Ed Woodward’s 16 years at Manchester United came to an end in February. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if some United fans raised a glass to that news. Woodward’s premiership was a catastrophic failure and his exit from him could n’t come soon enough.
Woodward left his position as executive vice-chairman two months ago and Richard Arnold was promoted from group managing director in succession. United have always had a habit of promoting from within. Arnold was installed as United’s chief executive, which was a position last held by David Gill, and with that he became the club’s most powerful figure aside from the Glazers.
Arnold is now the kingmaker. He has the influence and he’s now responsible for the direction United are heading in. The club is currently meandering and decisions that are made in the coming weeks have the potential to have ramifications for a decade.
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There can be no more mistakes. Woodward committed a catalog of those of him throughout his time at United and Arnold is facing the challenge of proving he’s different to his predecessor of him. Arnold and Woodward are known to be friends, the pair both graduated from Bristol University and they share the same background in finance. Arnold is already losing that particular PR battle.
United, like every football club, care deeply about their image and Arnold’s comments on the latest club investors’ call were proof of that. Arnold waxed lyrical about United and he discussed how he planned to implement ‘excellence’ at Old Trafford.
His comments were obviously not surprising but they were laughable. “Everyone associated with Manchester United should have belief in the opportunities that lie ahead of us, both on the pitch and in the way we engage and serve our fans,” said Arnold.
“We have a clear vision and we are implementing a strategy to win with an empowered leadership team to drive that forward.
“We will foster a culture of excellence through a world-class football environment, while strengthening the role of fans at the heart of the club and harnessing the power of Manchester United to make a positive impact on people, the environment and society.”
The words ‘clear vision’ and ‘world-class football environment’ used in the same sentence as Manchester United right now is comical, sadly. It’s possible United could find themselves playing in the poxy UEFA Europa Conference league next season.
United fans would have seen right through those comments and it’s naïve to think the shareholders believed in them. Arnold was trying to say what the club’s investors wanted to hear, but you shouldn’t make promises you have no intention of keeping.
Arnold has the opportunity to prove the club could be different under his leadership, but it’s almost certain that nothing will change at United. They will keep making the same mistakes if the same inept people continue to have such influence at the very top.
Erik ten Hag is set to become United’s next manager. That will give supporters some much-needed hope and United will strengthen in the summer, but the same problems will remain. “Nothing will change until the head of the snake needs to be removed,” the 1958 United fan group claimed this week. Mediocrity is a disease and it will always fester with the Glazers and their Bristol grads at the club.
Arnold promised to foster a ‘world-class football environment’ at the club and he has the power — whether he’s qualified to be in that position is another matter — to deliver on those words. United fans will be hoping they weren’t false promises.
That hope will have to be found in blind optimism because United have done nothing to convince supporters otherwise over the past 10 years.