Oldham-born Townsend took up the post in 2004 when Paddy Harverson left to become the Prince of Wales’ communications director. His previous role, press secretary to the then Minister for Sport, Richard Caborn, had already given him experience of handling major sports issues, but surely nothing on the scale that such a role at United now brings. Last month, United confirmed its position as the biggest brand in world football, becoming the first club to pass the $1billion mark in terms of brand value.