Ed Woodward is to step down as Manchester United executive vice-chairman by the end of the year, with the club announcing his departure shortly before confirming they had pulled the plug on their proposed involvement in a European Super League.
The 49-year-old, who joined the club in 2005, becomes the first high-profile departure since plans for the breakaway league were unveiled on Sunday evening.
Woodward was a key figure behind the controversial competition and his exit was confirmed around an hour-and-a-half before United said they would not be participating in it.
His exit is reportedly unrelated and understood to be amicable with the club’s owners, the Glazer family, with the plan for him to continue in his role until the end of 2021.
“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,” the outgoing executive vice-chairman said.
“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.”
Concluding a lengthy statement, Woodward said: “I would like to thank United’s passionate fans for their support during the good and bad times.
“I know this has been a challenging period in our history, but your support for the team has never, ever been in doubt.
“Finally, it has been a pleasure to work with so many magnificent, talented and hard-working people.”
Woodward made no mention of the Super League in his comments the day after he was singled out for criticism by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
News of the planned competition was met by intense and relentless condemnation, with the Old Trafford giants among six Premier League clubs due to join the 12-strong breakaway European competition.
United co-chairman Joel Glazer was named as vice-chairman of the Super League, hailing it as a “new chapter”.
In a statement confirming Woodward’s departure, Glazer said: “Ed Woodward has served the club with great distinction. On behalf of everyone at United I would like to place on record our sincere thanks for his tireless work and dedication.
“His contribution to the club has been massive, and he will always be welcome at Old Trafford as a part of the Manchester United family.”
A significant figure in the Glazers’ controversial takeover in 2005, Woodward took responsibility of United’s commercial and media operations two years later.
Promoted to executive vice-chairman in 2012, he took over the responsibilities of departing chief executive David Gill on July 1, 2013 and proved an unpopular figure with fans.
Big-money signings brought precious little success during his time calling the shots.
Woodward wielded the axe on Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor David Moyes towards the end of a poor first season.
Louis Van Gaal came in and had a topsy-turvy time in charge, with the Dutchman sacked shortly after winning the FA Cup in 2016, the club’s first major trophy since Ferguson retired.
Jose Mourinho arrived, winning the EFL Cup and Europa League in his first term as United boss and leading them to second place in the Premier League in 2017/18.
But things unravelled and he was dismissed in December 2018, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought in on an interim basis and impressing enough to get the job permanently.
The Norwegian has led United to this season’s Europa League semi-finals and second place in the Premier League, putting them on course for back-to-back top-four finishes for the first time since Ferguson stepped down.