was there, it’s not as bad as people think. Yes it’s bad compared to what happened under David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson but they finished twice two times, they finished above Liverpool in three of the last six seasons, above Chelsea in four of the last six seasons. So we need some perspective. But Woodward would put his hand up and say ‘I did make mistakes’.
“However, I think the European Super League was absolutely instrumental in his decision to step down. Woodward had been involved in talks about setting up a European Super League since about 2016, 2017 but I don’t think he thought it was actually going to happen. These executives in these talks used it as a negotiating tool to get what they wanted out of UEFA. He was quite surprised it ended up happening. And when it became apparent it was going to be a closed league, he came out and said, ‘this isn’t for me, I’m going to resign’.”