Kenyon aims to talk Ferguson into staying put

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The Independent Online

The new Manchester United chief executive, Peter Kenyon, believes "no one in their right minds" would want to lose Sir Alex Ferguson as their manager.

The new Manchester United chief executive, Peter Kenyon, believes "no one in their right minds" would want to lose Sir Alex Ferguson as their manager.

Ferguson is due to stand down in two years, and speculation has been mounting that United were set to look abroad for his successor. Kenyon, who officially steps into his new role on 1 August, is focusing his immediate thoughts on the forthcoming season but is also looking at ways of keeping Ferguson, who has a frosty relationship with Kenyon's predecessor, Martin Edwards.

"This is an on-going process," Kenyon said. "What we have got is the best manager, who has done a fantastic job for us. Nobody in their right minds would want to change a winning formula. It is incredible to think there is so much speculation surrounding something which is still two years away but when the time is right we will sit down and discuss the options with Sir Alex."

Kenyon, 46, has previous experience within the sports industry, having made his name with Umbro. After taking over from Edwards in everything but name for the last 10 months, his appointment has been widely acclaimed, particularly by United supporters, who feel that the new man will listen to their opinions and use them in a constructive manner.

Kenyon says he will launch a Customer Charter and is aware that the public perception of the men leading the Old Trafford gravy train is far from ideal. "No business or brand can afford to ignore the opinions of its supporters or customers," he said. "We have had a tremendous amount of success over the past 10 years and that will attract opinion, good and bad. But I am aware that our public image is not as good as it might be and that is something which concerns me."

Kenyon aims to revitalise United's image by appointing a communications director, by establishing a fans forum and launching the Customer Charter, which he sees as another building block in his hope of giving fans a greater feeling of involvement in a £1bn empire.

Edwards will retain his role as non-executive chairman of the football club, representing United's interests at the Premier League and within Uefa, European football's governing body. However, it is believed that he will put himself forward as a potential plc chairman in succession to Sir Roland Smith, who stands down in March next year.

His appointment is far from secure as Roy Gardner, who is the boss of Centrica and joined Manchester United plc as a non-executive director at the beginning of this year, is also expected to stand. "We believe Martin Edwards has lost that power battle," said Andy Walsh of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association. "The appointments which were made to the board last season are a clear indication that Martin Edwards' time of influence at Old Trafford is over. Peter Kenyon has already shown that he wants to discuss issues with us and take our opinions on board, whereas Edwards just saw supporters as an irritation."

But though fostering a better relationship with supporters and developing the club's image at home and abroad are key features of Kenyon's blueprint for the future, he is also acutely aware that success on the field provides the best hope for positive movement off it. "We have had a great decade which has allowed us to build firm foundations for our off-field business," he said. "But we are not in a stagnant industry and we have a strategic plan to go forward from here. What happens on the pitch drives everything else but we have a tremendous opportunity to capitalise on what we do achieve."

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