It was another three points on the board as Manchester United won 3-1 against Burnley on Sunday, but that was the last thing that people were speaking about by the end of the night.
We have seen the introduction and demolishment of the European Super League in the past days – days which will be set in the history books for English and European football.
For Manchester United, it has been a monumental week for the club with Ed Woodward departing from his role as Executive Vice-Chairman, a role that he has held since 2012.
Here is The Weekly Round-Up:
The European Super League
The last few days have really put Transfer Deadline Day to shame in terms of incredible news breaking out every few hours. It all started just before United’s Sunday match-up against Burnley, with several reliable news outlets claiming that 12 of the top European “elite” clubs were planning to announce a formation of their own European Super League. Once the news broke, there was an immediate level of incredible and unified outrage, most prominently from former United full-back and current Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville both during the match and at full time.
Just after 4pm, the Premier League released an official statement on the Super League, stating “The Premier League condemns any proposal that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European Pyramid.” UEFA shortly after released a similar statement stating that they would “consider all measures available to [them], at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this from happening.”
Once these statements were released, that was a signal for the fans that the Premier League, along with all other recognised european footballing bodies, were alongside fans with the condemnation of the Super League. It was around this time that it was first revealed that UEFA could potentially ban all 12 clubs involved in the ESL from the Champions League and Europa League, as well as threatening to ban every player who took part in the Super League from all official UEFA and FIFA tournaments such as the Euros or World Cup.
A few hours later, at approximately 11:30pm BST, the Super League was officially announced, to the dismay of millions of fans around the globe. It was revealed that night that the project had been spearheaded by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, with Arsenal‘s owner Stan Kroenke, Liverpool‘s owner John Henry and Manchester United co-owner Joel Glazer being Perez’s closest allies in the project. It was also revealed that Joel Glazer was the Vice-President of the Super League Committee.
The Super League then described the format of the competition: There would be 12 teams, with 15 of them being in the competition every season and 5 teams who were able to be promoted/relegated. The fixtures were due to take place in midweek to allow all clubs to continue competing in their domestic leagues, with the competition starting in August. The competition would follow an American style season, with two groups of 10 battling it out in a mini-league format, and the top four from each group of 10 would enter into a playoff structure to find an eventual Super League winner.
One of the funnier moments of the initial evening was the sudden circulation of a BBC report that claimed that all European competition had been temporarily suspended, although this ended up coming from an April-fools article posted on BBC Sport from 2020, and top-level reporters such as Fabrizio Romano had to confirm to the public that European competition had not been suspended.
Then, into the early hours of Monday morning, Perez had a press conference in which he made clear that nobody could leave the project, with the contract of the Super League being binding.
The Real Madrid president then also claimed that the financial benefit would be much greater than that of the UEFA Champions League. Perez said that the winners of the competition would ‘earn much more’ than the winners of the Champions League get (120-130 million) for winning the Super League.
Alongside this, It was reported by Fernando Polo that €3.5 billion would be distributed among the founding clubs of the project and that this would be split among four levels depending on the club’s economic potential and what they have generated in recent years.
With United’s share prices up and the potential income huge, it seemed that this new league would be going ahead, but then complications started to occur.
The next day, Boris Johnson announced that the government were going to look at everything that they could do with the football authorities to make sure that the Super League did not go ahead, the Prime Minister said that they needed to drop a ‘legislative bomb’ in order to stop the progression of the league.
Then, following the social media outrage, as well as the protest outside of Stamford Bridge, on Tuesday, it was reported by multiple outlets that a member of the ‘big six’ were considering pulling out of the competition.
Reaction from United Camp
Aside from outage from fans and former players, there was plenty of grievance from current players, and in particular Manchester United players. The players didn’t find out about the super league until around the same time the rest of the fans did, which in itself is fairly shocking. It did not take long for the players to start speaking out themselves, with Bruno Fernandes sharing Podence’s Instagram post with the caption “Dreams can’t be buy ❤️,”although it’s safe to assume he meant “bought”. This was later followed by a statement from Luke Shaw, which concluded with “fans and players should always have a voice and their opinion should always be counted.” This was also in tandem with a post by Marcus Rashford:
Beyond social media posts, there was also reports about a meeting between the players and Ed Woodward, in which they were “seriously unimpressed”, and were actively angry that they only found out via social media posts. Woodward had reportedly told them that they were acting in the club’s best interests, however the response to this was “lukewarm at best”.
Following on from these initial reports by Mike Keegan, more reports from outlet The Athletic revealed that many United players felt “exposed” by the club, and a source said they were angry that “the club didn’t bother to fill them in or consult the players over career-influencing changes.” After this report, it had become incredibly clear that the players were not happy with this decision, and therefore it came to no one’s surprise that club captain Harry Maguire and fullback Luke Shaw confronted Ed Woodward after the meeting to convey the players’ anger over the Super League plans.
