Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United fans have a right to voice their anger about the European Super League but insists his players will remain focused ahead of Sunday’s clash with rivals Liverpool.
A demonstration is planned before the game at Old Trafford, with many supporters still angry and upset over their club’s role as one of the founder members of the proposed breakaway league.
While Solskjaer acknowledges the strength of feeling among the fans, he is keen for it to be business as usual on the pitch, as United look to cement second place in the Premier League.
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“It’s important that the fans’ views are listened to and that we communicate better,” Solskjaer said ahead of Sunday’s game, live on Sky Sports, in which United can guarantee a top-four position with victory.
“My job is to focus on the football side and that we have the best possible team. I’ve been backed and had great support from the club and the owners and I’m sure I’ll get the backing again to go one step further.
“I’m so happy that all the clubs agreed this shouldn’t be the way of moving forward.
“When the protests are on, it is important they go in a good fashion and that we keep it peaceful.
“The players are focused on the game and nothing else. They have handled difficult situations before. It was a strange week before the Leeds game after the Super League announcement.
“But I’m not worried one second that our mind is not on the football. As you saw in the [Europa League] semi, the players are fully focused on performing.”
Man Utd fans remain unhappy with owners
The Manchester United Fans Forum met with club representatives on Friday morning and left them with no doubt that their anger over the proposed Super League and United’s part in it has not subsided.
“We have zero trust in the owners of the club, or faith in them to uphold these statements and do not believe they understand or indeed care about the great traditions and values of our club,” they said in a statement that was read out.
“If we are wrong and they are serious about recognising their responsibilities and wanting to learn from supporters’ messages, we look forward to you all proving it by taking immediate and decisive action to protect the future interest of the club.”
They also asked the club to accept five key points in the future.
“We, the fan representatives on the Manchester United Fans’ Forum and on behalf of Manchester United fans everywhere, request you agree to:
1. Willingly and openly engage and promote the government initiated fan-led review of football and use this as an opportunity to rebalance the current ownership structure in the favour of supporters and not approach this review defensively to fight for the status quo
2. Appoint independent directors to the board whose sole purpose is to protect the interest of the club as a football club, not its shareholders and their focus on profits over results
3. Work with the Manchester United Supporters Trust and supporters more broadly to put in place a share scheme that is accessible to all and that has shares with the same voting rights as those held by the Glazer family
4. Commit to full consultation with season ticket holders on any significant changes to the future of our club, including the competitions we play in
5. Provide a commitment by Joel Glazer that any costs incurred in relation to the creation of, or withdrawal from, the European Super League will be funded solely by the Glazer family and not by the club itself. We note that the Kroenke family have already made this commitment to Arsenal fans.
“We request a written response to the above points within seven days.”
The statement also made it clear they do not accept Joel Glazer’s apology for his part in the Super League saga.
It read: “Joel Glazer’s subsequent apology is not accepted. Actions speak louder than words and he and his family have shown time and again that their sole motivation is personal profit at the expense of our football club.”
They also quoted club great Sir Matt Busby, who warned Manchester United over 50 years ago not to sacrifice their footballing heritage for financial gain.
“I hope we shall never sacrifice our sporting principles on the altar of big business,” Busby said in 1970.
“We must prevent a football club ever being run like a supermarket with profit the only real motive.
“The fear is that the big business of soccer will dwarf the sport.”
Woodward: Man Utd ‘will not seek revival of Super League plans’
At the start of the meeting, United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who will leave the post at the end of the year, made the following remarks:
“Welcome everyone to today’s meeting of the Fans’ Forum and thank you for making the time to be here at short notice.
“I hope that – notwithstanding current issues – we were all able to enjoy the performance and result last night, which demonstrated once again the progress being made under Ole.
“Clearly, it was important to convene the Forum in short order to provide an opportunity for you to express your opinions and discuss recent events.
“We will provide as many answers as we can today but, mostly, we want to listen. It’s clear we did not do enough of that before the Super League decision. Today is our first step towards putting that right.
“You will all have read Joel’s open letter to fans last week apologising for the Super League decision and I would like to add my personal apology to this Forum.
“I know that you will feel angry and let down by the lack of consultation and by the way the proposal failed to recognise the vital principle of open competition. Proper discussion would have helped us avoid the mistake we made.
“While there would have been a substantial increase in solidarity payments from the leading clubs to the rest of the pyramid across Europe, we fully accept that there were fundamental elements which were badly misjudged.
“As Joel said last week, we failed to give enough weight to the essential principles and traditions of sporting merit which are so vital to football not just in domestic competition but in European competition since the mid-1950s.
“We want to restate our commitment to those traditions. I can assure you that we have learned our lesson from the events of the past week and we do not seek any revival of the Super League plans.
“Manchester United is fortunate to be in a relatively stronger position than many clubs because of the resilience of our self-sustaining model.
“We have a disciplined, long-term approach which has allowed us to navigate the pandemic, while continuing to invest in the team, which we will continue to do this summer.
“We will now continue working with the rest of the football community to address the long-term challenges facing the game.
“But I can assure you that we will be doing that with great sensitivity to the opinions that you and other fans have expressed in recent days.
“We will be listening closely to your feedback today, and we’ll be taking it away for consideration as we review how we can engage more effectively with you in future.
“Thank you again for the passion you show for our club, and for your service to this incredibly important Forum.
As Joel said last week, our fans are what makes Manchester United so great, and they should always be at the heart of this club.”
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