Ole Gunnar Solskjaer backed Manchester United’s unpopular owners the Glazer family and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward following widespread dissent from fans during Saturday’s 4-0 win over Norwich.
Supporters sang songs voicing their disapproval at the handling of their club by the Americans, who bought United in controversial circumstances in 2005, and of Woodward, who took over his role in 2013 shortly after the retirement of Alex Ferguson.
Such prolonged spells of chanting had not been heard at Old Trafford for some time and were probably prompted by the revelation in the club’s annual accounts on Friday that Woodward earned £3.16 million ($4.13 million) from the club last season, making him comfortably the best-paid executive in the Premier League.
Solskjaer, then a player, was critical of the American takeover of United in 2005 but last night called for fans to get behind every area of his club, including the Glazers and Woodward.
“I’m not sure if the players will get it but I noticed, yeah,” said Solskjaer, referring to the chants.
“As a club we’ve got to stick together, we’ve got to be united, we are a family. I can only say from when I’ve been here I’ve been backed by the owners, I’ve been backed by Ed and they’re supporting me, so for me, make sure they stick together.”
Woodward has become a particular target for supporters in recent months, given the club’s on-field problems and his record in the transfer market.
His salary last season dropped £1 million from the previous year, when Woodward’s income was boosted by a one-off vesting of stock options to reflect service under the Glazers, but that is unlikely to improve the mood of United’s disillusioned fan base.
Despite the obvious drop-off in results United have suffered since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, Solskjaer insisted the club was making progress under Woodward’s stewardship and asked for fans to refrain from their criticisms.
“We are in all competitions,” said the Norwegian manager. “We are still in the Carabao (League) Cup, FA Cup, we’re fifth in the league, still challenging, we’ve improved the position from last season, we’ve got Europa League.
“They’ve just got to believe me when I say I feel we are doing loads of good things behind the scenes, we are going in the right direction. See the group today, the attitude, the work-rate, that’s the core of the group that’s going to go forward.”
In 2005, Solskjaer accepted a role to become the patron of Shareholders United, a group that opposed the Glazer’s £800 million takeover plan.
“I think it is important that the club remains in the right hands,” Solskjaer was quoted as saying before the takeover was completed.”I am absolutely on the supporters’ side and think the club is in very good hands as it is today. I am a United fan myself and only want what is best for the future.”