A pronouncement from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola that the abandoned Super League was a “closed chapter” is proving way wide of the mark.
The ripples of discontent from the failed power-grab by England’s so-called “Big Six” soccer teams were continuing to be felt Thursday, when a group of about 20 Manchester United fans, unhappy at the club’s involvement in the plan, gained access to its training ground.
The protesters, reportedly numbering about 20, carried banners with messages including “Glazers out” — a reference to the Glazer family that owns Man U and also the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and “We decide when you play.”
Eventually, they got to speak to United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and members of his backroom staff.
“At approximately 9 a.m. this morning a group gained access to the club training ground,” read a statement from United about the incident at the Carrington practice complex. “The manager and others spoke to them. Buildings were secure, and the group has now left the site.”
Online United fan site “Red Issue” posted pictures of fans outside the car and reception entrances of the club’s training facilities, and also on the training pitches.
There were fan protests this week outside soccer grounds for matches featuring Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham — three of the other English teams who signed up to join a breakaway Super League also involving three clubs from Spain and another three from Italy.
The English teams all withdrew from the Super League late Tuesday — less than 48 hours after the proposals were announced — following heavy pressure from the British government and supporters.
Players and coaches haven’t hid their contempt for the Super League, details of which were kept quiet by the clubs’ owners, and the manager of Arsenal — the sixth English team involved — said Thursday that disgruntled fans “sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.”
“This has given big lessons, and it shows the importance of football in the world,” Arsenal manager Arteta said.
“And it shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans — and that’s it. During this pandemic, for a year, we have been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the stadium. But when the fans have to come out and talk, they’ve done it really loud and clear.”
Arteta said he received a personal apology from the club’s American ownership — led by Stan Kroenke, owner of the NFL’s Rams, NBA’s Nuggets and NHL’s Avalanche — for their part in the plan to form a largely closed European competition.
“They have the maximum responsibility to run the football club and what they said was, ‘Apologies for disturbing the team, we did it without the capacity to communicate in a different way earlier, and pass on my message to the players,’” Arteta said.
“That is all you can ask for.”
United co-owner Joel Glazer and Liverpool owner John Henry, who also owns the MLB’s Red Sox, issued apologies Wednesday, when Man City chief executive Ferran Soriano also sent a letter of apology to the club’s fans.
Guardiola said he didn’t need to speak directly to the City hierarchy even though he and his players went through a distracting week of uncomfortable questions.
“As a club, we accept and learn and focus on the reason why we’re here,” Guardiola said after City’ beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Wednesday.
“It’s a chapter which is over, a closed chapter. They don’t need to apologize, I know them.”
By STEVE DOUGLAS
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