Ed Woodward – Brilliant in everything but football

The dawn of a new transfer window coupled with a long awaited win involving two rare goals brings with it mildly renewed optimism to Manchester United.

With this opportunity for some new arrivals and some much needed departures comes the re-emergence of a man who has desperately tried to remain in the shadows since United’s failure to secure Pedro.


The media’s focus will shift from a tempo so slow it’s as if players are trying to run through peanut butter and Van Gaal’s job security to another boss’s performance, Ed Woodward.

Woodward’s journey to Manchester United is similar to that of his predecessor, David Gill. He, like Gill, qualified as an accountant. Both joined the club in financial roles, Woodward advised the Glazers during their takeover and was subsequently recruited.

He effectively resurrected a seemingly lost deal and crafted an incredibly beneficial deal for the Glazers. His reward was a position in a financial planning role.

To judge Woodward on United’s transfer dealings is like judging Lionel Messi’s entire career on his ability to score penalties. It is but one minor part of his wide-ranging job that he is seemingly lacking at.

Every time Messi grimaces after a poorly taken spot kick it is a timely reminder he is human, Woodward’s mechanical demeanour could too do with displays of anthropological traits.

Currently he is the executive vice-chairman of Manchester United football club charged with overseeing all operations of this corporate machine. CEO, Commercial Director and Director of Football, his job contains it all. In many ways, he has been brilliant for the club.

Sitting proudly on the Woodward mantel piece alongside his physics degree from the University of Bristol and the deeds to Bastian Schweinsteiger is undoubtedly the Adidas sponsorship deal. A ten year contract worth £750 million. When he approached previous sponsors Nike with the deal they rejected it within an hour.

Yet somehow Woodward negotiated the most beneficial deal in the clubs history with Adidas. Income from merchandise double within a year. Not only that, it was announced and promoted to attract new stock market investors.

As a result of this and the clubs brief return to Champions League football, Manchester United FC announced an awesome 39.3 per cent increase in revenue this year. The glazers view the club as a business, it is a corporate entity and any romanticism about the fans or loyalty amidst players is mistaken, historic thinking.

As Rod Tidwell demanded of a clean-cut Tom Cruise, all the Glazers wanted from Man United, Woodward and sport was to show them the money.

Their vision for the club can be seen on Manchester United’s website. Here the business model is broken down and outlined in three sections, commercial, broadcasting and match day.

Commercial contains sponsorship, retail, merchandising etc. and in this regard Woodward has excelled. You could add mobile and content to this which sees the company forge partnerships with mobile telecom companies in numerous countries and sell content directly to fans via manutd.com.

This field accounted for £10.4 million last season. Woodward break down the foreign market into geological locations and approached each sector with a different methodology, a tactic which saw significant growth in the clubs income from foreign fan-bases.


The sector of broadcast takes care of itself as the bubble that is the television rights deal for the premiership continues to evolve. ‘Match day’ is similarly a brand of its own and while many blame the influx of day-trippers for the declining atmosphere at Old Trafford it maintains a full stadium and thus, consistent income. Another positive mark on King Woody’s copy book.

Yet kit deals and stock market movement is of little concern to fans. When it comes to Woodward they see his transfer dealings as evidence of his unsuitably to the club. They crave for the day where he may become the first director in the history of football (all the way back to its birth in 1992) to be held responsible for the teams failings on the pitch.

Unfortunately for them the glazers view Woodward’s performance in this regard as utterly inconsequential.  This is perfectly illustrated by Woodward’s role under David Gill.

In 2013, Woodward was effectively assigned to shadow Gill. While he took control of the club’s marketing and commercial side, right up until his departure Gill orchestrated transfers. Upon taking this reign Woodward floundered.

When Moyes was appointed he wanted to develop a much improved scouting system before embarking on transfer dealing and Woodward set about constructing just that.

United quickly changed take and under Van Gaal went on a significant £250 million spree, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian and Sergio Romero were all welcomed while the deadwood Van Gaal no longer wanted was flogged.

Angel Di Maria, bought for £59 million with an additional £8 million in wages was sold for £10.7 million less. This loss is somewhat softened by the shirt sales, sports direct reported that 9.59% of their shirt sales last year were Di Maria alone.

Woodward has handled media dealings craftily in all but transfer dealings. His clumsy approaches are repeatedly reported and almost all the transfers secured above were leaked before the club could finalise and announce them.

The basic expectation of the football team is not to excite, adhere to the ‘Manchester United way’ or even win the league. They are simply a vehicle that the cash cow is attached to. Champions League is valued not to compete with Europe’s elite but because of its revenue.

There is no emotion here, this is a financially lucrative, methodical machine designed and tweaked to benefit those who have invested money.

Ed Woodward may not be good for the team Manchester United, but the company Manchester United limited thrives under his stewardship.

The Author

Maurice Brosnan

Freelance journalist, many sports. Master of all trades, jack of none. Podcaster with The 16th Man. Writer for Pundit Arena, contribute to Connacht Tribune.

2 thoughts on “Ed Woodward – Brilliant in everything but football

  1. What optimism ? Ed Woodward hasn’t been sacked for not sacking LVG and allowing Pep Guardiola to go City. LVG lied through his teeth and didn’t actually resign.

    In the last match once again LVG stated the first have goalless snooze fest was the best half of football.

    Where exactly is there any room for optimism ?

    more boring LVG philosophy. the prospect of millions more wasted on over priced mediocre footballers ?

    There were 3 world class mangers available. Ancellotti, Guardiola and Mourinho BUT Ed Woodward wants inexperienced Laurent Blanc ??????????

    Optimism my back side !

  2. The Company thrives under his stewardship ??????

    Manchester United has a mountain of debt, it is maintained by the money from fans, because united is the best supported club in the world.

    You bore fans all around the world to death, suddenly those fans don’t watch Manchester United any more, they watch Barcelona or Real Madrid.

    Bored fans don’t buy shirts. They may fill the stadium but without the merchandising.

    The Money starts to dry up.

    The Glaziers who are not football lovers, but businessmen suddenly cant service their loans and pull out bucket loads of cash from the business.

    What happens then, They sell.

    Who wants to buy a boring club, plenty of people but they wont pay a premium price.

    Suddenly that rock solid base Manchester United is built on starts to crumble.

    You do the math.

    Ed woodward still good for Uniteds business. ED WOODWARD COULD BE THE END OF UNITED.

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