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MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, one of the leading figures in the breakaway European Super League project, will step down from his role at United at the end of 2021, the Premier League club said on Tuesday.
United have been one of the leading clubs involved in the breakaway project and Woodward was singled out for criticism by the head of European soccer's governing body Aleksander Ceferin.
"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," Woodward, who joined United in 2005 and took over in his current role in 2012, said in a statement.
"The club is well positioned for the future and it will be difficult to walk away at the end of the year.
"The last 16 months have brought so many unique challenges... The financial impact on football clubs has been severe, but United have been one of the most robust and resilient in the face of extraordinary financial pressures."
Woodward's decision to leave his position came just as the plans for the Super League began to unravel after Manchester City announced they were planning to pull out of the planned breakaway which has received intense criticism and opposition.
The BBC reported Chelsea are also set to back out of the competition.
The Super League, which 12 of Europe's top soccer clubs announced on Sunday that they planned to launch, argued it would increase revenues to the competing clubs and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.
However, the sport's governing bodies, other teams and fan organisations say it will increase the power and wealth of the elite clubs and the closed structure of the league goes against European football's long-standing model.
Unlike Europe's current elite Champions League competition, where teams have to qualify through their domestic league, the founding Super League teams would guarantee themselves a place in the new competition every year.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, additional reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)