The future of the ‘atmosphere section’ at Old Trafford has been plunged into further doubt amid a deepening row between Manchester United and the group that runs it.
United have cut The Red Army’s allocation for next season following their refusal to take season tickets in their section from the 2024-25 campaign – a decision that has infuriated members and other fans.
In a statement, TRA accused the club of having a ‘culture of fear, suspicion and mistrust of ‘traditional’ supporters who prefer to stand and support the team’.
It criticised United after being told major changes to further improve the atmosphere won’t be considered until the protracted strategic review has been completed.
TRA’s statement, issued to all 6,000 of their members, hinted they would not organise the section unless the club backed down on their ‘short-sighted ultimatum’.
Man United are involved in a deepening row with prominent supporter group The Red Army
United were willing to increase their allocation from 3,000 to 3,675 per match, but only if TRA agreed to 1,675 of those being season tickets, with a maximum of 2,000 fans moving on a match-by-match basis.
Confidential understands it was made clear to the group when United first started working with them in 2016 that there would eventually be a season-ticket requirement.
United are thought to be willing to step in and run the area if TRA refuses, but it remains to be seen whether they would get the same buy-in amid reservations among the fan-base about dealing with the club under Glazer ownership.
Ten Hag top of the table
Erik ten Hag might have attracted some negative headlines after his side’s poor start to the season, but full marks to the United manager for turning up at a Football Writers’ Association awards ceremony in Manchester on Sunday night.
The Dutchman was honoured for lifting the Carabao Cup in his first season at Old Trafford and he chatted happily over a steak dinner with fellow recipients and Premier League managers Vincent Kompany and Paul Heckingbottom.
Addressing the current problems in his acceptance speech, Ten Hag said: ‘When you are in a project, you know there are ups and downs. In this moment we are in a down. But I know and this, football is like life. It’s not only going always the way up. In bad moments it’s about how you stick together and how you continue the project. That is the way you finally achieve success.’
Erik ten Hag was at a Football Writers’ Association awards ceremony in Manchester on Sunday
Onana’s a speaker keeper
Andre Onana came to United with a reputation for being good with his feet as well as his hands, and the Cameroonian’s versatility doesn’t end there.
Onana also speaks four languages and he made good use of three of them straight after United’s win at Fulham on Saturday. Onana was nominated for the post-match television interviews and did the first one in English, the second in Spanish and the third in French.
The 27-year-old, who also speaks German, then reverted to English when he spoke to the national press in the mixed zone at Craven Cottage.
Andre Onana has impressed off the pitch at United with his ability to speak four languages
Sub-plot surrounds benched Varane
It will be intriguing to see how United line up in defence against FC Copenhagen at Parken Stadium on Wednesday night.
Harry Maguire’s renaissance continued at Fulham on Saturday when the groggy England international overcame an early head injury to give another defiant display at centre-back. By rights, Maguire should keep his place for the crucial Champions League tie.
Raphael Varane, on the other hand, is suddenly under the microscope. Usually a guaranteed starter, the Frenchman was left out of the Manchester derby for tactical reasons and then missed the Carabao Cup defeat to Newcastle through illness. At Craven Cottage, he only made it off the bench as an 89th-minute substitute.
Can Ten Hag afford to leave out the four-time Champions League winner again in Denmark on Wednesday?
Raphael Varane surprisingly seems to have fallen out-of-favour in recent weeks at United
Erik’s an idol for Utd fans
Judging by the away end at Fulham on Saturday, you wouldn’t have known Ten Hag was under pressure.
As well as the ‘Play Like You Mean It’ banner, which was aimed at the players following United’s meek displays in the consecutive 3-0 drubbings by Man City and Newcastle, Ten Hag was greeted with rapturous applause as he walked across the pitch in front of the away end before kick-off.
There were also loud chants of ‘Erik ten Hag’s red and white army’ from those in attendance, both on the concourse and in the stands.
Ten Hag responded in kind by clapping the 2,800-strong away section both before and after the game, but he notably allowed his players to soak up most of the adulation from United supporters as he left the field before the majority of his squad.
