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LONDON, April 23 — Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said today he had never been a supporter of the collapsed European Super League project and was pleased fans had spoken out.
The Norwegian, who met angry United fans at the club’s training ground yesterday, said he had expressed his views to the club’s American owners behind the scenes.
United were one of six Premier League clubs that initially supported the plan for a league whose 12 founder members would always qualify, but then backtracked 48 hours later amid fierce opposition.
“I’m very happy that the fans have voiced their opinion and that we’ve listened to them,” Solskjaer, whose club are second in the Premier League, told reporters ahead of the trip to Leeds United on Sunday.
“In a strange sort of way, it’s brought the football pyramid or community together and I think that’s important.”
Solskjaer said it was important to maintain the fear of failure, of not qualifying for Europe’s top club competition.
“I didn’t like the concept anyway because it has to be on sporting merit. I want to earn the right to play in Europe,” he said.
“You can’t just be giving it because your name is such and such. You have to earn the right to be there.
“To get the best possible performance, I’ve always believed in stepping out of your comfort zone, being afraid of failure, that spurs you on, living on the edge a little bit and that wasn’t part of this.
“We can’t be handed a place.”
Solskjaer was happy clubs had admitted “mistakes”, highlighting the irony of upsetting fans just as clubs were looking forward to welcoming them back into stadiums after emerging from Covid-19 lockdown.
He said the furore had made preparation for the Leeds game “a little bit different”.
The manager said he had always had a good working relationship with the owners, and departing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, and felt listened to.
“Football without the fans is nothing and that’s why we have to listen to them,” he said. “I’m happy that the voice of the fans, players, managers were heard.”
Solskjaer said meeting the fans for a “peaceful discussion” was the right thing to do.
“I said a few things about what I think the team will do in the future… it was a good 10 minutes and I was happy with that. We didn’t shake hands, we gave a fist-bump and then we parted.” — Reuters