Former Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been approached by groups seeking to buy the club, asking him to act as a consultant for their potential purchase.
The former JP Morgan banker is available to work on the deal after standing down from the United board in February, more than nine months after resigning. He was initially retained in an advisory role at United, but is no longer contracted to the club.
The 51-year-old would be an invaluable sounding board for potential buyers, given he spent 17 years at Old Trafford and still has an excellent relationship with the Glazers, although his involvement in any bid could invite a backlash from United supporters.
Woodward became a lightning rod for hostile fans unhappy with the Glazers’ ownership towards the end of his time at the club.
His house was attacked by protesters, with one frightening incident two years ago involving flares and smoke bombs being hurled at the family home in Cheshire.
Woodward walked away from a career in accountancy and banking to join United, having acted as an adviser to the Glazers when they bought the club in 2005.
Having worked in United’s commercial department, which he made the most lucrative in world football, he was appointed to the board in 2012 before taking over the day-to-day running of the club the following year after the retirement of David Gill.
In addition to his relationship with the Glazers, Woodward was criticised for United’s perceived failings in the transfer market, with an outlay of £1.22billion on new players in nine years and only £363million recouped in sales, not to mention their failure to win the Premier League.
The ill-fated attempt to join a European Super League was the final straw, with Woodward announcing his resignation shortly after the project collapsed in April 2021.
He remains respected in other football and financial circles, however, with interested parties contacting him about bidding for United in recent weeks.
Apple were linked with a £5.8bn bid on Thursday in what would be the American tech giant’s first foray into sports club ownership, while Spanish billionaire and founder of clothing chain Zara, Amancio Ortega, is also reportedly talking to United about an offer.
Saudi Arabia’s sports minister has also called for organisations within his country to enter the bidding for United and Liverpool after the Public Investment Fund purchased Newcastle last year.
‘I hope so, if there are investors and the numbers add up and it makes a good business,’ Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal told Sky News. ‘Then the private sector could come in, or companies could come in, from the kingdom.
‘The Premier League is the best in the world. It’s the most watched league and there are diehard fans of these teams in the kingdom. So it would be a benefit for everyone.’
The minister also wants a Saudi Pro League club to sign free agent Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, who was released by United this week following his explosive interview with Piers Morgan. ‘Who wouldn’t want him in their league?’ he said.