Manchester United’s mystery man: As David Gill steps down, who exactly is incoming CEO Ed Woodward?

By Chris Bailey

Ed Woodward is a man unaccustomed to the limelight – but with one short press statement, he shifted from corporate obscurity to being the man who Manchester United’s fate rests with.

After David Gill announced he will be stepping down as United’s chief executive in June yesterday, fans and journalists alike scoured the internet for information on the man who will be king.

But Woodward seems to have eluded the depths of cyberspace. Most will have stumbled across his recently-deceased actor namesake or rehashed news articles of his impending appointment.

Trawl back far enough, however, and one name will frequently appear hand-in-hand with the mystery man – United owner Malcolm Glazer.

A former investment banker, Woodward was first on JP Morgan’s books – helping to engineer the Glazers’ takeover – before being cherry-picked by the new management in 2005.

Since then, he has maximised United’s global brand to such an extent that the club’s annual commercial revenue has jumped from £48.7million to £117.6million in his eight-year tenure on the Old Trafford board.

There is no doubt his resume is impressive – doubly so having achieved it all by 40-years-old.

But perhaps his biggest task is to avoid treading on the toes of the man who ultimately creates the ‘product’ in Sir Alex Ferguson.

“He is a young man with the energy and drive to help keep United at the forefront of the game and to help us maintain our success on the field,” said the Scot.

Woodward is now on the field but out of his comfort zone. Vast media responsibilities, PR management, snapping up the world’s best footballing talent – these are gaps in his CV.

Not to mention the unenviable task of eventually appointing Ferguson’s successor.

Even if the Bristol University alumnus is inexperienced in such matters, it does not mean he cannot rise to the challenge just as Gill did over a successful nine-year spell.

It will take straddling a fine line between the interests of Glazer and Ferguson.

And Woodward may do well to remember that however many numbers he has crunched in the past, the intangibles of football are not something which can be calculated so easily.

Picture courtesy of Fimb, with thanks.

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