Exit Manchester United’s human shield for their owners. Enter …


Promoted to serve as a human shield for Manchester United’s unpopular American owners following the departure of his predecessor David Gill eight years ago, Ed Woodward will officially step down from his post as chief suit of the Premier League’s seventh-placed side at the end of this month. A man who seems to keep announcing his departure from Manchester United without ever actually leaving, it should come as no surprise to learn that he will continue to attend their board meetings until the end of the season but will play no part in the day-to-day running of the club. He will be replaced by Richard Arnold, a man who friend of The Fiver and football finance expert Price of Football has pointed out is cut from almost identical cloth. “Arnold is a rugby fan and Bristol Uni graduate who worked at [PricewaterhouseCoopers] who effectively replaces Ed Woodward, the rugby fan graduate from Bristol Uni who worked at [PricewaterhouseCoopers],” tweeted POF. “Expect big changes.”

Hamstrung from the get-go by the departure of Lord Ferg just a few months after he was appointed, Woodward will be forever renowned in United folklore as much for the at-one-time-or-another out-of-work managers he could have appointed but didn’t – Guardiola, Klopp, Pochettino, Tommy T and Conte – as those he shouldn’t have appointed but did. Moyes, Van Gaal, the Special One and Solskjær came and went on his watch, while the latest incumbent has apparently so displeased the dizzying array of moaning, overpaid, under-performing divas Woodward also recruited with his lack of charisma that after just a handful of games they already want him out the door. Soon after his appointment United were plunged into crisis and they remain there now that he’s announced he’s off. And yet by many accounts – almost all of them his own imparted through the medium of off-the-record briefings – he has done a tremendous job.

On Mr Ed’s eight-year watch, United have failed to mount anything resembling a serious title challenge, spaffing more than a billion big ones on and at players, an astonishing number of whom failed to make anything resembling an impact. And despite his claims to the contrary, Woodward agitated more than any other big-club suit in English football for the creation of the hideously unpopular €uropean $uper £eague. For all that, it would be remiss of us not to give him credit for the good times: glory in Big Vase, the FA Cup and Coca-Cola Cup, not to mention the kind of crowd-pleasing, big-money commercial partnerships with assorted noodle, tyre, chocolate, wine and electric razor manufacturers that drive social media interaction and engagements more than a bog-standard win in Big Cup. Should his successor succeed where he failed, Woodward’s legacy will eventually be forgotten, but for now he remains still not gone.