‘It was a difficult day‘: Man United boss Solksjaer backs fan protest but says violence against police is ‘one step too far’
Wednesday's press conference ahead of Thursday's all-but-resolved Europa League semi-final against Roma was always going to be centered around the hot topic in the red half of Manchester: the United fanbase's acrimony at the handling of the club by their US-based owners, and the ensuing chaotic scenes which unfurled last weekend.
The Old Trafford faithful appear to have drawn a line in the sand when it comes to the fiercely unpopular ownership group and, emboldened by the unanimous wave of vitriol from English football since the European Super League (ESL) was first announced and then crumbled 48 hours later, they have resolved to hit the club and its owners where it hurts most – in their pockets.
A new fan-backed campaign was launched on Tuesday which is aimed at pressuring Manchester United's corporate sponsors to withdraw from their contracts with the club or face the wrath-by-proxy of irate supporters.
🗣 "We know as a club that we need to communicate better." Ole Gunnar Solskjaer understands the frustrations which led to the Manchester United fans invading the Old Trafford stadium pic.twitter.com/yku4z9KZou— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 5, 2021
And Solksjaer, somewhat caught in the middle between fan fury and ownership decree, chose his words carefully.
"It was a difficult day for us," he said of Sunday's events.
"We wanted to beat Liverpool for the fans. We have to listen. We have to hear the fans' voice.
"It is everyone’s right to protest but it has to be in a civilized manner and when police officers get injured, it is one step too far. Then it is not about showing your opinions any more."
It was reported that several members of the Greater Manchester Police force were injured in exchanges with fans, including one who suffered a broken eye socket and another who received a large gash to his face after being hit with a glass bottle.
Solksjaer said that he has communicated directly with the Glazer family following Sunday's demonstrations and received a personal apology from them. Facing further fan furore, Solksjaer says that the Glazer's do indeed have the supporters' best interests at heart.
"I’ve been communicating with the owners and I’ve had a personal apology," he said, possibly referring to the club's involvement in the ill-fated ESL.
"I know that communication has started between other individuals and the fans. I’ve always had a good relationship and they listen to me and they do listen to the fans. I’m sure there will be better communication coming.
"We’re discussing with the fans and communicating with fan groups, which is going to be massive with us going forward. I would be sad if the players had all their good work disrupted. Our focus is on playing well and getting to a final now.
"We want to listen. It has to be in a peaceful manner. Voice your opinions. We need to communicate better as a club. They all accepted it was the wrong thing to do [the ESL].Also on rt.com ‘Not a penny more’: Man United fans target club’s commercial sponsors as club owner Avram Glazer ‘refuses to apologize’ (VIDEO)
"I know our fans want a team that is playing attacking football, winning trophies, working hard towards getting better results. We want to be a Man United team and I know that, for our fans, results are important. It's something we’re working on and that’s my responsibility. I can see that’s what the players are doing."
Amid the vast chasm which now separates the Manchester United boardroom from the supporters who (usually) populate the stands inside Old Trafford, Solksjaer says the best way to bridge the divide is on the pitch.
"Of course, it has be a united football club," he said. "To make things grow, you need to give it patience. I’m hopeful that in time we can unite and come together.
"Friction and challenge is sometimes good to move things forward. The last few weeks have been difficult. I’ve had backing. I’ve been put in charge and am responsible for results and football matters.
"I understand fans want to see results and trophies. Hopefully they can see this team is moving forward, hopefully we can get to a final tomorrow. That’s the short-term fix – then we’ll have to take it from there."Also on rt.com Manchester United supporter charged by police over protest against club owners the Glazers outside hotel where squad was staying