After a miserable nine years the Ed Woodward era sees curtains, and the now ex-Executive Vice Chairman will certainly not be missed at Old Trafford.
Ed Woodward signed off his reign in trademark fashion, in not sanctioning a deal to sign a midfielder which Manchester United are in dire need of.
Woodward’s departure comes more than nine months after the foiled European Super League, which saw the 50-year-old investment banker tender his resignation as top dog at Old Trafford. Last season Woodward pocketed a whopping salary in the region of £3million, making him the highest-paid executive at a Premier League club in 2020/21.
After perhaps the longest notice period in history it was confirmed last month that Woodward would leave the club, with Richard Arnold waiting in the wings to take over as the club’s new chief executive as of today, February 1.
Similarly to Woodward, Arnold is an accountant by qualification and the two met at the University of Bristol in the 1990s. Arnold is set to become the club’s first CEO since David Gill’s departure nearly nine years ago.
Woodward served as the club’s chief decision-maker after Gill left office in 2013, while Arnold held the position of managing director from the same year, when he was promoted from commercial director. Woodward's recruitment was overall sub-standard and he made it crystal clear that he was inept in filling the shoes of a figurehead such as Gill.
On the field, United have capitulated for the most part of Woodward’s time calling the shots at Old Trafford – winning the FA Cup, League Cup, and Europa League once apiece. The club are without a Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
In the coming months new CEO Arnold and interim manager Ralf Rangnick will be tasked with overseeing the appointment of a permanent successor to Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who was dismissed now 10 weeks ago.
Erik ten Hag has been touted as an ideal candidate for Man United’s next long-term manager, and the current Ajax boss ticks all the boxes to challenge the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp: modern tactics, an acclaimed track record in Europe, and most significantly a positive and attacking brand of football.
ten Hag has thrived during his four-year stint in Amsterdam, building two terrific teams and twice winning the Eredivisie title. The 51-year-old has also developed an instrumental off-field partnership with Ajax CEO – and former United goalie – Edwin van der Sar, and the two have overseen a most successful recruitment strategy.
PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino is also a frontrunner for the Old Trafford hot-seat come next season, as is Spain head coach Luis Enrique.
With the transfer market now closed for the rest of the 2021/22 season, United unsurprisingly made it through the January window without moving for a much-needed additional midfield player.
Jude Bellingham has been tipped as United’s primary midfield target for next season, but United would have to lay out around £70million to prise the teenager away from Borussia Dortmund in the summer. Dortmund could hold out on United – like they have before – especially when considering star striker Erling Haaland is more than likely to leave the German club in the summer.
Declan Rice has been pivotal in West Ham’s potent spell in and amongst the European places this season, and his dominant presence was on display in the Hammers’ visit to Old Trafford last month. However, David Moyes will unquestionably demand an astronomical nine-figure sum for the 23-year-old, and the higher his team finish this season the greater their valuation of their regular skipper is likely to be.
Meanwhile in the Old Trafford departure lounge sat Anthony Martial. With a week remaining of the mid-season market, the French attacker was loaned out to Spanish side Sevilla. Martial made his first appearance under Rangnick in the slender 1-0 win over West Ham on January 22.
Amad Diallo joined Rangers for the remainder of the season, and scored four minutes into his debut for the Scottish champions. The 19-year-old was on the verge of a season-long loan move to Dutch outfit Feyenoord in August, but the deal collapsed after the player sustained a thigh injury.
Later this month Rangers battle Dortmund in the UEFA Europa League, with the German club believed to have previously explored the possibility of signing the Ivorian before his switch to United in 2020.
Donny Van de Beek sealed a loan switch to Everton for the rest of the season, after finding first-team minutes incredibly elusive in a tough first 18 months at United.
Lingard was poised to join Newcastle on loan – despite the player preferring a return to London – but the 29-year-old stayed put with United’s first-team squad trimmed down over the weekend leading up to deadline day.
Lingard appears to be heading for the exit doors come the end of the season, and likewise for Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata – all of whom are in the last five months of their contracts.
Earlier in January, Axel Tuanzebe was recalled from Aston Villa and the central defender completed a loan move to Italian side Napoli.
Ethan Laird also returned prematurely from his loan to Swansea, before the 20-year-old full-back joined up with Bournemouth for the rest of the season.
Teden Mengi signed for Birmingham on a six-month loan.
Most of United’s senior squad returned to training on Monday after a week off for an international break in the Americas. Eric Bailly returned to Carrington after Ivory Coast were dumped out of the Africa Cup of Nations by Egypt in the Round of 16, with Bailly the only player to miss his spot-kick in the penalty shootout.
United return to action on Friday evening, under the Old Trafford floodlights, when Middlesbrough pay a visit in the FA Cup 4th Round.
Following on from that, United will contest three league games in eight days.
Man United upcoming fixtures:
4 Feb - Middlesbrough (H) (FA Cup)
8 Feb - Burnley (A)
12 Feb - Southampton (H)
15 Feb - Brighton (H)
20 Feb - Leeds Utd (A)
23 Feb - Atlético Madrid (A)
26 Feb - Watford (H)