Ed Woodward resigned as Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman because he could not support the owners’ plans to join the Super League, Sky Sports News has learned.
It was announced on Tuesday night that Woodward would stand down from his role at Old Trafford at the end of the year.
Although no mention of the Super League was made by United when confirming his departure, it came just hours before the club joined the rest of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ in pulling out of the breakaway competition.
United were one of the 12 founding clubs that announced they were forming the Super League on Sunday night. They went on to quit the European Club Association, while Woodward stood down from his roles with UEFA.
The plans were met with fury by supporters, leagues and governing bodies. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said Woodward had backed his Champions League reforms just days before United announced their role in the rival Super League, and branded the executives behind the plans as «snakes» and «liars».
However, it is understood that Woodward decided to stand down on Monday as he felt he could not back the proposals. He joined the club following the Glazers’ takeover in 2005, and became executive vice-chairman in 2012.
Confirming his departure on Tuesday, Woodward said: «I am extremely proud to have served United, and it has been an honour to work for the world’s greatest football club for the past 16 years. The club is well positioned for the future, and it will be difficult to walk away at the end of the year.
«I will treasure the memories from my time at Old Trafford, during a period when we won the Europa League, the FA Cup and the EFL Cup. I am proud of the regeneration of the club’s culture and our return to the Manchester United way of playing.
«We have invested more than £1 billion in the squad during my time here and I am particularly delighted with the progress the players have made under the astute leadership of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaching team in the last two years.
«I am sure that with the changes we have made on-field and to the coaching and football staff in recent years this great club will soon be lifting silverware again. It deserves to.
«I desperately wanted the club to win the Premier League during my tenure and I am certain the foundations are in place for us to win it back for our passionate fans.»
United chairman Joel Glazer added: «Ed Woodward has served the club with great distinction. On behalf of everyone at United I would like to place on record our sincere thanks for his tireless work and dedication.
«His contribution to the club has been massive, and he will always be welcome at Old Trafford as a part of the Manchester United family.»
Furious Manchester United fans protesting against the Glazer family’s ownership blocked both entrances to the club’s Carrington training ground on Thursday morning in the wake of the Super League collapse.
Joel Glazer, unveiled as a Super League vice-chairman when the bombshell announcement was made on Sunday, apologised on Wednesday in an open letter to all United fans after the club pulled out of the plans the day before.
«At approximately 9am this morning, a group gained access to the club training ground,» read a United statement on Thursday. «The manager and others spoke to them. Buildings were secure and the group has now left the site.»
Around 20 protestors accessed Carrington, carrying banners, and made their way to reception and to the first-team training area. Police were called to the training ground.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was joined by Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Matic in addressing the fans, who then dispersed.
Neville: Woodward knew his time in football was finished
Club legend Gary Neville appeared to welcome Woodward’s departure from United, tweeting a waving emoji as the news broke on Tuesday.
Speaking on Sky Sports, Neville went on to say Woodward resigned as he ‘knew his time in football was finished’, adding: «We obviously don’t know why the timing is now.
«The leeches could have thrown him under a bus, there’s no doubt about that. Or it could have been that the sensible thing has happened that Ed Woodward knew it was going to get pretty hot in the kitchen for him in the next few months and he needed to get out of there.
«The fact of the matter is, not just Ed Woodward, every single executive who goes and sits at the Premier League table, every single executive who is on these UEFA or FIFA committees, they need throwing out of that club because there is no way they can turn up again and be trusted.»