The nomination has been in the works since Woodward announced his desire to step down in the aftermath of the European Super League controversy last April. Arnold, who was already a significant figure in the club’s hierarchy, was an early contender for the job and the logical option to take over.
Trust and familiarity were major factors in Woodward’s appointment as club president in 2013, with the Glazer family always preferring another internal promotion over handing over day-to-day leadership of the club to a newcomer.
Arnold has previously spent almost 15 years as a high-ranking executive at United. He joined Old Trafford in 2007 as group commercial director and has been serving the club as group managing director since 2013 restructure that saw Woodward displace David Gill.
In his first commercial role, he collaborated closely with Woodward, who was credited with fostering the club’s commercial boom in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Over the last 15 years, both men have played critical roles in maximizing United’s commercial potential.
Arnold remained to supervise the club’s expansion and business side as director of ‘Manchester United plc’ after Woodward took over as CEO more than eight years ago.
Arnold is credited with securing the club’s most recent jersey sponsorship deal, worth an estimated £235 million, with American software firm TeamViewer last year.
His background is quite similar to Woodward’s. Both attended the University of Bristol in the early 1990s, where Arnold is reported to have met United’s current head of corporate development and top negotiator Matt Judge.
Both he and Woodward graduated in 1993, got jobs at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and became chartered accountants in 1996. Despite attending Bristol at the same time, it is believed that the two did not meet until they began their finance careers at PwC.
Arnold left PwC in 1999 and worked in senior or advisory roles with the technology and telecommunications industries before joining United in 2007.
Under his commercial leadership, United opened offices in London, New York, and Hong Kong to expand the business and increase commercial reach, with the two largest partnerships he has handled during his time at the club being with Adidas and Chevrolet.
Despite being in charge of all elements of the club, Arnold’s primary focus in his new role as CEO is likely to be business. This should imply giving football executives like John Murtough more control and autonomy over sporting activities.
After multiple false dawns in recent years, United fans will be hoping for a new era and fresh leadership off the field to indicate a return to competitiveness on the field.