When it comes to Manchester United and their success, obviously Sir Alex Ferguson gets the plaudits for the excellent job he has done, however it can’t be underestimated how important David Gill has also been to the club’s triumphs over the years.
With the news that Gill will step down from his role as chief executive at the club in the summer, should the fact that Edward Woodward is taking over be a cause for concern for United and their fans? While it may be unfair to already come to this conclusion before the man has even stepped into his new role, by giving him such a high authority position at the club, this move very much reiterates the dominance which the Glazers have at Old Trafford.
Woodward joined United following the Americans takeover in 2005 and took the roll of controlling the club’s commercial and media operations in 2007. This is something which he has been hugely successful in doing, bringing United’s commercial revenue to £117.6million last year compared to the £48.7million when he arrived in Manchester. He joined the board of directors last April to become the executive vice chairman of the club, and will take over from Gill as chief executive at the end of June.
Now as the 55-year-old prepares to give Woodward the day-to-day control of the club, you have to wonder whether the change at the top will affect Ferguson’s own thinking of when to finally call it a day and pass on the baton at Old Trafford.
It’s a move that could unsettle the Scotsman who will have been at the United helm for 27 years come November, and he has already expressed his sadness at the news, telling Sky Sports: “David has been a magnificent chief executive. Of course, we have had a million arguments, but I have always enjoyed them because I know that David has two great qualities: he is straight and he always puts Manchester United first.
“No disagreement is ever personal with him. He always wants the best for United, whether it’s the players, the training ground or the staff.”
The relationship and most importantly the trust the two have had has been as strong as you are likely to see between a manager and a chief executive of a club. Gill has perfectly fit the role of the strong minded but sympathetic go to man for Ferguson, who the Scot could share his ideas with and be safe in the mind that Gill would never try and get in the way of the football side of things and how Ferguson was running the club. It has also been suggested that one of the reasons the United boss has continued into his 70’s along with his obvious love for the game, is because of Gill.
Gill joined United in 1997 as finance director before becoming the club’s chief executive in 2003. He was also appointed vice chairman of the Football Association in October last year as well as being nominated as the FA’s candidate in the future UEFA Executive Committee elections, which shows the credentials he possesses as a football administrator. He will no doubt be missed and the fact that he is staying on at the club in a directors role is good news for United.
As for Woodward, while he has done well for United commercially, you have to ask the question as to whether he will be as sound in a role which will require him to have involvement with key footballing aspects such as transfer targets and dealings as well as other important decisions where he will need to have a good understanding with the manager.
His past would suggest that he probably doesn’t possess the knowledge about the football side of things that Gill does, and he has the Glazers’ mindset of exploiting United’s commercial potential as much as possible. However one thing that should help ensure that the change over from Gill to Woodward causes little disruption is the fact that the American will have had over a year as the executive vice-chairman where he has had more exposure to the type of role he will be required to fill from the summer.
Despite the fact there is bound to be some negativity around his promotion, the success he has had so far in his time at the club in other areas suggests that it should also come as no surprise if he was to take to the chief executive job in a similar fashion.