A small group of disgruntled Manchester United supporters headed toward the home of the club’s chief executive to voice their concerns amid widespread unrest in the fanbase about the ownership of the Glazer family and other issues.
They probably got more than they were bargaining for.
The planned protest by the fans turned into an impromptu sit-down with Richard Arnold, the CEO, in a pub where a range of topics appeared to be discussed, from the owners to the club’s financial issues to the heavily reported pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong.
“Richard heard that a group of fans had gathered in a pub near his house,” United said.
“He went to meet them, bought them all a drink, listened to their views, and explained what the club is doing to deliver success on the pitch, improve the stadium, and strengthen engagement with fans.”
Video was leaked on social media showing Arnold, who took over the role in February, addressing concerns in a fairly blunt manner. It was unclear whether he knew he was being filmed as he spoke about how United has “burned through cash” and the need for extra investment in facilities such as the stadium and training ground.
Greater fan engagement has been a matter of growing importance among United supporters following the stepping-up in hostility toward the American ownership because of the Glazer family’s involvement in plans to launch a European Super League and the downturn in fortunes of the team, which is without a major trophy in five years.
Executive co-chairman Joel Glazer has attended meetings of the fans’ advisory board in January and again in April, at a time when supporters were venting their anger in matches at Old Trafford at the end of another disappointing season.
The arrival of another new manager, Dutchman Erik ten Hag, and the departure of a number of players — Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, among others — who have been on big wages and have underperformed in recent seasons means there is perhaps cause for some quiet optimism heading into the 2022-23 campaign starting in August.
United has yet to make a signing of note, with the pursuit of De Jong seemingly hitting obstacles at a time when the team’s major rivals have concluded big deals of their own.
Manchester City has already signed Erling Haaland, one of the world’s most sought-after players, while another highly rated young striker, Darwin Nunez, has joined Liverpool amid reported interest from United. Tottenham and Arsenal have also been busy in the transfer market in the month since the last domestic season ended. In the leaked video, Arnold can be seen saying “the money that the manager and the director of football want is there,” but it hasn’t been spent yet.
United has won more English league titles than any other team — 20 — but its last major trophy was the Europa League at the end of the 2016-17 season. In the recently completed season, United finished the league season in sixth place and on 58 points — the team’s worst ever Premier League campaign in terms of points.