Ole Gunnar Solskjaer strolled onto the Old Trafford pitch, looked up at the directors’ box, clenched his fist and raised it. He often does so in victory, home or away, and it’s never clear who the gesture is specifically for.
On Sunday, it could only have been Sir Alex Ferguson or his family, for Solskjaer’s paymaster was not in the stands. Ed Woodward had gone off radar and the directors’ box was sparse. There was radio silence from the United communications department as a seismic story brewed and the director of communications, usually present for home games, was AWOL.
In keeping with the contempt the Glazer family has for United supporters, Joel Glazer’s tone-deaf quotes attached to a Super League statement was released at 11.10pm UK time, when many supporters were asleep. They’ll have awoken to a nightmare.
“By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid,” Glazer brazenly bragged.
United published the same statement, verbatim, on their investor relations website. The Twitter account did not share it, so Richard Arnold will be unable to detail its engagement on the next conference call.
“We are at the centre of discussions about the future of European club competitions and, as with the reporting of Project Big Picture, context is important,” Woodward told the United fans’ forum in November. “What I can assure you of is that we will keep matchgoing fans firmly in the centre of thoughts.” They haven’t and those present at the forum feel betrayed.
Joel Glazer has not bothered to communicate with United supporters since his introductory interview with MUTV following his family’s toxic takeover in 2005. That wait continues, for the press release was communicated on behalf of the 12 ‘founding clubs’ of the Super League. That the Manchester City website carried Glazer’s quotes captures the rapaciousness of the dirty dozen.
The condemnation has been so widespread Susie Dent of Countdown ‘s Dictionary Corner has piled in, tweeting: “Word of the day is ‘ingordigiousness’: extreme greed; an insatiable desire for wealth at any cost.”
The great football writer Brian Glanville dubbed the Premier League the ‘Greed is Good’ league, after a quote uttered by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street . The Super League is the Gordon Gekko League, dressed up as a rich banquet for fans. It cannot be a coincidence the last United game Glazer attended was between United and Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals two years ago.
Glazer and his fellow charlatans are utterly detached from paying supporters. Some of the legendary United aways in recent times were at Championship clubs Barnsley and Derby County. Those who were witness to the 4-0 drubbing by MK Dons wear it as a badge of honour and long for a return to Ewood Park’s Darwen End, teeming with 7,000 Reds. Fulham, bound for the Championship, is a revered away-day and Lancastrian United fans were thrilled by Blackpool’s promotion in 2010 and the prospect of a winter jolly by the seaside.
Exeter, Burton and Cambridge have all secured FA Cup replays against United this century and Leeds were in League One when they ejected their nemesis from the competition in 2010. The greedy six are intent on tearing down the English football pyramid, depriving Davids from their days against the Goliaths.
The Glazers have ridden roughshod over United followers for almost 16 years and are b———-g the club’s name. The Fenway Sports Group have done their utmost to shred Bill Shankly’s ethos at Liverpool.
United are renowned worldwide for their European heritage, when Matt Busby fearlessly blazed a trail in 1956. He nearly died striving to lift the European Cup and eight of his players did. The Glazers are desecrating his statue that stoops over those true United supporters who gape in awe at it.
In breaking ranks to voice his opposition to the Super League, Ferguson has effectively denounced the Glazers. Gary Neville has, too. dubbing them – and the American owners of Liverpool and Arsenal – ‘imposters’. It is 16 years too late from Ferguson, who abandoned his socialist principles to form an alliance with the Glazers. More than once, he described them as ‘brilliant owners’.
“Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football. Both as a player for a provincial team Dunfermline in the 60s and as a manager at Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup, for a small provincial club in Scotland it was like climbing Mount Everest,” Ferguson told Reuters on Sunday.
“In my time at United, we played in four Champions League finals and they were always the most special of nights. I’m not sure [if] Manchester United are involved in this, as I am not part of the decision-making process.”
Ferguson has a statue, a stand and a road named after him in M16. His name appears among the ‘directors’ in the programme yet he is divorced from the current regime and has not been the kingmaker since he anointed David Moyes in 2013.
Solskjaer actually voiced his opposition to the Glazer takeover in February of 2005, via the since disbanded Shareholders United. “I think it is important that the club remains in the right hands. I am absolutely on the supporters’ side,” he declared.
You can hardly blame Solskjaer for accepting employment from the Glazers in 2018, although his selfie with Avram Glazer and Joel lookalike, the chief financial officer Cliff Baty, will have made some supporters’ stomachs churn.
United have their first free midweek of the season and it is just as well. It will give Solskjaer ample to digest the news and the communications department an opportunity to form a battle plan for Friday’s media Zoom call.
Solskjaer has toed the line since his caretaker appointment but decrying the Super League would make him more popular than that night in Paris, or when Scott McTominay curled the ball into the Stretford End night against City. Alternatively, when he approached the away end at Cardiff following his first match as manager and was serenaded at Tranmere amid anti-Glazer chanting.
“I grew up as a United fan and the last thing I did as a young kid was to look to see who was in the directors’ box,” Gary Neville wrote in his 2011 autobiography. “Inside the club we have not been affected by changes of ownership: you wouldn’t have a clue that anything is different under the Glazer family.” As joint owner of League Two Salford City, Neville may wince at those comments now.
“This is disowning your own club stuff, this,” Neville, stood in the Old Trafford gantry, thundered on Sunday. “It’s pure greed, they’re impostors.”
What is especially sad is United conducted themselves commendably during the first lockdown last year, offering aid for frontline workers and arranging courtesy calls for elderly season ticket holders. Supporters felt immense pride in the club’s conduct and the soul stirred.
Now they have shown their true colours, at a time when fans still cannot click through turnstiles: it is soulless.