Gary Neville and Roy Keane express support for United fans’ protests
Gary Neville has urged the Glazer family to sell Manchester United after Sunday’s dramatic protests. His remarks came as Roy Keane, another former United captain, also backed the supporters and said “this was just the start” of their campaign to remove the owners.
Neville said he hoped the protests would unite football fans and continue in a “measured, calm and pointed” fashion, after events including disorder and violence forced the postponement of the game against Liverpool at Old Trafford. United’s attempt to join a super league has caused longstanding supporter anger against the Glazers to increase markedly in intensity.
“This is a consequence of the Manchester United owners’ actions two weeks ago,” Neville told Sky Sports. “There is a general distrust and dislike of the owners, but they weren’t protesting two or three weeks ago.
“There’s huge discontent. They’re basically saying enough is enough. The Glazer family have been resilient and stubborn for many years. I think they’re struggling to meet the financial demands this club needs and have done for some time.
“If you think about the club they picked up in 2004, they had the best stadium in the country, probably one of the best in Europe; the best training ground in this country, probably the best training ground in Europe; the team was getting to Champions League semi-finals, quarter-finals and finals regularly and winning the league every season or every other season.
“You look at the club now. This stadium, if you go behind the scenes, is rusty and rotting. The training ground is probably now not even in the top five in this country. They haven’t got to a Champions League semi-final for 10 years and haven’t won the league for eight years. The land around the ground is undeveloped, dormant and derelict when every other club seems to be developing their facilities and their fan experiences.
“The Glazer family are struggling to meet the financial requirements and the fans are saying the time is up. They’re going to make a fortune if they sell this football club. If they were to put it up for sale now I think the time would be right and it’d be the honourable thing to do.”
Neville hopes supporters will unite and bring change in English football, including through the government’s fan-led review. The former defender described the European Super League plan as “dangerous” and said: “Today will be a waste of time if there isn’t reform.”
He added: “Maybe I’m being naive, but Manchester United and Liverpool should be acting like the grandfathers of English football, demonstrating compassion, spreading their wealth through the family and being fair. But they’ve demonstrated self-greed and tried to walk away with all the money themselves, letting the family struggle below. That’s not what you do at these clubs. An apology is not good enough.”
Keane said United fans had descended on Old Trafford out of love for the club. He, like Neville, was a player at United when the Glazers assumed control in 2005, although he left shortly afterwards whereas Neville continued playing until 2011.
“There’s been a buildup in tension, whether it be about ticketing, poor communication, things going on in the background,” Keane said. “The leadership of the club has not been good enough. When they look at the owners, they feel it’s just about making money. The United fans have looked at the Glazers and thought enough is enough.
“They’re doing it because they love the club. Some people won’t agree with it, but sometimes you have to put a marker down for people to take notice. This will go out all over the world and hopefully the owners of Manchester United will sit up and take note. These fans are deadly serious and this is just the start of it from United fans, I can guarantee you.”
Jamie Carragher, also talking on Sky Sports, joined Neville and Keane in applauding the aims of the protesters. The former Liverpool defender criticised those who overstepped the mark but said that should not dominate the coverage.
“Do we want to see supporters storming stadiums left, right and centre and getting games called off?” he said. “No we don’t … But I’m not someone who will sit here and criticise Manchester United fans for today because I am Liverpool … There will always be idiots who get involved in this but what Manchester United fans have done today I think is actually a good thing in terms of protest and not being happy at what’s going on at the club.”
Graeme Souness criticised fans who threw a flare towards the commentary gantry at Old Trafford. “If that had hit any one of us, we’d be lying in hospital permanently scarred on one side of our face,” the former Liverpool player said. “So that ain’t a laughable situation. Someone threw a full can of beer at us. Again, if that clips you in the wrong place, that might even kill you. So, let’s not be tippy-tappy around the situation. That is unacceptable.”
He also described the anger as “slightly misdirected”, defending the Glazers over the amount of money they have made available for transfers over recent seasons.
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