Richard Arnold urges anti-Glazer protesters at Manchester United to get behind Erik ten Hag

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Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family, ahead of the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester - Richard Arnold urges Manchester United fans to stop anti-Glazer protests and back Erik ten Hag - PA
Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family, ahead of the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester - Richard Arnold urges Manchester United fans to stop anti-Glazer protests and back Erik ten Hag - PA

The Manchester United chief executive, Richard Arnold, hopes a new era under Erik ten Hag will quell fan unrest next season amid the threat of more anti-Glazer demonstrations at Old Trafford.

United’s final three home games were played out against an acrimonious backdrop of protests and supporter fury at the American owners as the club endured their worst season in the 30-year history of the Premier League.

The 1958 fans’ group behind the demonstrations says it is planning “constant, relentless” protests against the Glazers and is championing boycotts of United’s leading sponsors, such as Adidas and TeamViewer. Arnold, who took over as chief executive in February from Ed Woodward, said fans’ frustrations were shared “very intensely” within the club and that last season was unacceptable after the team finished 35 points behind champions Manchester City and without a trophy for the fifth year running.

But, while insisting that the club respected the right of supporters to “make their feelings known” at matches, Arnold urged fans to direct all their energy into supporting Ten Hag. “We are very aware of how fans are feeling and understand their concerns and frustration,” Arnold told United’s latest fans’ forum meeting when asked if he was aware of the depth of ill-feeling between supporters and the Glazers.

“Football is a game of passion and we fully respect fans’ right to make their feelings known, as long as this remains legal and peaceful at all times.

“I would very much hope that all fans within Old Trafford approach next season with renewed optimism and confidence as we look forward to a fresh start under Erik ten Hag.

“We have the best fans in the world and when Old Trafford is at its loudest we have a significant advantage against our opponents.

“I hope this unrivalled passion will be used to support the team and the new manager as we start this exciting new chapter together.”

Manchester United's chief executive officer Richard Arnold - Richard Arnold urges Manchester United fans to stop anti-Glazer protests and back Erik Ten Hag - GETTY IMAGES
Manchester United's chief executive officer Richard Arnold - Richard Arnold urges Manchester United fans to stop anti-Glazer protests and back Erik Ten Hag - GETTY IMAGES

However, the news that the Glazers were set to pocket around £11 million in dividends next month, despite losses for the three months to March 31 hitting £27.7 million and the wage bill rising almost 20 per cent, is only likely to antagonise angry fans.

United’s latest financial results also revealed that, while revenues were up by almost 30 per cent thanks largely to the return of fans to Old Trafford, net debt had increased by nearly 12 per cent to £496 million.

United face a huge rebuilding job this summer, with major surgery required in key positions and doubts over the futures of around a dozen players. Arnold said the issues would not be fixed “overnight” and called for patience, but said the club would be “relentless” in their efforts to drive a turnaround.

“Everyone at the club, from the owners down, accepts that performances this season have been well below what we expect,” he said.

Erik ten Hag was unveiled as Manchester United manager on Monday - SHUTTERSTOCK
Erik ten Hag was unveiled as Manchester United manager on Monday - SHUTTERSTOCK

“We are taking decisive action to improve things and there is huge commitment and passion across the club to return to where we think we belong – challenging for, and winning, titles.

“We understand fans are frustrated and want to see change and improvement. I can assure you that we share that frustration very intensely within the club.

“But we also feel confidence that change is coming because of the action being taken to drive long-term success.

“The appointment of Ten Hag was the most visible example of that action, and the most important. Success won’t be achieved overnight but we are determined to get there, and we will be relentless in our efforts to achieve it.”

'There are ongoing changes in scouting and recruitment - and Ten Hag will be a key voice'

John Murtough, the United football director, also attended the fans’ forum on April 29 and echoed Arnold’s remarks, saying Ten Hag would aim to “maximise the potential of existing players in the near term while building towards long-term success”.

Murtough added that Ten Hag would be a “key voice” in terms of United’s plans to bolster the squad this summer and that there were “ongoing changes in scouting and recruitment”.

A host of senior figures have left the club or are serving notice periods since Ed Woodward departed as executive vice-chairman at the end of January. These include director of football negotiations Matt Judge, chief scout Jim Lawlor, head of global scouting Marcel Bout, chief strategy officer Hemen Tseayo, chief of staff Patrick Coyle, director of communications Charlie Brooks and head of football communications Karen Shotbolt.

Under-23 coaches Neil Wood and Neil Ryan have also departed and most of interim manager Ralf Rangnick’s backroom staff, including Chris Armas and Ewan Sharp, are exiting the club.

United published their third-quarter accounts to March 31 this year on Thursday which revealed a 29 per cent jump in revenues, predominantly down to a huge lift in matchday income now fans are back at Old Trafford following the pandemic. Commercial revenues also increased by almost 13 per cent.

United’s wage bill for the quarter increased by almost 20 per cent to £101.8m as a result of the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho last summer. United had a cash balance of £95.8m as of March 31. Net debt stood at £495.7m.

The Glazers and other shareholders are due to receive their latest dividend payments on June 24.

United have announced they will play Atletico Madrid in Oslo in another pre-season game ahead of the start of the new Premier League season on Aug 6.

Before then, United will play tour matches against Liverpool in Bangkok and Melbourne Victory, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa in Australia.

Meanwhile, United goalkeeper Lee Grant has announced his retirement at 39.

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