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CEO with huge Mason Greenwood decision

Richard Arnold, Chief Executive Officer of Manchester United, will no doubt be coming under intense scrutiny over the next few weeks. The club’s handing of the ongoing Mason Greenwood issue, for which Arnold takes full responsibility, has been far from smooth. While a difficult and murky situation, it is one that only promises to worsen as the club continues to delay an official decision and draw the ire of its fanbase.

But who is Richard Arnold?

Arnold, whose background is in finance, took on the role of CEO on February 1st, 2022, putting an end to the Edward Woodward era at Old Trafford. His assumption of the role saw a marked shift in how it functioned at United. While Woodward was often heavily involved in football matters – to the point where he often took on the kind of tasks that would be expected of a typical Sporting Director to calamitous effect – Arnold has largely kept away from such arenas.

On the 12th of May last year, Football Director John Murtough asked Richard Arnold if he would like to congratulate the Under-18s on their Youth Cup success. Arnold’s reply? “That’s the football area, not mine.”

That has provided a certain level of freedom for other decision makers at the club, with many far more empowered than they had been during Woodward’s reign. Chief Operating Officer Collette Roche and CEO of digital products Phil Lynch were invited onto investor calls, while all agents found themselves directed to John Murtough. Most visibly of all, Erik ten Hag has an enormous say in just about all club matters.

Decisive or Dithering?

“He wants to do a f—— good job, you can tell he really cares,” The Athletic once reported a source as saying of Richard Arnold. “He has got, not an aura, but a proper sense of authority. Very decisive. When a decision needs to be made he’ll do it.

“The decision-making process at the club, to be fair, is too slow. But Richard doesn’t beat around the bush. If something needs doing, he’ll tell you to do it. He is very direct. Critical football things he has really handed over to John, but on important matters Richard will support.”

In fairness, that is reflective of some of his decisions during his time at the club. Right at the start of his stewardship he intercepted a protest planned to take place outside his house by meeting fans at a nearby pub. He was quick to act on Erik ten Hag’s summer targets both last year and this. The aforementioned decisions to empower members of staff were acted upon almost immediately upon his step up the ladder, and were a condition he insisted upon when discussing his new position with the Glazers.

But the Greenwood fiasco errs heavily on the side of dithering, and fans have seen so much of that since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement that they are understandably made uneasy by it. We are, after all, taking about an issue that predates Richard Arnold’s position at Manchester United, and which the club have had half a year in which the ball was in its court, the charges having been dropped in February.

A Complicated Matter

Obviously, it is far from an easy situation. Had Mason Greenwood been convicted, Richard Arnold would have been living on easy street, with no decision to make – the club would simply have ripped up the player’s contract. That is not a realistic option after the withdrawal of key witnesses and evidence led to the charges being dropped. A mutual termination could theoretically be sought, but that would involve paying the player off – potentially even up to the full value remaining on his contract. At a reported £74,000-a-week, that would work out as a payoff of around £7.7m to terminate his contract so that he could play football at a rival club. That would not sit well with anybody.

As for the option of reintegrating him into the first team, we have already had a taste of how that will play out. Before Man United’s season opener against Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Female Fans Against Mason Greenwood’s Return were formed, releasing a statement and organising a protest outside the stadium to make their feelings clear.

On the darker side of it all, Manchester United Women’s Team star’s Mary Earps, Katie Zelem, and Ella Toone were all targeted on social media by people lobbying for them to ‘allow’ a Greenwood comeback, some more abusively than others. These messages were seen by the players on the eve of their World Cup semifinal against Colombia.

Has Richard Arnold Made a Decision?

Almost certainly, yes. As The Peoples Person reported yesterday, an announcement had been planned for August 4th which would have included a video message – available to the general public – from Richard Arnold explaining the reasons behind Mason Greenwood’s reintegration and the conclusion of Manchester United’s internal investigation. The announcement was pushed back, and the club issued a statement yesterday which appears to have been an attempt to take control of the narrative surrounding Greenwood.

Adam Crafton of The Athletic, who originally broke the story of the planned announcement, took to Twitter to expand on his discussions with club figures. The manner with which United handled the story was immensely frustrating for all involved – you can read more on that here.

But as Crafton says, the club have bought Richard Arnold both time and plausible deniability with that statement, and may yet change their minds over their decision. The backlash from fans in response to the leaks looks likely to have given him pause. For all the talk of wanting to explain the findings of the now-completed ‘fact-finding’ stage of the internal investigation to ‘key stakeholders’ first, it is that backlash that could be decisive in the final verdict on Mason Greenwood’s future.

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