In Depth

David Gill leaves Man United - could Ferguson follow him?

Departure of Manchester United's chief executive brings down the curtain on a formidable double-act

ALEX FERGUSON has paid tribute to David Gill, who is to stand down from his role as chief executive of Manchester United after ten years at the helm, prompting speculation that Old Trafford could be approaching the end of an era.

Gill joined United in early 1997 as finance director, and assumed the role of chief executive in September 2003.

He and Ferguson formed a formidable double-act that has been credited with cementing United's position as one of the biggest clubs in world football. The veteran manager has admitted that Gill's departure was a "big loss".

"We have had a million arguments," said Ferguson. "But I have always enjoyed them because I know that David has two great qualities - he is straight and he always puts Manchester United first."

The 55-year-old is standing down as he hopes to be appointed to Uefa's executive committee this summer. He will remain a non-executive director at Old Trafford, and will be replaced by Ed Woodward, the club's executive vice-chairman.

His resignation has given Gill what the Daily Telegraph describes as a "brief moment in the arclight", yet his contribution over the last ten years has been of "enormous significance".

He forged a strong relationship with Ferguson, says the paper, and "while he may well have been the Ernie Wise to Ferguson's Eric Morecambe, Gill played his part".

He played a key role in luring many of United's current crop of stars to the club.

"The unlikely alliance between the working-class Glaswegian and the well-spoken chartered accountant proved hugely successful," says the Mirror. "Gill oversaw the acquisition of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Nemanja Vidic and Robin van Persie during his time as CEO, with Ferguson considering him a key ally, confidante and friend."

His decision to leave brings the curtain down on what The Times calls "one of the closest and most successful chief executive/manager relationships in football".

And it could ultimately have significant repercussions for Manchester United.

"The importance of Gill at Old Trafford and his relationship with Ferguson cannot be underestimated, " warns the Daily Mail. "As the 55-year-old prepares to hand over day-to-day control of the club to United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, it must be asked whether the change at the top will affect Ferguson's own thoughts about when to quit."

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