Manchester, UK – Richard Arnold, who took the reins at Manchester United in February 2022, is facing an uncertain future as the club undergoes ownership changes, with his exit anticipated once Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s bid to acquire 25 percent of the club is confirmed. This development has raised questions about Arnold’s legacy at the club, which is intrinsically tied to key events such as the appointment of Erik ten Hag, Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit, and the ongoing tenure of young star Mason Greenwood.
Arnold succeeded Ed Woodward, who resigned following the collapse of the European Super League plan, a decision that sent shockwaves throughout the football world. In a similar vein, Arnold’s potential departure is also prompted by a significant shift in the club’s ownership structure, with Ratcliffe’s INEOS company looking to gain substantial influence in the club’s operations.
The launch of a “strategic review” in November last year hinted at the possibility of Arnold’s eventual departure. Traditionally, new owners seek to have their preferred individuals in key positions, and the role of the chief executive is paramount in this regard.
Ratcliffe’s INEOS deal, if approved, may not constitute an outright takeover of Manchester United, but it would grant him considerable authority in the club’s decision-making processes. Consequently, this presents an opportune time for Arnold to step down from his role.
The timing of Ratcliffe’s bid remains uncertain, with the process potentially taking several weeks. During this transitional period, Arnold will continue to lead the club. A spokesperson for Manchester United declined to comment on the situation, emphasizing that it is not yet a done deal.
Notably, Arnold was among those on the club’s board who opposed a previous Ratcliffe proposal, which aimed to reward only Class B shareholders, primarily held by the Glazer family. This proposal resulted in legal disputes, as Class A shareholders, who trade their shares on the New York Stock Exchange, raised concerns about its fairness.
The ownership dispute also highlighted the differing perspectives within the board, with some Glazer siblings eager to sell while others, particularly Joel and Avram, expressed a desire to retain their ownership stakes.
In the event of a tied vote, Joel and Avram, as co-chairmen, have the deciding say, allowing the Glazers to maintain control. However, such divisions within the board have generated tensions in past negotiations.
Arnold has played an active role in the ownership transition, engaging with various interested parties and participating in meetings and presentations outlining the club’s future potential.
As the situation unfolds, it is apparent that Ratcliffe may have his own vision for the club’s future, which could potentially impact key figures like football director John Murtough.
Since Woodward’s departure nearly 21 months ago, Manchester United has been evolving. Arnold’s approach differed from his predecessor’s, emphasizing delegation of football decisions rather than personal involvement.
Arnold’s involvement in appointing Erik ten Hag, along with his collaboration with legends like Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill, signifies his attempt to strengthen the club’s management structure.
Arnold, along with Murtough, was actively involved in pursuing player transfers and scrutinizing financial aspects, aiming to ensure the club’s compliance with financial fair play regulations.
One significant change during Arnold’s tenure was the acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo, facilitated by Arnold, and his subsequent departure, indicating a shift in the club’s approach.
While some fans may view Arnold as representing the Glazers due to his association with the club’s commercial department since 2007, his engagement with supporters, appointment of a head of fan engagement, and involvement in community initiatives demonstrate a more dynamic role as CEO.
Despite his accomplishments, Arnold’s reputation took a hit following the Mason Greenwood incident, which caused dissatisfaction among staff and supporters. His statement exonerating Greenwood faced scrutiny, revealing the emotional depth of the issue.
As Ratcliffe’s bid progresses, Arnold’s future at the club remains uncertain, but he continues to attend matches, watching from the directors’ box. Whether his legacy will be defined by the changes occurring at Manchester United is yet to be determined.