Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy to have Manchester United fans back (legally) at Old Trafford for the first time in 14 months, and revealed the recent protests impacted his team.
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Manchester United haven’t had any fans back in Old Trafford since the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, although some angry protestors did break in ahead of the postponed clash against Liverpool a few weeks ago.
With protests against United’s owners, the Glazer family, ongoing, there could be less of a positive atmosphere at Old Trafford against Fulham on Tuesday compared to other Premier League stadiums for the final two matchweeks of the season.
Now that UK government coronavirus restrictions have been eased, up to 10,000 fans are allowed at all stadiums for the final two matchweeks of the season, and Solskjaer is hopeful of a positive return for United’s supporters.
What did Solskjaer say?
But it isn’t all good news.
With Manchester United forced to play three games in four days last week due to the postponement of the Liverpool match due to fan protests, they go into this game off the back of consecutive home defeats to Leicester City and Liverpool as he rotated his team accordingly.
“I didn’t want to use it as an excuse because we lost two games, but surely it’s reason behind the performances,” Solskjaer said. “Physically it’s impossible to play at the intensity that’s required because of the amount of games. Then you look at the preparation in between and we haven’t had the recovery and the same routine as we normally would and we haven’t done the tactical preparation.”
Solskjaer admitted the main aim is to see positive vibes return to the stands now that fans will return for the final home game of the season against already-relegated Fulham.
“I think the mood in any club and the relationship between the team and the fans is vital to what happens on the pitch,” Solskjaer said. “The players are all human beings, we’re all human beings, and we will react to getting our supporters back in a positive way.
“They have always given us extra energy and hopefully the players will give the fans a reason to cheer and that’s what we have to focus on. It’s a big game for us in that respect. The last time we had fans in was against Man City. It was a great game and the best atmosphere I’ve ever felt at Old Trafford in a league game, so the next time we welcome the fans back in we need to make sure it’s a positive one.”
It is certainly going to be emotionally charged as United fans return for the first time in over 14 months, and security staff and officials will be concerned about the threat of more widespread protests among the 10,000 fans who are allowed to attend.
On the pitch United can secure second-place with a win, which is something Solskjaer said is a step forward but not an ‘achievement’ but most people will be watching off the pitch to see what kind of message United’s fans send out to their ownership group.