United say they will stand firm


SOCCER: Manchester United chief executive David Gill insists the club will stand firm in the face of a two-pronged attack from their own supporters.

There are fears the anger and resentment felt at Malcolm Glazer's £790 million takeover and Rio Ferdinand's on-going contract dispute could spill over on August 9th when United entertain Debrecen or Hajduk Split in the Champions League qualifier.

Both men have been subjected to abuse during United's Far East tour, with Glazer's son Bryan, who had to be escorted away in the back of a police van on his first visit to Old Trafford, forced to defend his father on Tuesday when a handful of fans broke into the VIP area after the victory over Beijing Hyundai.

Forty-eight hours after being verbally abused in Tokyo, Ferdinand was jeered again last night during and after United's 2-0 win over Urawa Red Diamonds in Saitama.

On each occasion, the number of protesters has been small, but with a 60,000 crowd expected for the first home game of United's campaign, there must be worries of wider scale demonstrations.

Gill does not believe that will happen, and remains resolute in his belief the vast majority of United fans are more concerned about the club returning to the Premiership summit than who actually owns them.

But if the attacks do come, he is adamant club officials, Alex Ferguson and his squad have the strength to resist them.

"You do not want to see negativity coming towards the club from the terraces," he said. "Obviously, we would like everyone behind us and we do believe the vast majority are. But we are also realistic and we have to recognise and accept the right for peaceful protest and for being given an opportunity to air their views. We are talking about a very small minority who will always be there."

Gill, meanwhile, has also insisted United's Far East tour was a success despite the stream of negative headlines. Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ferdinand all found themselves in the news for the wrong reasons, while a surprisingly low crowd in Beijing led to the allegation that United's popularity in the region is fading.

Although he admits criticism over the Beijing gate is justified, Gill is adamant the 10-day, four-match trip was a worthwhile exercise, from both a footballing and commercial standpoint.

"It has been a very good tour," he said.

"The first objective has to be to get the team prepared for the upcoming season and from that standpoint it has been a very successful trip."

United won three of their four matches on a tour that has seem them bank around £6 million.

Influential club sponsors Budweiser and Vodafone both sponsored matches on tour and the Old Trafford commercial team believe by attaching themselves to such high-profile brand names, they will stand a greater chance of establishing themselves in the fastest growing economies on the planet.

"Tours to Asia are generally more hectic than those to the United States because the following for football in the region is much more manic," he said.

"But in every instance, we plan around the team's needs and work off that."