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What would a potential Old Trafford walk out mean for Manchester United?

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News has surfaced of a proposed walk out at Old Trafford in the 58th minute of Saturday’s Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. This follows weeks of criticism online and inside the ground against the Glazer ownership, with also a lot of blame attached to the club’s executive vice chairman Ed Woodward. 

When #GlazersOut or #SackEdWoodward trend on Social Media, or when anti Glazer chants are being sang by supporters, it certainly does well in spreading the word that the fans are unhappy with the running of the club, but it doesn’t hit those responsible where it hurts. Criticism has resulted in Woodward hiring a PR agency to improve his image, however, even the best PR team in the world would struggle to spin a half empty Old Trafford into a positive for him.

The club’s sponsors want fans inside the ground seeing their adverts and buying their products. Old Trafford has the biggest capacity in the most watched league in the world and this is therefore a huge reason why United gain so much revenue in sponsorship. Chevrolet and adidas are United’s two biggest sponsors, with adidas currently paying United £75 million per season. Would one of the biggest and most recognisable sports brands want to be paying so much for a sports team playing in front of thousands of empty seats?

Another outcome from a potential walkout would be the effect it would have on the manager and the players. In early 2016 Liverpool fans walked out of Anfield in the 77th minute to protest against a rise in ticket prices. Liverpool were 2-0 up in the game before the walkout, proceeding to thereafter throw the match away as Sunderland came back to claim a 2-2 draw. 

With United chasing points to reach a place in the top four, a similar walkout shortly after half-time could damage the players and result in a similar collapse on the pitch. Solskjaer has built up a strong relationship with the home support so seeing them disperse when the team needs them the most could also be a huge blow for him. Unfortunate as this may be, it has been too long since fans inside the ground made their voices heard.

A decade ago in the second half of the 2009/2010 season, the Green & Gold protest gathered so much momentum that David Beckham even picked up and wore a scarf thrown by the crowd after a Champions League Round of 16 second leg tie against AC Milan. Many rival fans tend to claim United fans are only complaining about the owners and Woodward because of a recent lack of success, but forget that at the time in 2010 United were going for four titles on the bounce and a third Champions League final in four years.

What most don’t understand is that frustrations are born from a lack of investment, a lack of planning and a lack of attention. Comparisons can be drawn from a decade ago, in the summer of 2009 United sold Cristiano Ronaldo and decided against signing Carlos Tevez, replacing them with Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen. The Glazer family believed that the genius of Ferguson was so great that he could win trophies even without them having to spend fortunes to replace players, and they were right. 

However, they didn’t plan for Ferguson’s retirement a few years later in 2013 and a lack of planning is still affecting the club now. In the summer of 2019, Romelu Lukaku was sold and Ander Herrera’s contract expired, yet United still haven’t replaced them, with the club yet to sign anybody in the current January transfer window. 

The Wolves game comes the day after the window closes and if key positions haven’t been filled, the atmosphere could only be even more toxic. Those that do walk out will walk out knowing that it goes much deeper than trophies, results and performances and that it would-be short-term pain for long-term gain.

Written by Alex Metcalfe

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