Manchester United chief Ed Woodward became the first victim of the collapsed European Super League last night after it emerged that he is to quit his job at Old Trafford.
Club sources said that Woodward was planning to leave at the end of the year anyway – and is still set to remain until then – but the announcement has been brought forward to avoid any leaks.
However, it is hard to see how Woodward’s departure is not linked to the despised European Super League which began to crumble yesterday (tues) when Manchester City and Chelsea initiated moves to pull out of the venture.
Woodward was a key figure in fiercely controversial plans for the new breakaway league, with his links to US investment bank JP Morgan helping to secure the £4.3billion in financing.
Confirming his decision last night, 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 for the past 16 years.
Ed Woodward has resigned from his position as executive vice chairman at Manchester United
The United chief was behind the plot to create the controversial European Super League
‘The club is well positioned for the future and it will be difficult to walk away at the end of the year.
‘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.
‘We have invested more than £1billion in the squad during my time here and I am particularly delighted with the progress the players have made under the astute leadership of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaching team in the last two years.
‘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.
‘I desperately wanted the club to win the Premier League during my tenure and I am certain that the foundations are in place for us to win it back for our passionate fans.’
Woodward leaves United after eight years at the helm and 16 years after he first became involved with the club as part of the £790million takeover at Old Trafford by the Glazer family.
United stars held a Zoom call with Woodward to express their discomfort with the bold plot
Bruno Fernandes expressed his disappointment at the plans by responding to Daniel Podence's anger at the Super League via social media
He has been credited with overseeing a 500 per cent growth in commercial revenue from £47m in 2005 to £279m in 2020, but also criticised for opening up the United brand to ‘noodle sponsorships’ around the globe.
Woodward has been held responsible by supporters for United winning only three trophies during his time in charge, and his Cheshire home was targeted by an angry mob in January 2020.
It’s understood that the 49-year-old’s agreement with the American owners – and co-chairman Joel Glazer in particular – is said to be amicable.
Woodward informed his staff of the decision on Tuesday and was said to be ‘pretty emotional’ about ending his association with the club.
Sources said last night that Woodward is ‘100 per cent staying until the end of the season’ but wants a break after so long in charge of one of the world’s biggest sports clubs and there was a high potential for the news to leak out before the end of the year.
Woodward was due to travel up from London to Manchester for meetings on Thursday but it remains to be seen if that is still the case following last night’s news and the dramatic collapse of the Super League.
The United chief held an emergency video conference call with the players from his Mayfair office on Monday after news of the venture broke over the weekend.
As Sportsmail revealed, captain Harry Maguire challenged Woodward and was not the only player to voice his displeasure, with others in the dressing-room following suit.
Some had raised the prospect of refusing to play in the ESL should the club take part, and Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford subsequently posted their opposition to the project on social media.
Woodward helped the Glazers purchase the club, and the Americans were a driving force behind the European Super League alongside Liverpool and Arsenal's owners
The announcement of Woodward’s departure signals the end of a turbulent spell in charge of the club following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
United were criticised for allowing the legendary manager and long-serving chief-executive David Gill to go at the same time, leaving Woodward to work with Ferguson’s anointed successor David Moyes.
Woodward sacked Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho before installing Solskjaer. He was also responsible for breaking United’s transfer record to sign Paul Pogba for £89m and making Harry Maguire the most expensive defender in the world at £80m, while also signing the likes of Angel Di Maria, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Radamel Falcao, Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani.
He oversaw an overhaul of the infrastructure at United, most recently appointing John Murtough as football director and Darren Fletcher as technical director, but now United must look for a man to replace Woodward himself.