A pronouncement from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola that the abandoned Super League was a “closed chapter” is proving way wide of the mark.
The ripples of discontent from the failed power-grab by England’s so-called “Big Six” were continuing to be felt on Thursday, when a group of Manchester United fans unhappy at the club’s involvement in the scheme gained access to its training ground.
The protesters, reportedly numbering about 20, carried banners with messages including “Glazers out” — a reference to the Glazer family that owns United — and “We decide when you play.”
Eventually, they got to speak to United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and members of his backroom staff.
“Buildings were secure and the group has now left the site,” United said in a statement about an incident that took place at 9 a.m. local time at the Carrington practice complex, before the team trained.
There were fan protests this week outside soccer grounds for matches featuring Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham, three of the other English teams who signed up to join a breakaway Super League also involving three clubs from Spain and another three from Italy.
The English teams all withdrew late Tuesday — less than 48 hours after the proposals were announced — following heavy pressure from the British government and supporters.
Players and coaches haven’t hid their contempt for the Super League, details of which were kept quiet by the clubs’ owners, and the manager of Arsenal — the sixth English team involved — said on Thursday disgruntled fans “sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.”
“This has given big lessons and it shows the importance of football in the world,” Arteta said.
“And it shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans — and that’s it. During this pandemic, for a year, we have been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the stadium. But when the fans have to come out and talk, they’ve done it really loud and clear.”
Arteta received a personal apology from the club’s American ownership for the club’s part in the plan to form a largely closed European competition.
“They have the maximum responsibility to run the football club and what they said was, ‘Apologies for disturbing the team, we did it without the capacity to communicate in a different way earlier, and pass on my message to the players,’” Arteta said.
“That is all you can ask for.”
United co-owner Joel Glazer and Liverpool owner John Henry issued apologies on Wednesday, when Man City chief executive Ferran Soriano also sent a letter of apology to the club’s fans.
Guardiola said he didn’t need to speak directly to the City hierarchy even though he and his players went through a distracting week of uncomfortable questions.
“As a club, we accept and learn and focus on the reason why we’re here,” Guardiola said after City’ beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Wednesday.
“It’s a chapter which is over, a closed chapter. They don’t need to apologize, I know them.”
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