As Manchester United supporters gathered at a local pub on Saturday afternoon, they were intent on giving Richard Arnold a piece of their mind. Instead, they got one of their own as the club’s chief executive walked in on their concerns.
Fans had been protesting outside Arnold’s house, but when the CEO became aware of where they were congregating, he chose to meet them instead. He bought drinks for the group and spoke with what seemed to be remarkable candor for one of the club’s most powerful figures.
Arnold may not have been aware that one of the band members had his phone pointed in his direction as he described it last season, calling the 2021-22 season a “nightmare” and warning that the club had ‘burned’ £1billion on the players, with little sign on the training ground that they got what they paid for.
A Manchester United spokesperson confirmed the encounter, saying: “Richard heard a group of fans had met in a pub near his home. He went to meet them, offered them all a drink, listened to their perspective and explained to them what the club is doing to succeed on the pitch, improve the stadium and enhance engagement with supporters.”
He also told them that funds were available to bolster Erik ten Hag’s squad at a time when supporters are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of immediate action in the transfer market for their new manager. United are in talks with Barcelona over the signing of Frenkie De Jong.
“Money is not a consideration for who we want” Arnold said in a video posted to social media. “The manager wants [De Jong], and they actually did the job. He’s a great player.
“Is it 100 or 200 [million]? I do not know. get who you [expletive] want to.”
It might not be the wisest of decisions to publicly proclaim that money is no object in the pursuit of De Jong, whom Barcelona are considering selling so they can stabilize their own finances.
Arnold added that he won’t play much of a role in the transfer deals, which will be handled by Ten Hag and director of football John Murtough.
“Do you want me to buy the players? This means nothing to you ? Arnold asked.
This would appear to be a coded reference to Arnold’s predecessor, Ed Woodward, who was said to have played an outsized role in recruitment given his previous football inexperience.
Woodward officially left the club in February, halfway through their worst Premier League campaign in terms of points. They recorded just 58 points, seeing them rise to sixth as fans increased the pressure on the Glazer family who own the club. Arnold insisted there was a long-term plan to deal with United’s decline on and off the pitch – plans are underway to redevelop Old Trafford as the stadium shows its age – and urged the fans to support him.
“I respect your passion, but I need help from you,” he said. “It’s been horrible. A lot of our players are young and they’ve had a torrid time. The abuse they suffered after the Euros (where Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho missed the penalty shootout in the Champions League defeat England in a shootout against Italy), no wonder confidence was shot.
“I want to put the club back together to be successful. I want to do my part. I answer all the emails, I talk to the fans.”