Manchester United Chief Executive Richard Arnold is expected to leave his role with the club when Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s takeover begins, per Laurie Whitwell of The Athletic.
This change is one of several rumored to happen once Ratcliffe’s minority stake in the club is secured and he is handed control of football operations, and more importantly, this is representative of one of the biggest fears of fans in regard to the takeover.
Richard Arnold is likely to leave #MUFC in the event Sir Jim Ratcliffe's bid for minority investment gets confirmed.— Laurie Whitwell (@lauriewhitwell) October 26, 2023
Arnold was made chief executive in February 2022 but new ownership structure seen as presenting an appropriate time to step away ⬇️https://t.co/k0v3vxFKwV
Many rightly fear that little will change, that Ratcliffe is another Glazer, but that fear could subside if the right appointee is made.
The biggest reason Arnold was a failure as an executive for United, among other reasons, is because like Ed Woodward he served the interests of one party above all...
Arnold, like Woodward, had no background in football before joining Manchester United. His career was made in senior management in marketing for a telecommunications company before joining United in 2008 to help build United’s own media brand. His ventures with MUTV and the club’s expansion into social media were a significant aid to the commercialization of United and helped secure several sponsor partnerships across the world.
But in terms of running a football club, little has changed from Woodward.
Arnold has followed the blueprint. He secured the arrival of a manager with the sort of pedigree United fans had hoped for, and he went about striking deals to acquire the sort of players that manager wants. Erik ten Hag’s fingerprints are now on this team, and yet some of those transfers have already backfired, players have dealt with favoritism from the manager, and the cycle of self-destruction already appears to have started again at a club that simply can’t avoid it over the past decade.
The lack of structure in footballing decisions beyond the manager at Manchester United has been catastrophic in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. In 11 years there has rarely been a coherent approach to team building reflected on the pitch, and the flip-flopping between managers, who are the de facto head of recruitment as well, has only exacerbated matters.
Dealing with non-football matters has been an issue as well, with the club greatly embarrassed over the last few years, but more recently with the Mason Greenwood and Antony situations. Arnold has had a hand in both, but the disfunction goes well beyond him.
With Ratcliffe in charge of course there are no guarantees things will change for the better. The rumored arrival of Paul Mitchell and restructuring of the front office may all be newspaper fodder, but the departure of Arnold has the potential to be a big positive step in the right direction.
The fears of Ratcliffe in some cases however were severely misplaced. There was a significant PR campaign in favor of the Qatar-led bid for a full takeover of United, which intentionally aligned itself with the “full takeover” crowd of protestors.
One constant throughout the ownership saga, particularly for the very online Qatar flag crowd, was the insistence that nothing would change under Ratcliffe. And yet, the news of Arnold’s departure follows reports that many at United preferred Sheikh Jassim’s bid simply because of their own job security. The feeling within the club throughout was that Ratcliffe would be the one who brought in his own people.
While many who voiced support for Sheikh Jassim’s bid were far too online for their own good, every United fan was hoping for a full takeover and the total removal of the Glazers from our lives.
Those calls are justified, and it is very difficult to accept that the Glazers will both continue to profit off of the club without ever spending a dime of their own money, but in terms of their stewardship over the club, they might have finally made a smart decision for everyone involved. And that is positive, despite their own profit.
The lack of change at the club was a problem, and fears of that continuity under Ratcliffe may subside if Arnold’s replacement works out.
Hopefully, Arnold is only the first to go.