Leadership change at struggling Man United with new CEO

Jan 5, 2022, 2:03 PM | Updated: Jan 6, 2022, 5:15 am
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Romain Saiss hits the post from a free kick during the English Premier Lea...

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Romain Saiss hits the post from a free kick during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Monday, Jan.3, 2022. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

(AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

LONDON (AP) — Manchester United appointed a new chief executive on Thursday in the latest step by the fallen English Premier League giant to regain its elite playing status and restore stability.

Richard Arnold has been promoted from group managing director to CEO, the top leadership role below members of the owning Glazer family.

Arnold assumes the responsibilities of Ed Woodward, who leaves on Feb. 1 having initially announced his departure last April amid the furor over United’s attempt to join the short-lived, ill-fated European Super League with five other English clubs.

“We are now looking forward to Richard and his leadership team opening a new phase in the club’s evolution,” co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement, “with ambitious plans for investment in Old Trafford, the strengthening of our engagement with fans, and continued drive towards our most important objective – winning on the pitch.”

Woodward had served as executive vice chairman since 2013 — the year United’s decline began with the retirement of Alex Ferguson as manager after 26 years and the Premier League trophy being won for a 13th and final time by the Scot.

The record 20-time English champions haven’t won the league since then. The club, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, hasn’t won any trophy since Jose Mourinho delivered the Europa League title in 2017. His successor, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, was fired in December and Ralf Rangnick installed as interim manager until the end of the season.

Halfway through the season, United is in seventh place — 22 points behind neighbor Manchester City.

While City has won five Premier Leagues in a decade, United has been in decline on the pitch while continuing to be the Premier League’s biggest moneymaker — last season generating 494.1 million pounds (then $681 million).

The 50-year-old Arnold has been at United since 2007 having previously worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers where he met Woodward.

Arnold engineered with Woodward the growth of United’s commercial operations that helped to cover the cost of the debt the club was burdened with after the 2005 takeover by the Glazers. They also oversaw a challenging period of squad rebuilding required after Ferguson and then-CEO David Gill stepped down in 2013.

More than $1 billion has been spent since then on new players. A more structured decision-making process has been put in place recently with John Murtough as football director alongside former United midfielder Darren Fletcher as a technical director.

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Leadership change at struggling Man United with new CEO