London (AFP) – Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer has written to fans acknowledging the “need for change” and better communication after protests forced the postponement of last Sunday’s Premier League match against Liverpool.
US owners the Glazers have been deeply unpopular with many United fans since a controversial debt-leveraged takeover in 2005.
But resentment towards the Florida-based family has intensified as a result of the club’s role in last month’s failed attempt to launch a breakaway European Super League.
On Monday, the Manchester United Supporters Trust wrote an open letter to Glazer urging the club to engage in fan consultation to avoid a repeat of the ugly scenes at Old Trafford.
Glazer, responding to the MUST letter on Friday, reiterated his sincere apology “for the mistakes that were made” over the Super League.
“In particular, I want to acknowledge the need for change, with deeper consultation with you as our main fan representative body across a range of important issues, including the competitions we play in,” he said.
“We also recognise the importance of fan and football interests being embedded in key decision-making processes at every level of the club, and we are open to constructive discussions on how to reinforce that principle.”
A further protest against the Glazers’ ownership of United is expected to take place ahead of Thursday’s rearranged match against Liverpool.
But short of selling up, there appears little the Glazers can do to appease some sections of United’s support, who have not tasted Premier League success since 2013 at the end of an era of domination under Alex Ferguson who then retired.
Glazer promised continued support for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the transfer market and said he understood United were more than just a business.
“I want to reassure you that my family and I care deeply about Manchester United and feel a profound sense of responsibility to protect and enhance its strength for the long-term, while respecting its values and traditions,” he said.
“Our top priority is, and will always be, competing for the most important trophies, playing entertaining football with a team comprised of top-quality recruits and some of the world’s best homegrown talent.”
MUST gave a cautious welcome to Glazer’s statement, which included a promise to attend a fan forum, but said they would “determine our position based on the resulting actions rather than these words alone”.
– Klopp calls for calm –
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, whose club had also signed up for the Super League, criticised some television pundits for stoking fan protests against clubs as part of opposition to the ill-fated proposal.
Fans invaded Old Trafford and ran onto the pitch on Sunday as part of a demonstration against the Glazers while another group vented their frustrations at the team hotel in the city centre.
Police said six officers were injured as flares were let off and bottles thrown, with one sustaining a fractured eye socket and another a facial wound.
Klopp said he believed supporters had a right to a voice but that the actions of some had crossed a line.
“I’m an absolute believer in democracy. It means I am happy that people want to tell their opinion, that’s completely fine,” he said on Friday.
“But I know that in situations like that, it doesn’t happen too often that no one gets hurt and that’s why I said the week before, when all the pundits were asking for protests, I said we need to be careful and calm down, to ask for the right things.
“I heard some policemen got injured and these kinds of things should not happen for sure. You shouldn’t break down the doors.”