Athletic reporter Adam Crafton also reported that Juan Mata and David de Gea were also particularly aggrieved by United’s failure to tell the players about the ESL plans, and the players in general were unhappy that Ole Gunnar Solskjær had been thrown under the bus after the Burnley game.
CITY LEAVING, BORIS JOHNSON AND THEN COLLAPSE
The first reports of English clubs wavering and second guessing their choices came our at around midday on the 20th April, with one unnamed club accusing Liverpool and Manchester United of “lying to them and fu***** up.” Shortly after, Times Sport reported that at least one ‘big six’ clubs had held emergency meetings as they were becoming deeply concerned about the fans reaction and how the league has alienated them.
The first real threat that was sent to the rebel Premier League clubs was from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where he reportedly described that he would drop a “legislative bomb” to stop the clubs from staying in the Super League. Johnson became very involved in the process of stopping the Super League, as he also met with fan groups such as Manchester United Supporters Trust and conveyed to them that the government will step in and “kill off” the Super League. It was reported by David Ornstein that the government had not ruled out stopping players getting work visas or withdrawing police help from matchdays, which would be heavily detrimental to clubs.
This was coupled with reports that the Premier League were considering expelling all six clubs from the league, and only a couple hours after this, the reliable Leah Smith revealed that it was Manchester City who had been having crisis talks, and were considering withdrawing from the project. Smith also revealed that Jurgen Klopp and the Liverpool senior squad were extremely vocal against the ESL (which was shown by Jordan Henderson’s intention to hold an emergency meeting with the club captains of all 20 Premier League clubs), and it was also reported he will try and push FSG (the owners) out of the club. Similar scenes were happening at Chelsea, with the whole squad upset with the decision.
This can be seen as the start of the end for the ESL. That night, Talk Sport broke the news that the proposed version of the Super League is “off”, and shortly after revealed that Ed Woodward was to resign as chairman of Manchester United, but we will get in to that in more detail later. The Talk Sport report about the dissasemblement of th ESL came out at around the same time as reports that Manchester City and Chelsea had started processing documentation to request withdrawing from the ESL, and shortly after this it was reported that Manchester United will also pull out, due to revolt from the players.
The final reaction from the Super Leauge is that they did expect the reaction they got from UEFA and FIFA, but it was the reaction from the fans, players and politicians that took them by suprise. One positive that has come out from the whole circus is that the Super League were able to force UEFA to admit that there is an extra €4 billion available to them that previously UEFA denied having. Perez has said that although this particular ESL proposal has failed, he does not rule out the creation of something similar in the future. He said that due to the fact that all 12 clubs signed a binding agreement to the creation of a Super League, and that could still happen in the future.
Woodward steps down from role
Following news of the breakdown of the European Super League on Tuesday evening, Manchester United announced that Ed Woodward will leave his role as Executive Vice-Chairman of the club at the end of the year. Woodward has been at the club since 2005 and has been the Executive Vice-Chairman since 2012.
Woodward told the club website: “I am extremely proud to have served United and it has been an honour to work for the world’s greatest football club for the past 16 years.
“The club is well positioned for the future and it will be difficult to walk away at the end of the year. I will treasure the memories from my time at Old Trafford, during a period when we won the Europa League, the FA Cup and the EFL Cup. I am proud of the regeneration of the club’s culture and our return to the Manchester United way of playing.
“I am sure that with the changes we have made on-field and to the coaching and football staff in recent years this great club will soon be lifting silverware again. It deserves to.”
Joel Glazer showed his admiration to his departing colleague, saying: “Ed Woodward has served the club with great distinction. On behalf of everyone at United I would like to place on record our sincere thanks for his tireless work and dedication.
“His contribution to the club has been massive, and he will always be welcome at Old Trafford as a part of the Manchester United family.”
Although it was reported that Woodward was going to leave the club at the end of the year beforehand, the disaster of the European Super League brought forward the decision to announce the departure of Woodward now.
Times Sport reported that it was understood that Woodward had told close friends that his involvement with the European Super League was one of the biggest mistakes of his professional career.
Before the announcement, Woodward was criticised by UEFA president, Aleksander Čeferin. The Slovenian called him a ‘snake’ after he said that Woodward supported the new Champions League format just days before the Super League announcement.
It has since been reported by The Athletic that Woodward had insisted to friends that his agreement with UEFA was made in good faith, but he was obliged to follow his employers in their Super League ambitions.
Varane to Manchester United?
During this crazy few days of news, it has also come out via Spanish outlets Marca & Diario AS that Manchester United have a “firm” interest in Raphael Varane. This is combined with reports from the Manchester Evening News last month claiming that Real Madrid were prepared to sell the Frenchman this coming summer, and valued him at £60 million.
Perez is allegedly “desperate” to sell Varane this summer as he will enter the final year of his contract next year, at which point he would be leaving Real Madrid for free. Perez said on the matter: “If players don’t want to stay at [Real] Madrid they can leave.” Varane is reportedly seen as the ideal experienced centre half to partner Harry Maguire, and the club have been targetting him for a number of years.