ED WOODWARD played a crucial role in ensuring the most incredible return in football history happened.
Sir Alex Ferguson is understandably hailed for his role in getting Cristiano Ronaldo back with his late phone call to the star.
But it would not have got near that point without executive vice-chairman Woodward convincing the club’s owners and sponsors in a whirlwind 48 hours that it all made sense.
Forget the transfer fee for Ronaldo that comes to £12.85million.
It was the commitment to a wage of £75m if he completes the full three years of his contract for a player who would be 39 at the end of it.
To a bean-counter, that just did not make sense.
But while sponsors and the owning Glazer family may look at the bottom line it was Woodward who convinced them how it would work on and off the pitch.
United fans often ridicule the club for the endless signing up of sponsors – they have 24 – and when executives point to social media figures.
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In this modern game it all matters.
While the sponsors might be tied in to current contracts, they are always considering whether to renew.
Woodward convinced them this Ronaldo deal would really work for them.
The interest it generated backed that up.
In the 24 hours after it was revealed, the announcement of Ronaldo’s return on social media was the most liked by a sports team ever with 12.9million likes.
The announcement on Twitter alone was likewise with 862,000 retweets and two million likes.
They earned more than 3.7m new followers across the club’s social channels.
Woodward had always made it clear to Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes that if Ronaldo ever wanted to leave Juventus that they would be interested
It was the most talked about transfer ever on Twitter with 2.9m mentions in the first 24 hours, beating Lionel Messi’s move to PSG by 700,000.
Again all these figures will mean nothing to fans unless the team has more points than Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea at the end of the season.
But they matter to the people whose sponsorship puts major money into the club, that gets spent on the players, that makes a title winning team and that’s why they are important.
It is the nous of Ed Woodward and his close friend and group managing director Richard Arnold that has ensured the debt payments which resulted from the Glazer takeover has not hindered their spending power in the transfer market.
This summer has been one of their most remarkable ever despite the club losing £150m due to the Covid pandemic.
Jadon Sancho arrived from Borussia Dortmund for £73m and Raphael Varane from Real Madrid for £42.7m and now Ronaldo.
The restructuring behind the scenes with football director John Murtough now working closely with director of football negotiations Matt Judge in recruitment has also helped create a slicker recruitment model.
Of course manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the final say and he is understandably delighted with the work done, not least in getting Ronaldo.
Woodward had always made it clear to Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes that if Ronaldo ever wanted to leave Juventus that they would be interested.
It was just the indications were it wasn’t going to happen, that was until the middle of last week when Manchester City’s failure to land Harry Kane triggered their interest in Ronaldo.
Woodward got straight on the phone and turned things around with Mendes, the club’s owners and sponsors in two days.
It was then left to Sir Alex to lift the Bat Phone and get the club’s superhero back.
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