Man Utd: Fans protest against Glazers outside Old Trafford
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Manchester United supporters’ protests against the Glazers on Sunday appear to be just the start. Fans of the fallen Premier League giants have no intention of quietening down after the match against Liverpool was postponed, with more scenes likely to follow. But those making their voices heard must be careful of undoing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s hard work.
Manchester United were due to face Liverpool at 4:30pm on Sunday.
However, fans stormed Old Trafford to ensure the match was postponed – while also making their voices heard outside the Lowry Hotel.
United have condemned some of the more violent moments, including when two police officers were injured and when a flare was thrown in the direction of the Sky Sports pundits.
Yet, interestingly, they’ve not actually criticised the movement itself.
United acknowledged that supporters were within their right to protest. They may not like it, but they accept it is what it is.
However, fans must be careful of undoing Solskjaer’s hard work. With talk of possible points deductions, it would be a major kick in the teeth for the Norwegian.
Some have accused the 48-year-old of being a “yes man”. He won’t criticise the Glazers in public, despite previously doing so during his playing days.
But what do they expect?
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If you work at Tesco, you’re unlikely to air your grievances at the hierarchy in public. The same rules apply for Solskjaer, who has been nothing but impressive throughout the whole episode.
It was admirable seeing him navigate his way through a tricky press conference after the 3-1 win over Burnley last month. Instead of answering questions on Edinson Cavani’s resurgent form, it was dominated by talk of the European Super League.
Solskjaer, it transpired, had been informed of the Glazers plans just before the match. And he certainly made it clear in the aftermath that he opposed them.
This season has been testing for United.
Their involvement in the Europa League late last season meant they were deprived of a pre-season, which may explain why they looked so shambolic during the early stages of the campaign.
But Solskjaer has weathered the storm and emerged intact on the other side.
This is a United side on the up again. A second-place Premier League finish would mark progress from last term, when they finished behind Manchester City and Liverpool.
And the Norwegian is well-poised to end the club’s four-year wait for a trophy, with that drought lasting since Jose Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford.
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United have played three games a week for much of this season, winning the majority of them.
And, perhaps most impressively of all, Solskjaer and his coaching staff have also handled coronavirus cases with the utmost diligence.
There has been no big outbreak, merely the odd case here or there. Paul Pogba, Facundo Pellistri and Eric Bailly have all missed chunks of the season due to the virus but, for the most part, everybody has stayed COVID free.
The Glazers are, simply put, questionable owners. They insist they care and Solskjaer, when speaking to fans who invaded their Carrington training complex, said Joel Glazer “loves the club.”
But the stats suggest there is something rotten at the core, which stems from their ownership.
Swiss Ramble claims United have paid huge sums just for having the Glazers in charge. Since their leveraged buy-out of the club they’ve forked out £1.1billion on financing, £704m on interest, £244m on debt repayments and £125m dividends.
They have spent less than Chelsea and Manchester City, albeit far more than Liverpool and Arsenal.
United have accumulated just £291m from player sales in the last 11 years, with even the likes of Southampton and Everton getting more bang for their buck.
Old Trafford is looking its age, and United have pumped just £118m on infrastructure over the last 11 years. Arsenal, Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham have all spent more.
United are said to be in a league of their own when it comes to interest payments, paying nearly £500m. To put that into perspective, that’s more than all other Premier League clubs combined.
And when it comes to dividends, the Red Devils are the highest in the top flight with £122m. The only team to get close are West Brom and Leeds, who did so in one-off payments.
The list goes on.
Fans are right to vent their fury at the Glazers for the way they handle things. United aren’t the superpower they were and that’s been allowed to happen on their watch.
But if more matches are disrupted, and points deductions follow, it will risk undoing all of Solskjaer’s hard work.
Rebuilding this club is no easy mission. There’s no quick fix. Fans may pine for better managers at times but they’re missing the point: it’s a process.
United have made plenty of progress under Solskjaer, climbing up the table year on year and, now, look set to finally win a trophy.
So if they were to be docked points and miss out on a place in the Champions League, it would be an insult to the Norwegian.
His job is to manage the United players and get results. He’s done that, with the dressing room a far more harmonious place than it was under Mourinho.
United fans will continue. They owe it to the club to do so.
But with the Glazers in no mood to sell, they need to find the balance. They need to hunt the right prey and, what’s more, go about it in the right manner.
Solskjaer isn’t the enemy here. Neither are the players.
The Glazers will argue they aren’t either, but it’s not as though they’re going to communicate that. They don’t communicate, it’s kind of their thing.
So the next time fans think it’s a victory getting a match called off, they should think about their manager. The hero of the 1999 Champions League final who has worked hard to get the club back among the big boys.
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