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Major Ed Woodward controversies before dramatic resignation

FOOTBALL By Robert Abong'o | April 23rd 2021
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward in the stands [REUTERS, Peter Powell]

It is official. Ed Woodward will no longer be Manchester United Executive Vice-Chairman after the end of 2021, the club confirmed on Tuesday, April 20.

This was after an announcement, made by him, amid a busy football week, mainly due to news of the controversial European Super League.

Man United were reported to be one of the Founding members of the new proposed competition, but faced a huge backlash from fans and football fraternities, before dramatically opting to exit. This could have triggered Woodward’s resignation.

Most Man United fans received his resignation in excitement, considering the number of times calls to oust him have been.

Woodward was appointed to the executive vice-chair’s role at Man United in 2012 but became was elevated a year later after David Gill’s retirement. Since then, the 49-year-old has been the subject of debate when it comes to Man United business, particularly, transfers.

Here are some of Ed Woodward’s most controversial moments at Man United:

Errors on signings and transfers

Perhaps the core of discussions among Man United faithful about Woodward is the issue of transfers and signings. Woodward is responsible for bringing some top names to Man United including Angel Di Maria, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Despite this, he also brought in some players that never lived up to the billing. These include Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay.

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Everton v Manchester United - Barclays Premier League - Goodison Park - 26/4/15 Manchester United's Ander Herrera walks off dejected at full time [Reuters / Andrew Yates]

Woodward was also heavily criticised for letting Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera move to Paris St Germain in 2019. Herrera cited ‘disagreements’ with Woodward as one of the reasons why he left, insisting it was never about the money.

"It was not about the duration of the contract offer. In my opinion, I waited too long and deserved more attention from the club. I was a player that gave everything. I never complained. I never went to the media to complain about anything. I never put a bad face to any manager, to any member of the board, and they waited until I had five or six months left on my contract. That’s why I had some disagreements with them,” Herrera told The Athletic.

Before leaving Man United in 2014, five-time Premier League winner Patrice Evra blasted Woodward due to how he handled contract negotiations. In an interview with The Guardian, Evra said he felt betrayed by Woodward before he joined Juventus.

Following Man United’s pitch-performance decline after Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013, Woodward became a figure of increasing anger among fans, who in January 2020 attacked his home armed with flares.

“Woodward has been a disaster as chief executive and needs to leave the club. Lots of people have said it but he doesn’t seem to listen - perhaps because he’s getting paid £4m-a-year. So we decided to pay him a visit to tell him to his face. We didn’t get to speak to him but hopefully he’ll get the message because we’re not going away and we won’t stand around doing nothing while our club is ruined,” a source told The Sun.

Louis Van Gaal disagreement 

On May 19, 2014, Louis Van Gaal replaced David Moyes as head coach at Man United and signed a three-year contract. With Man United, he managed to win an FA Cup trophy but was sensationally sacked just two days after. Van Gaal blamed Woodward for his sack and branded him an “evil genius”.

"I blame Ed Woodward, my CEO at Manchester United, much more than Mourinho,". "In my view, Woodward is the evil genius. It took a long time and he actually gave Manchester United the opportunity to make an offer,” said the Dutchman.

The former Man United boss has been vocal about his sacking and Woodward ever since. "At Manchester United, on the other hand, Ed Woodward was installed as CEO - somebody with zero understanding of football who was previously an investment banker. It cannot be a good thing when a club is run solely from a commercially-driven perspective,” Van Gaal told the Mirror in May 2020.

Woodward replaced Louis Van Gaal with Jose Mourinho in 2016 [Courtesy]

Heated exchange with Sir Alex Ferguson

In a game against Sheffield United in November 2019, Woodward and Ferguson appeared to be in a heated war of words in the stands, an exchange whose details never emerged. It was reported that Ferguson and Woodward disagreed on several issues. Publications in the UK claimed the ex-Man United boss was upset by the CEO’s endorsement of Leicester City’s former recruitment chief Steve Walsh for a consultancy role at the club.

Super League attempts

The last thought of Woodward in the minds of Man United fans will be the club's attempts towards joining the European Super League. Woodward and Juventus CEO Andrea Agnelli on Monday, April 19 shockingly stepped down from their roles in the European Club Association, as all kinds of speculation surrounded the club following Super League news.

A day later, after news of English clubs pulling out emerged, Woodward resigned as Man United vice-chair, announcing he will no longer be at the club after the end of 2021.

Final message: Here is Woodward’s final message to Man United fans after his resignation:

“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 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 £1bn 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 “

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