Manchester United fans will be counting down until the January transfer window finally closes next Monday, but next week will also represent another important milestone at Old Trafford.
Deadline day will mark the last official day of Ed Woodward’s turbulent reign as executive vice-chairman before he is replaced by good friend Richard Arnold as the go-to United chief.
United have already made a wise move by giving Arnold the role of chief executive rather than executive vice-chairman, with the club eager to emphasize that the position is one dealing with the business side of the club rather than transfers.
Those blurred lines did not do Woodward any favors during his Old Trafford reign, with the 50-year-old widely viewed as the main decision maker at the club and the social media scapegoat for consistent failure.
Woodward tendered his resignation last April following support for the ill-fated Super League, but club sources say he will attend football board meetings until the end of June to help oversee a smooth transition. Despite previous reports, Woodward will not stay on as a consultant beyond that.
The main successes identified by Woodward were off the pitch; keeping ticket prices frozen and the club’s commendable conduct during the first lockdown in 2020, when they refused to furlough staff and donated millions to the local community. However, his association with the football side of the business has been one synonymous with failure.
If United really are to get back to the top of English football, it is crucial that they need a clean departure from the previous regime, and Arnold will be eager to ensure his reign becomes one that is intrinsically linked with success.
The recruitment process will continue to be largely overseen by interim coach Ralf Rangnick and technical chief scout Mick Court, along with the team in the recruitment department, director of football John Murtough and head of corporate development and chief negotiator Matt Judge.
It is the latter who discusses a prospective target’s terms and Judge, who is said to be an excellent negotiator, led United to a stellar summer transfer window with Woodward rubbing stamping the deals.
Despite being appointed to deal with the business side of things, it will be Arnold who is ultimately held responsible by many supporters for transfers too, with a top priority of his to ensure United finally deliver on Woodward’s failed target.
Woodward had hoped for a success rate of 70 per cent from transfers during his tenure. It is safe to say he fell well wide of the mark, despite some notable successes.
In terms of positives, Bruno Fernandes and Raphael Varane are both proving to be superb pieces of business both on and off the pitch, while there was some improvement last summer when Daniel James became the fourth-record sale in the club’s history. His exit didn’t warrant the fanfare Woodward gave it in a call with investors, but it was a genuine achievement to make a tidy profit on a limited squad player.
However, there were far more negatives to report. The likes of Angel di Maria cost a whopping £59.7million, Memphis Depay £31m, Morgan Schneiderlin £24m and Romelu Lukaku £75m.
Woodward admits that under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal the hit rate was more like 30 per cent but there can’t be any ignoring more recent concerns; like the £130million combined fee spent on Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the £35m on Donny van de Beek and the initial £28m to lure teenage duo Amad and Facundo Pellistri to Old Trafford. The young duo could well prove their transfer worth in the long-term, but it is an enormous outlay for two raw talents who are both currently out on loan and have played limited first team football so far.
Last summer seemed like a massive step in the right direction with three marquee additions, albeit a late one under Woodward, though only time will tell if they are all looked back on as successes by the time they depart Old Trafford.
Arnold was brought to United by Woodward, whom he met at the University of Bristol in the early 90s. One of his first tasks will be to ensure his close friend’s transfer target is finally achieved, even if it isn’t his sole responsibility.
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