Despite a disappointing start to the season, Ten Hag remains popular among United fans
Socks appeal for Utd stars
Following Mail Sport’s report that some Manchester United players have found the club’s official adidas kit so tight they are having to wear replica gear, it appears that help is at hand.
The socks, in particular, are so uncomfortable that United stars have stopped wearing them since the second game of the season against Tottenham.
Confidential has learned that adult subscription website My.Club is prepared to assist by offering Erik ten Hag’s side 500 pairs of comfy socks. ‘Send us an address via Twitter and they will be delivered asap,’ says My.Club vice-president Mike Ford.
It’s not the first time the company has tried to get involved in football, having made cheeky bids to be shirt sponsors for Chelsea and Inter Milan.
Ole’s passage to India
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been out of management since he was sacked by United two years ago this month, but the Norwegian’s popularity still stretches far and wide.
Solskjaer is about to embark on a tour of India with three live events planned for next month. The 50-year-old will be the centrepiece of black tie events in Bengalaru, Mumbai and New Delhi, with tickets due to go on sale tonight.
Organised by Ace of Pubs, the event promises an intimate experience for Manchester United fans to hear Solskjaer’s stories, with some in attendance able to meet him. In a bid to drive up ticket sales, every platinum and sapphire ticket holder will receive a signed Solskjaer jersey from the 1999 Champions League final.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is about to embark on a tour of India with three live events planned
Kidd’s united at last
It was good to see Brian Kidd involved in tributes to Sir Bobby Charlton at Old Trafford because the 74-year-old hasn’t always been so relaxed about balancing his connections with both Manchester United and City.
Kidd has a unique place in the football culture of his home city – scorer for United in the 1968 European Cup final and later striker for City, then serving each club on the coaching staff under Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola.
Stung by being criticised in Fergie’s autobiography, Kidd found it hard to show outward affection for the red side once he joined City.
Class of ’92 starlet Ben Thornley was hurt when Kidd didn’t contribute to his autobiography even though he’d been an integral part of his early career.
Only after Fergie retired did Kidd visit United’s training ground again, bumping into former protégés like Nicky Butt, but he always kept it quiet for worry of how it would look at City.
Now with the sad passing of his European Cup team-mate Sir Bobby, Kiddo at last appears to be comfortable with the fact he is respected by both red and blue halves of the city – and shouldn’t worry showing it.
Former United and City man Brian Kidd (right) was involved in tributes to Sir Bobby Charlton
Rooney lesson for Laird
Ethan Laird is working under Wayne Rooney at Birmingham City after leaving United in the summer, and the defender hasn’t forgotten the first time he crossed paths with his new manager as a starry-eyed 15-year-old.
Laird joined United’s academy at the age of 10 and quickly impressed as he rose through the ranks.
As has been commonplace for years at Carrington, younger players will be rotated into training sessions with the first team and Laird explained for the first time what it was like seeing a ‘scary’ Rooney in action.
Birmingham City defender Ethan Laird recounted his first experience with Wayne Rooney
‘I haven’t actually told Wayne this!’ he admitted. ‘When I was really young, a couple of us trained up. I must have been about 15 or 16. We went to the first team and saw all these stars.
‘Wazza was there and you could see from the off his mentality, the tackles he put in, he worked hard. It was almost scary for us as young kids: this is the level. You see it in the way he is as a manager with us now and he wants that.’
Laird returned from injury at the weekend and put in a brilliant display as Rooney got his first point as Birmingham boss in a 2-2 draw with Ipswich, who scored both goals after Laird went off in the 78th minute.
Para-athletes inspire Utd kids
United’s schoolboy scholarship programme has been inspiring its young players by setting up a collaborative day with the Great Britain Paralympic development squad.
During the sessions held at Carrington and the Manchester Aquatic Centre, the para-athletes shared the stories of their disabilities, while the United players explained the challenges they have faced as young footballers.
The experience is said to enabled the schoolboys to develop a deeper understanding of the world of sports by giving them ‘a unique perspective on resilience, determination, and the pursuit of excellence’.