ED WOODWARD might be the person you associate most with transfers at Manchester United, but behind-the-scenes there's another man controlling the purse strings at Old Trafford.
Matt Judge, who carries the official title of head of corporate development, prefers to be low-key when it comes to doing business for the Premier League giants.
That's why you've probably never heard of him.
But ever since 2016, there's been a change of the guard when its come to taking on the role of chief negotiator.
That's where Judge has come in, most notably brokering deals for the likes of £89m world record signing Paul Pogba, transfer flop Alexis Sanchez, and David De Gea's contract extension.
And with United desperately looking to add talent to their squad after a disastrous 3-1 opening day defeat to Crystal Palace before the October 5 transfer deadline, you can bet Judge will be a busy man.
AN ANONYMOUS EXISTENCE
While chief executive Woodward is happy to push himself front and centre as the representative of the United boardroom, Judge sits in the backdrop quietly going about his affairs.
A search on Google reveals very little about the man, and there's an air of mystery about the tall, balding fella as he deals with the world's biggest football names.
One solitary picture pops up, hanging behind Woodward wearing a United suit and tie, accompanying his boss to training at Carrington.
Also, he doesn't have a picture on his LinkedIn picture.
Instead, in the bio, it says: 'Managing Manchester United's equity and debt capital structure – three equity offerings incl the IPO, totalling over $450m; and three debt refinancings ($1bn+) – debt private placement, term-loan and RCF. Also player negotiations (transfers and playing contracts).'
Like Woodward, Judge studied at Bristol University, where he finished a Masters degree in economics.
And with 13 years of experience in investment banking before his United tenure, his area of expertise seems ideal for the role.
SEVEN YEARS AND COUNTING
Judge has been Woodward's right-hand man since the departure of former chief executive David Gill in 2013.
He began assisting in transfer negotiations in 2016, the summer United spent a whopping £89m on L'enfant terrible Paul Pogba.
Since then, he has overseen moves involving the likes of Alexis Sanchez (£30m), Romelu Lukaku (£75m), Nemanja Matic (£40m), Viktor Lindelof (£30m), Bruno Fernandes (£49.5m) and Donny van de Beek (£35m) with United splashing £592.4m in that time.
The cat that let the secret out the bag that Judge was so heavily involved in United's deals was Jose Mourinho.
"I know my people is doing everything they can," the 'Special One' said once before a game at Burnley hoping for fresh new blood to help his ailing squad.
"The owners with the green light, Mr Woodward working hard with Matt Judge and everybody is giving everything they can and I think they are going to be successful."
Judge and Woodward are tasked with overseeing 52 scouts dotted around the world.
Their information is channelled through scouting chiefs Marcel Bout and Mick Court.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also identifies prospective signings, before United draw up a list of targets.
Last year, a source told the Manchester Evening News that it's Judge who negotiates contracts and transfer fees.
"Jim Lawlor and Mick Court were the scouts here under Ferguson and they are still delegated to identify targets," a United insider told the MEN.
"They will then hold discussions with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mike Phelan.
"Matt Judge is the one doing deals and Ed signs them off, but he also signs off non-football aspects as well."
CONTRACTS AND DEALS
Judge hasn't been afraid to exercise United's wealth when it has come to signing the world's best footballers, and securing the futures of stars they already own.
Not only did Alexis Sanchez command a £30m transfer fee from Arsenal plus Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he was also given a £450,000-per-week contract – making him the most expensive player in Premier League history.
Judge also tied up David De Gea to a new contract after lengthy negotiations that'll keep him at the club till 2023. That didn't come cheap, mind, with the contract reportedly worth around £117m.
But don't be fooled into thinking Judge isn't canny when it comes to dealing with United's coffers.
In 2019, he haggled with Crystal Palace's Steve Parish over a deal for Wan-Bissaka, initially low-balling the Eagles chairman with a £40m offer.
And he did the same with Daniel James and Harry Maguire, before finally getting his man.
Any deals that are made by United in this transfer window will have the fingers of Judge presiding all over them.
Should the Red Devils dip into their hefty budget, Judge will be heavily responsible. But you'll be unlikely to hear his name mentioned.
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