Sir Alex Ferguson has made an impassioned appeal for unity as Manchester United face up to mounting unrest from their own supporters against ownership by the Glazer family.
For the first time since the Glazers took over a debt-free club in 2005, Old Trafford has been riven by protests from supporters at a level of debt that now stands at more than £700m. Last week's victory over Burnley saw accusations that security guards used force to take down a "Love United, Hate Glazer" banner that was unveiled at the Stretford End.
Yesterday, the fans – wearing the green and gold colours of the old Newton Heath club that preceded Manchester United – demonstrated on Sir Matt Busby Way before the victory over Hull that saw them regain the leadership of the Premier League. Even after Wayne Rooney's opening goal, chants of "Glazers Out" rang out around the stadium.
"Some of our fans are clearly unhappy with our financial position but we must not allow that to become divisive," said Ferguson, who has been far more supportive of the Glazer family than he ever was of the plc that went before it.
"The danger, as I see it, is that we could be presented as being split which would be harmful and inaccurate because I believe the vast majority of Manchester United supporters are behind us."
Privately, he has laughed off suggestions from some fans that he should resign in protest, pointing out that not only have the Glazers not interfered in his running of the club but that, if he went, his backroom staff would lose their jobs too.
"I can see our opponents rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of us falling out among ourselves, if we do not all think carefully about what we are doing," he said in his programme notes. "We must not lose our focus, which from where I stand is about building a strong football club that will win trophies.
"That is what we are about – or at least what we should be about. We must remain loyal to the cause of Manchester United. The staff and players should be quite one-eyed about that and stay true to the history of the club and all the work done by Sir Matt Busby and the other managers who have contributed to creating the great club we have at Old Trafford today."
Ferguson added: "This is not about stifling criticism; it is simply a plea to stand together rather than take a course of action that will damage ourselves more than anyone else. Manchester United are bigger than me, the players, the directors, officials – and the fans."Reuse content