Meet new Man Utd CEO Richard Arnold, who was university pals with Ed Woodward and once called squad '25 George Clooneys'

MANCHESTER UNITED have confirmed the departure of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Woodward will leave the hot seat on February 1 after 16 years at the club and is set to be replaced by Richard Arnold, who will take on the role of chief executive officer.

The accountant, 50, will be the first CEO since David Gill stepped down from the role in 2013.

Arnold told United's website: "I am honoured to have the chance to serve this great club and its fans. I am determined to return that honour in any way I can."

Arnold will move from his role as managing director to a more senior position, but who is he?

University pals

Bizarrely, before they both worked for the Red Devils, Arnold and Woodward met at Bristol University.

Arnold graduated with a degree in biology in 1993. Then, in 1996 he got a qualification in Chartered Accountancy, which later helped him score his first job at United.

Prior to his arrival at Old Trafford, Arnold worked for technology company Global Crossing Europe Ltd and international sales company InterVoice, where he worked as deputy managing editor.

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Ahead of the 2007-08 season, Richard was appointed as the club's commercial director.

It was dream job and one that he rose to the challenge of – taking on the responsibility for the management and growth of the club's sponsorship business, retail, merchandising, apparel and product licensing business, and digital media business

Arnold was instrumental in the signing of a number of lucrative sponsorship contracts, including a world record seven year £450million kit sponsor deal with Chevrolet in 2014, and a £750million sports equipment deal with Adidas over 10 years in 2015, the most valuable in sporting history at the time.

That prompted the-then commercial director to say Manchester United boasted "25 George Clooneys" in their squad, because of their marketing appeal.

He backed Solskjaer

Like Woodward was, Arnold was always a firm believer in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign.

In March last year, despite not winning any trophies for the club, he claimed the now ousted Norwegian had brought "phenomenal success" to the Premier League giants.

"Ole is the ultimate exemplar of someone in United who has tremendous character, incredibly well connected with the culture & history of the club," Arnold said.

"No one in the world is happier than me with the phenomenal success he's bringing."

But when Solskjaer was sacked, he opened up about his final days at the club.

"Out of respect for Ole, we did not approach other managers before he left," he said.

The club then bided their time before appointing German tactician Ralf Rangnick as temporary boss.

He added: "Our plan then was to appoint an experienced interim manager and Ralf was our clear first choice."

Arnold will now be tasked with backing Rangnick with star signings.

United fans will hope he is as successful in the transfer market as he was in marketing the club to investors.

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