Manchester United have confirmed Richard Arnold will become chief executive when Ed Woodward leaves the club on February 1.
The 50-year-old, who joined the club in 2005, announced he was stepping down as executive vice-chairman last April as the European Super League unravelled.
Woodward planned to leave around the turn of the year and United have now confirmed he will depart at the start of February, when his responsibilities will transfer across to Arnold.
In the role of group managing director since 2013, Arnold has worked for United since 2007.
“I am honoured to have the chance to serve this great club and its fans,” Arnold said. “I am determined to return that honour in any way I can.”
Arnold takes the reins at a challenging time for United, who are 22 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City – albeit with two games in hand – after 19 matches.
Fan anger is bubbling in the background, with attempts to build bridges since the botched Super League plans failing to win over supporters that have long despised the Glazer family.
Executive co-chairman Joel Glazer, the most hands on member of the ownership, was a key part of the process that decided on Arnold for chief executive.
“I would like to thank Ed for his tireless work on behalf of Manchester United during his nine years as executive vice-chairman and 16 years with the club,” the American said.
“We are now looking forward to Richard and his leadership team opening a new phase in the club’s evolution, with ambitious plans for investment in Old Trafford, the strengthening of our engagement with fans, and continued drive towards our most important objective – winning on the pitch.”
As for Woodward, the PA news agency understands the departing executive vice-chairman is planning to both take stock and time out until the summer.
It is not believed he has made a decision on his future plans but there is a keenness to stay within the football industry.
Woodward will not stay on as consultant but will attend some football board meetings until the end of June as part of the transition process.
Arnold’s appointment has been welcomed by United greats Peter Schmeichel and Bryan Robson.
“If you have a walk around Old Trafford with Richard you will find out first of all how respected he is but he also knows people,” club ambassador Schmeichel said.
“He knows everyone. He talks to everyone. He is interested in people and whoever is working for Manchester United, and I think that is important.
“It’s something I experienced with Sir Alex. I think one of the key factors in Sir Alex’s success was that he knew people.
“He knew who he was dealing with, and he could understand very, very quickly why a person for instance wasn’t doing what the person was supposed to do, and that’s just something I’ve experienced with Richard as well.
“He knows everybody and I think he will be someone who his staff will look at as a safe leader; someone they can respect and someone they can follow, and I think that’s important.”
Former United captain Robson – another club ambassador – called it “a great appointment by the club”.
“I’ve travelled all round the world with Richard over the years and you can see how determined he is,” he told MUTV.
“His man management skills are great, and he’s been very successful for this football club since he took over on the commercial side, and that is really important because the fans have been fantastic at this club – 74,000 or 75,000 every week – then you have got the TV money.
“But that commercial side is the one that really helps buy the players, and you look at our summer transfers and the money that we laid out – a lot of that is down to the commercial aspect which Richard has brought into the club.
“He knows no matter how good the fans are or how good you are commercially, the most important thing is the players performing on the pitch and getting it right on the pitch, because this football club has to win football competitions and that’s what we’re all about and we’ve got to get back to that.
“But I don’t have to tell Richard that. I know that Richard understands that and he’ll do his utmost to make that happen.”