FAN VIEW: It is hard to view Richard Arnold’s pub trip with angry United fans as anything other than a PR move… we are a laughing stock on and off the pitch and it will take more than getting a round in before supporters can take the CEO seriously
- United fans put a series of long-running concerns to Richard Arnold on Saturday
- The United CEO deserves credit for meeting them after learning of a protest
- But his answers will have done little to convince fans about the future direction
- It was good to hear the protests from supporters are having an impact
Manchester United CEO Richard Arnold met a group of disgruntled fans at a pub last weekend after learning they planned to protest outside his house.
The angry supporters demanded answers on the dire situation the club finds itself in after a dismal season, where United failed to qualify for the Champions League and finished with their lowest ever Premier League points tally.
Arnold took the time to address concerns but will not have assuaged the long-running issues with the club – on and off the pitch – and how it is run.
SCOTT PATTERSON, from the Republik of Mancunia blog, offers his assessment of the weekend’s events.
After buying Manchester United in 2005, the Glazers avoided any sort of communication with the supporters, until fans broke in to the stadium in May 2021 and forced the Liverpool game to be called off in protest of the European Super League.
Joel Glazer apologised for the years of silence and the Fan Advisory Board was born, with him attending a few meetings to respond to questions the supporters had.
Nowhere near enough progress has been made since but it’s better than nothing, which is what the owners had previously offered.
Richard Arnold met disgruntled United fans at a pub at the weekend after learning they planned to protest at his house
Arnold deserves credit for addressing the fans but his answers did little to allay fears over the state of the club
Over the weekend, CEO Richard Arnold also gave in to pressure from the fanbase, opting to meet a set of supporters representing The 1958 group after learning they planned to protest at his house. Being willing to engage has earned him brownie points with some, although it’s understandable he would rather go to the local for a pint instead of having a bunch of reds showing up on his doorstep.
The answers he gave, which we’ve all seen thanks to secret recordings that were shared on social media, were pretty frank and there was a dig at Ed Woodward that went down well, but it’s hard to avoid being cynical and just seeing the occasion as an attempt at some positive PR on his part.
You can only presume Arnold had to know the details of this conversation would come out one way or another and that he wouldn’t have gone in to that meeting without considering what supporters wanted to hear. He conceded the club had been ‘burning through cash’, that the training ground needed better investment, that silly contract extensions had been offered to the wrong players and that officials were working hard to sign all the players Erik ten Hag had listed.
Arnold admitted protests from United fans last season had been having an impact
The most pleasing piece of information to come from the meeting was Arnold conceding that the organised protests of recent months are having an impact and he was keen for sponsors to stop being targeted. For him to think this will do anything but ramp up the online pressure that is already being put on those investing in Glazers’ United was naïve.
Deservedly or not, Arnold has come out of the meeting pretty well though and all can agree he’s an improvement on Woodward, although that isn’t hard. But there’s not a chance Ed would have been able to sit down and have a pint with a group of hardcore reds. Those present seemed to agree that he does want the best for the club though, whatever his motivation, and does deserve some credit for showing his face and answering all the questions that were asked of him.
Still, shareholders will receive £11m in dividends this week, a sum which ironically is the reported difference between United and Barcelona’s valuation of Frenkie de Jong. So Joel Glazer and Richard Arnold can say what they like. It doesn’t change the fact United are days away from starting pre-season preparation and have yet to sign a single player, on the back of a disastrous season.
There have been plenty of changes in personnel at the club and we have been promised that things will be different now, but we’ve yet to see any evidence of that.
There’s been little reason to feel positive about United for some time now and a few sound bites that echo what supporters want to hear hasn’t changed that. We’ve become a laughing stock, on and off the pitch, so Arnold has to do a lot more than get a round in before supporters can take him seriously.
United were a laughing stock on the pitch last season and there is already frustration about a lack of signings