Ed Woodward announced he is standing down as Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman this week.
The former accountant walked away following a chaotic 48 hours in which Man United signed up for the controversial Super League and then U-turned on the decision amid a huge backlash from fans.
Woodward was actually standing down at United at the end of the season but had planned to announce his intentions closer to the time.
His role in the doomed project prompted him to make his announcement early, despite calls from United co-owner Joel Glazer not to.
Woodward joined United in 2013 and has played a key role at the club, making big decisions including hiring David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the Red Devils hot seat.
In recent years he has taken more of a back seat with Matt Judge and football director John Murtough now in charge of transfers at the club.
But there was a time, back in 2017, that he identified a set of transfer targets. And there were four names on his wishlist.
The first Woodward target was Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese joined the Red Devils in 2003 and won the Ballon d’Or among other things while at Old Trafford.
He eventually left for Real Madrid in a world-record transfer in 2009 but has always talked about one day returning to United.
Back in 2014, when he was still at Los Blancos, Ronaldo said: “I love Manchester. Everyone knows that. Manchester is in my heart. The supporters are amazing and I wish I can come back one day.”
Unfortunately for Woodward, Ronaldo has never re-signed for the Red Devils.
The second name on the 49-year-old’s wishlist was Gareth Bale, who was also at Real Madrid when he caught Woodward’s eye.
Bale was a Manchester United target for many years but as the years ticked on, he remained a Los Blancos forward.
At the beginning of this season, after falling down the pecking order at Real Madrid, Bale was linked with a move to United.
But it was Tottenham who won the race for his signature, with the Welshman completing a fairytale loan move back to his former club.
The third name on Woodward’s wishlist was Neymar, who was at Barcelona in 2017.
Rumours emerged that the Brazilian was unsettled at Barcelona at the time and looking for an escape route.
United were understandably interested in snapping up the forward, but it was Paris Saint-Germain who beat them to the punch, signing Neymar for a world-record £189million.
And finally, the last man that caught Woodward’s eye back in 2017 was Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich.
Woodward was keen to bring the midfielder to Old Trafford, but despite much speculation over the years, the German has remained loyal to the Bundesliga giants.
Muller is part of the furniture in Bavaria having been at the club for his entire career, but he did recently suggest he could leave Bayern Munich if the right transfer came along.
“I’m not fixed to this club,” Muller told The Times in March. “I have a special relationship, I love Bayern before I started playing for them.
“But when there is a situation where you have to decide maybe to play for a different club it would be no shame and no problem at all.
“Maybe like with Thiago [Alcantara, now at Liverpool].”
Following Woodward’s recent announcement he will play even less of a role at United going forward, especially in regards to transfers.
As aforementioned, Judge and Murtough will now take charge of these decisions, meaning Woodward will have little to no say on United’s transfer dealings.
This means that unless the duo agrees the Red Devils should pursue one of the four – which is very unlikely – then they’ll never don the United shirt.