Solskjaer and Klopp pleased Super League idea fell apart
Manchester United manager says best result is that fans voiced opinions and were heard
Banners critical of the European Super League project hang from the railings of Anfield stadium. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer never liked the European Super League concept and is glad supporters showed their anger as clubs ripped up this “bad idea”.
The Old Trafford giants were among the 12 founding members of the controversial breakaway competition announced late on Sunday evening — plans that swiftly and spectacularly unravelled.
United co-chairman and Super League vice-chairman Joel Glazer admitted “we got it wrong” after embarrassingly withdrawing from the competition on Tuesday evening along with the five other Premier League clubs involved.
Widespread and understandable anger remains, with a group of fans taking their protests to the training ground on Thursday and wider action planned in an attempt to change the ownership structure at Old Trafford.
United boss Solskjaer, speaking for the first time since the Super League was unveiled, said: “I’m very happy that the fans have voiced their opinion and that we’ve listened to them.
“In a strange sort of way it’s brought the football pyramid or community together and I think that’s important and I’m very happy... I’m a supporter myself, and there’ll be a day that I’ll come back and watch Man United and I want to watch a team even with a fear of failure.
“That’s what I thought about it. I didn’t like the concept anyway because it has to be on sporting merit. I want to earn the right to play in Europe.
“We know that we have been pioneers and we’ve been in Europe for many, many years and we were with the Busby Babes.
“That’s one part of it, that we want to be part of a successful European campaign again.
“One of my best nights was something we worked really hard towards.
“To get to that, that fear of failure — you can’t just be given it because your name is such and such. You have to earn the right to be there.
“To get the best possible, I’ve always felt and believed in stepping out of your comfort zone, being afraid of failure.
“That spurs you on, living on the edge a little bit, and that wasn’t part of this.
“I’m very happy that all the clubs that have admitted their mistake, that this was a bad idea — and the way that it came out as well.”
Solskjaer attempted to move on to Sunday’s match against old foes Leeds after an initial lengthy answer on the Super League but questions about it continued to punctuate the press conference.
The botched plan has seen the Glazers come under intense, renewed pressure, but the Norwegian was coy when asked about the family who took over the club so controversially in 2005.
“You know what I’ve said about the Super League and I’m so happy that all the owners, all the clubs involved agreed that this was a mistake,” Solskjaer said.
“I’ve always had a good working relationship with the club and the owners.
“Of course behind the walls of the building we speak, they listened to my opinions and we’re working to move Man United forward, of course.”
But there is no chance of that response or Joel Glazer’s apology placating angry fans.
Jim O’Neill — who attempted to oust the Glazers in 2010 as part of the ‘Red Knights’ — and Paul Marshall demanded the owners loosen their grip on the club in a letter to the co-chairman on Friday.
The fans that gained access to the training ground on Thursday morning brought banners reading ‘Glazers out’ and ‘51% MUFC 20’ in reference to the model of ownership used widely in Germany.
Solskjaer, who spoke to the group of around 20 fans at Carrington, said: “Of course I will always listen to the fans.
“I thought it was the only right thing to do to, to go and listen to them and speak to them and have a nice discussion with them and peaceful discussion because it’s important that we respect each other and respect each other’s views.
“I said a few things about what I think the team will do in the future... or what we spoke about, we don’t really need to discuss, but it was a good 10 minutes and I was happy with that.
“We didn’t shake hands, we gave a fist bump and then we parted.”
Thursday’s protest was just one chapter in a remarkable week at United, with Ed Woodward resigning as executive vice-chairman amid the chaos — a post he will leave by the end of the year.
Asked if he had also considered his future, Solskjaer said: “Football is emotions and emotions run high in football.
“I’ve had a very, very good working relationship with Ed. The club will have to move on without him and I’m sure Man United will always move on.
“I’ll work as long as Man United want me to work here and hopefully we can end this season successfully and Ed is part of that.”
Earlier, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted that club owners Fenway Sports Group “are not bad people” but “made a bad decision” over their involvement in the failed project.
Klopp has not even spoken to principal owner John W Henry, let alone received an apology for the way the launch of the breakaway competition and its subsequent rapid collapse was handled behind the backs of managers and players of the ‘big six’ clubs.
However, the German — who spoke out against the plans prior to Monday’s match at Leeds and before the scheme unravelled — is keen to move on.
The Reds boss said: “We hadn’t (had an apology). I don’t think it is necessary as I was mentioned in the apology and the team as well. That was personal enough for me.
“If they’d have spoken to me before, I would have told them ‘No’, it’s not a good idea. Would that have changed something? I don’t know.
“They made a decision for some reason, but it’s not now about me getting an explanation. I’m not like this.
“I’m happy it didn’t happen, but I have so many things to talk about with them, this will not be a part.
“We have to plan our future, and not talk about what happened last week. It’s great that it didn’t happen, absolutely great. It would have been really bad. But it didn’t happen, and now I have a job to do.
“I can tell you I know our owners, they are not perfect like I am not and you are not, but they are not bad people. They made a bad decision, that’s true, but let’s carry on.”
Fans directed their anger towards the owners, hanging anti-FSG banners outside the Kop earlier this week, and Henry’s video message admitting his error has done little to placate them.
In 2010 Liverpool supporters mobilised with a campaign of action in opposition to previous American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and there has been a groundswell of opinion aimed at some sort of activism this time around.
However, Klopp said he did not see the value in trying to force out FSG, although he accepts there are a lot of bridges to be rebuilt.
“I cannot tell millions and millions of people how to deal with a situation,” he added.
“I know the owners for six years, I know there are some moments when they might not have made the right decisions — this time for sure.
“That doesn’t change, for me, too much because I prefer dealing with the problems or the people I know than just changing because then you might have the same problems again.
“I think it is completely normal after this that everyone thinks ‘How can we carry on?’ but that needs longer time. It cannot be solved in a week.”
There has been talk of protests at Anfield before Saturday’s match against Newcastle but Klopp hopes that does not happen.
On their arrival at Elland Road on Monday they were greeted by an angry mob who directed “greedy” taunts at the team coach but the Reds boss is keen to avoid any more animosity.
“The only thing I can say is that I really hope the bond between us and our supporters might even get stronger, and we don’t only discuss the things that happened in the past,” he said.
“All my life I tried to carry on if I couldn’t change something. Show the world we can deal with pretty much everything.
“They all learned their lesson. They will not come around the corner next week and try to do something. I’m pretty sure of that.
“But now we have to make sure we don’t get any harm off it, a different atmosphere in the club or something. That would be the really bad thing about it.
“The rest, didn’t happen. They tried something, it wasn’t allowed, so let’s go back to the beautiful game it always was.”