Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes supporters’ protests against the club’s owners went “too far” as they led to the postponement of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool.
The club’s involvement in the breakaway European Super League, which swiftly collapsed, had reignited lingering resentment of the ownership at Old Trafford.
The Glazers, who acquired the club through a leveraged buyout in 2005, have long been unpopular but became the subject of increased criticism in recent weeks.
Fans surrounded The Lowry Hotel, where United stay before home matches, on Sunday, letting off red smoke bombs and leading anti-Glazer chants.
The demonstration did not end there, however, with some supporters gaining access to the stadium and then the pitch, with flares hurled towards the directors’ box and press area.
Although United and Liverpool confirmed their respective starting XIs, the match was postponed roughly an hour after the intended kick-off time.
A minority of United fans clashed with police officers outside the ground, and Solskjaer feels that – coupled with the trespassing at Old Trafford – meant some took their actions too far.
“It was a difficult day for us,” Solskjaer said ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Roma.
“Of course we wanted to play and beat Liverpool, for the fans, even. Our job has to be getting good results on the pitch, that’s the players’ focus, my focus, but as I said before the game, we have to listen, hear the fans’ voices, it’s everyone’s right to protest.
“But it has to be in a peaceful manner. Unfortunately, when you break in, when police get injured, scarred for life, that’s one step too far, and when it gets out of hand like this, it’s a police matter, it’s not about opinions anymore.”
Other clubs involved in the attempted breakaway are trying to build bridges with supporters, with Chelsea announcing plans to have three fan representatives at board meetings from July.
Solskjaer accepts the communication with fans has to be better, and he understands United are already taking such steps.
“Of course, my focus has to be on the results, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see we have challenges to be dealt with, there’s friction.
“Others have started discussing with fan groups already, which will be massive for us going forward.
“I would be sad if all the good work the players have done got disrupted. Our focus is on playing well and getting to a final now.”
United co-owner Joel Glazer issued a public apology to United fans in the wake of the Super League’s collapse, and Solskjaer has now revealed he received a personal message from the owners.
“I’ve been communicating with owners, I got a personal apology, they apologised to fans for how this came out,” he continued. “I know they’ve started communications with other individuals.
“As I said, it’s a difficult position for me to be in because I’ve got to focus on the football and I’ve always had a good relationship and they listen to me, they listen to the fans and I’m sure there’ll be better communication coming.”
But Solskjaer’s focus is building on the 6-2 defeat of Roma last week and securing a first final appearance as United boss, which he hopes can at least temporarily serve as a welcome distraction.
“Sometimes frictions and challenges can move things forward,” he said. “The last few weeks have been tough.
“I’ve had backing, I have to say. I’ve been put in charge and I’m responsible for the footballing matters, and I understand fans want to see trophies and progress.
“Hopefully we can get to a final tomorrow, that’s the short-term fix, then we’ll take it from there.”
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