Earlier in his reign, Woodward canvassed opinion among chairmen and chief executives in Europe to establish what they felt was the ratio of the sum influence between the players and manager. Some clubs canvassed attached a 50 per cent importance to the manager. Real Madrid, by contrast, attached just 10 per cent importance to the identity of the manager.
However, United categorise the importance of the manager close to that 50 per cent figure and hope the next manager can remain in charge for four, five or six years or longer and finally deliver the title they crave.
Those close to Woodward say he got “embedded” in the view that he makes the football decisions and perhaps regrets not appointing a director of football earlier and made clear that person was in charge of making the football-related decisions.
There is an expectation at United that Arnold will have learned from some of Woodward’s mistakes, with sources noting that he was a strong advocate for the appointment of a football director and technical director and wants the football department to have greater autonomy.
Woodward once said that “playing performance doesn’t really have a meaningful impact on what we can do on the commercial side of the business,” a remark that has frequently come back to haunt him with fans arguing that the club are more bothered about making money than winning trophies.
It is thought Woodward regrets those comments and that his obsession with driving strong commercial growth was about ensuring there are the funds to then invest in players.
Arnold’s appointment has been welcomed by club ambassadors and former players Peter Schmeichel and Bryan Robson.
“I’ve known Richard since he joined the club. My first ever meeting with Richard was in the offices in London and I was trying to present a project that I thought would be beneficial for the club and then he very politely dismissed the idea!” Schmeichel said.
“But I think that’s the kind of person he is – a straight talker. He doesn’t hide anything. He’s very respectful to anyone that he talks to. He will have been approached in his role as commercial director by every man and his dog for literally everything, and it’s important that you have someone who respectfully is able to dismiss you, and he did that with me; and from that developed a little bit of a friendship.
“I’ve worked for Richard for a couple of years as an Ambassador, and I got to know him and his feelings for the club, and how he’s realised the club is more than a company or institution.
“If you have a walk around Old Trafford with Richard you will find out first of all how respected he is but he also knows people. He knows everyone. He talks to everyone. He is interested in people and whoever is working for Manchester United, and I think that is important. It’s something I experienced with Sir Alex. I think one of the key factors in Sir Alex’s success was that he knew people.
“He knew who he was dealing with, and he could understand very, very quickly why a person for instance wasn’t doing what the person was supposed to do, and that’s just something I’ve experienced with Richard as well. He knows everybody and I think he will be someone who his staff will look at as a safe leader; someone they can respect and someone they can follow, and I think that’s important.”
Robson echoed those sentiments. He said: “I think it’s a great appointment by the club, because I’ve travelled all round the world with Richard over the years and you can see how determined he is.
“His man-management skills are great, and he’s been very successful for this football club since he took over on the commercial side, and that is really important because the fans have been fantastic at this club – 74,000 or 75,000 every week – then you have got the TV money; but that commercial slide is the one that really helps buy the players, and you look at our summer transfers and the money that we laid out – a lot of that is down to the commercial aspect which Richard has brought into the club.
“He knows no matter how good the fans are or how good you are commercially, the most important thing is the players performing on the pitch and getting it right on the pitch, because this football club has to win football competitions and that’s what we’re all about and we’ve got to get back to that. But I don’t have to tell Richard that. I know that Richard understands that and he’ll do his utmost to make that happen.
“David Gill had a fantastic relationship with everybody around the club; he knew how important that was, and Richard understands that it’s important to have a relationship with everybody, and understand that they are happy in their job, they’re working hard and being successful in the job; and you know he’s very good at that.
“He understands the finances of the club and he understands that the stadium and the training ground have to stay up to date, and I know he’s got that in his thoughts, that we need to improve the stadium to keep up with certain people; the training ground is as good as it gets anyway, but there’s plans to extend Carrington and make it even better.”
United confident that Arnold will learn from Woodward’s mistakes
by James Ducker
Manchester United are confident new incoming chief executive Richard Arnold will learn valuable lessons from Ed Woodward’s past failures as they eye their fifth permanent manager in nine years and another rebuild.
United never got close to winning the Premier League title under Woodward, who accepts his turbulent and controversial reign was a failure, with regrets over managerial choices and bungled recruitment and struggles to deal with the void left by Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
In November, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the fourth manager in eight years to be sacked by Woodward and the club recognise they must turn the tide at a time when the current interim Ralf Rangnick is facing a battle to secure a top-four finish and quell unrest in the dressing room.
Sources close to Woodward say he got “embedded” in the view that he was making the football decisions and regretted not appointing a director of football earlier.
But it is understood that Arnold is an advocate of a “decentralised” leadership approach and will give much greater autonomy to football director John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher, both of whom have been tasked with spearheading the search for the new manager.
United had promised to conduct a “thorough process” in the search for a replacement for Jose Mourinho, only to abandon that and hand the job to his interim replacement, Solskjaer. But senior sources at Old Trafford have said there will be no repeat of that situation this time around.
Rangnick himself is not a prominent candidate but the 63-year-old German expected to be involved in that process over the coming months ahead of taking a consultancy role with the club from the summer.
Telegraph Sport understands that United do not have a preferred target at this stage and plan to assess the credentials and merits of a number of candidates in detail before narrowing their focus.
United are big admirers of Julian Nagelsmann but expect him to stay at Bayern Munich. Mauricio Pochettino, the Paris Saint-Germain and former Tottenham head coach, is keen on the Old Trafford job and is well liked by the United hierarchy and would be considered a very good fit. The credentials of Ajax coach Erik ten Hag and Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers could also come under consideration, and Roberto Mancini, the Italy coach and former Manchester City manager, is thought to be interested in the post.
United have in the past shown an interest in England manager Gareth Southgate but he is committed to leading the country at the World Cup finals in November and it remains to be seen if any thought is given to an outside candidate such as Brighton’s Graham Potter.
Missing out on Conte could be ‘sliding-doors moment’
The Glazers had the opportunity to appoint Antonio Conte before his appointment as Tottenham manager in November. But United are understood to have passed on the Italian amid doubts about whether a predominantly young squad could cope with his micro-management and intense demands. Sources accept that could may prove another “sliding-doors moment” after a series of missed opportunities but remain comfortable with the decision. United are unlikely to buy this month as things stand but a midfielder is high on the priority list for the summer when the club will also try to address what they feel is a lack of leadership in the squad and a host of players could leave.
Arnold, 50, grew up in the North West and joined United in 2007 as commercial director. He became group managing director six years later and since then has been been based at Old Trafford, rather than United’s Mayfair offices, and will continue to operate from Manchester. Like Woodward, he went to Bristol University although the two men only became acquainted when they worked together at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Woodward, who tendered his resignation in April in the wake of United’s involvement in the failed European Super League plot, will be involved in football board meetings until the end of June to help smooth the transition but he will not be taking on a consultancy role with the club. He is thought to be keen to stay working in the football industry if the right opportunity presents itself.