Graeme Souness feels Man United fan anger is “slightly misdirected” at the Glazer family. Roy Keane and Micah Richards are more sympathetic.
Graeme Souness believes the Glazer family is “entitled to” retain ownership of Manchester United if they so wish.
The Glazer family has come under immense fan pressure to end their unpopular 16-year-old patronage of Manchester United, with their role in the conception of the collapsed European Super League proving to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Fans have staged protests outside the club’s Carrington training ground and Old Trafford in the weeks since, culminating in thousands congregating upon Old Trafford on Sunday and delaying the kick-off of the planned game against bitter rivals Liverpool.
Gary Neville responded to the protests by calling for the Glazers to sell the club, but Liverpool legend Souness does not expect anything to change.
Asked whether he thinks the protests will have an impact, Souness told Sky Sports: “No, I don’t think it will.
“The Glazers, since Fergie retired, have given successive managers over £1billion to spend. I think it’s £719m net spend over the eight years.
“I think it’s born out of Man United not being top dogs as much as what happened last week. I think that was another excuse to have a go at them.
“These are serious, serious business people. I don’t think this will impact on their thoughts one iota. I really don’t.”
Fellow pundit Micah Richards offered his backing to the supporters.
“It’s never nice, is it?” he said. “We’ve talked about it so many times now and you do feel for the fans because after the year they’ve had with Covid, to try and take away the crown jewels is never good. They’ve gone to breaking point.
“I think the lads have mentioned, it was peaceful. No-one really was causing too much trouble. And it hurts.
“The good thing about it is that the fans have still got a voice. A lot of people are saying, ‘Well, the fans haven’t got a voice anymore’. They have. We’re supposed to be kicking off in 20 minutes. It’s not happening.
“So as long as it’s done peacefully and properly, I support the fans in their protest.”
Souness did not back down.
“We live in a country where you can demonstrate,” he said, “you can vent your feelings. You’re allowed to do it. But I still don’t see it impacting on the Glazers one little bit.
“If you think they can bring pressure to bear on serious business people 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic, that that will drive them to accept a discounted offer for Man United, that will not happen.”
Roy Keane then pitched in.
“I think this is the start of it,” he said. “I think they won’t take too much notice…”
Souness then asked: “Well how can you take it forward?”
Richards offered his reply.
“Why do you have to rip the life and soul out of a club that’s got such history? If they want to make money you can go and make money elsewhere,” he said.
Souness continued: “They’re not ripping the life and soul out of Manchester United.
“They are paying themselves a dividend which is business people having… if they’re going to put money in, they’re going to have to put collateral in. You don’t just go to a bank and say, ‘I want to buy Man United, I need £500m or whatever it costs,’ without committing some sort of collateral. They risked something to buy Man United.
“Since then, they have given successive managers fortunes to spend. It was only when Fergie stopped that the success stopped and I think that irritates supporters. They have become the focus of their anger.
“I think it’s slightly misdirected. From what happened last week and trying to form the Super League, that certainly compounds their aggression and unhappiness towards them. But I would not be sticking the blame of Man United’s lack of success down to the Glazers.
“I come back to it: there was no complaints when they were winning everything and they were in charge. Well, some complaints. But in recent years, because they’ve dropped from being the number one team in the UK and English football, they’ve dropped below that and I think that irritates the supporters.”
Keane, Manchester United captain when the Glazers completed their takeover more than a decade and a half ago, said: “There’s always been rumblings, Graeme.
“There’s always been an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the Glazers and I think it’s just come to a head over the last few weeks. But it’s been there.
“The Glazers, they could sell United tomorrow and make fortunes. Obviously…”
“But if they don’t want it then they’re entitled to it,” Souness interjected. “It’s their football club.”
“Yeah, of course,” Keane replied. “But if United fans want them out then this is just the start of it.”
Richards continued his side of the argument.
“But surely when you buy into a club, Graeme, you’ve got to understand what their views are as well,” he said.
“I know it’s business, we all want to make money, of course we do. But when you’re buying a club like Man United, surely the fans have to be in that conversation as well, not just thinking about, ‘How can I line my pockets?’.
“The whole point is they don’t care about the fans. That’s the whole point,” Keane added, before Souness finished the discussion.
“They bought the club,” he said. “They weren’t ‘soccer’ people. This is an institution. This is one of the great footballing institutions in the world. They knew what they were buying. They knew no matter how well the team were doing out there, they would still have a fanbase arguably second to none in world football, so this was a wonderful chance to buy this football club and create investment. They’ve made a lot of money out of it. And why shouldn’t they if they risked something on day one?
“They’ve obviously made improvements: the stadium, the commercial department, the success they’ve had, which goes back through Fergie.
“In terms of what they think about the fans, I think they proved in trying to form a Super League it’s not a lot. What they’re saying is they’re taking the home-based fans for granted, the new market’s Asia. Let’s target there.”