Manchester United are confident change is coming and they will be “relentless” in attempts to bring long-term success back to Old Trafford, according to CEO Richard Arnold.
United have become accustomed to not challenging for the Premier League title since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, but the 2021-22 season saw them plumb new depths.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, caretaker manager Michael Carrick and then interim manager Ralf Rangnick, United accumulated just 58 points, their worst record in a single Premier League campaign.
But on top of that, champions Manchester City’s haul of 93 points meant United finished the season 35 points adrift of the summit – that is comfortably the furthest off the top the Red Devils have ended a term in the Premier League era.
It was also the first time since 1989-90 that United failed to finish a league season with a positive goal difference, as they scored and conceded 57 goals.
United looked to get their preparations for next season started early by confirming the appointment of Erik ten Hag in April, and he has already taken up his role with a view to having a head-start when pre-season begins in late June.
And CEO Arnold, now in charge following the departure of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, insisted club chiefs share the fans’ frustrations but was keen to emphasise the board’s confidence in bringing success back to United with their long-term strategy.
Speaking at an April fans’ forum from which the minutes were released on Thursday, Arnold said: “Suffice to say, we are not happy with where we are in terms of performance on the pitch.
“We understand fans are frustrated and want to see change and improvement. I can assure you that we share that frustration very intensely within the club.
“But we also feel confident that change is coming because of the action being taken to drive long-term success. The appointment of Erik ten Hag was the most visible example of that action, and the most important. We’re pleased to have got that done early and we can’t wait for Erik to get started.
6 & 0 – Manchester United have lost six consecutive away league matches for the first time since March 1981 and have failed to end a league campaign with a positive goal difference (0 in 2021-22) for the first time since 1989-90 (-1). Onlooker. #PL pic.twitter.com/UzZLAPPnuL
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 22, 2022
“Success won’t be achieved overnight but we are determined to get there, and we will be relentless in our efforts to achieve it. The support of fans will be crucial, and we accept that we have further work to do to strengthen that relationship, aided by the work of this forum.”
When things are not going well on the pitch for United, frustrated fans quickly turn their attention to the club’s owners, the Glazer family.
Thousands of supporters protested the Glazers’ ownership during United’s last three home matches of the season, but Arnold is convinced the club is doing more than most to engage with and listen to fans.
Additionally, he is hopeful an improvement in on-field matters next season will breed wider positivity.
“As stated earlier, everyone at the club, from the owners down, accepts that performances this season have been well below what we expect,” he continued. “We are taking decisive action to improve things and there is huge commitment and passion across the club to return to where we think we belong: challenging for, and winning, titles.
“We are very aware of how fans are feeling and understand their concerns and frustration. Football is a game of passion and we fully respect fans’ right to make their feelings known, as long as this remains legal and peaceful at all times. We have a duty of care to the fans who come to enjoy games, and to our staff who enable games to go ahead, and their safety will always be our priority.
“I would very much hope that all fans within Old Trafford approach next season with renewed optimism and confidence as we look forward to a fresh start under Erik ten Hag.
“We have the best fans in the world and when Old Trafford is at its loudest we have a significant advantage against our opponents. I hope this unrivalled passion will be used to support the team and the new manager as we start this exciting new chapter together.
“As a club we are doing more than ever before – and more than most of our peers – to engage with fans and listen to your views. We have strengthened and expanded this fans’ forum, set up our new fans’ advisory board, and continue to engage directly with [fan] groups. We are committed to listening to our fans and working collaboratively to improve the fan experience and keep the club strong and healthy. We need fans to keep engaging with us to be able to do this.”
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