Manchester United are the lockdown champions

After giving cars to the NHS, food parcels to vulnerable families and beer to their own staff while Premier League rivals blundered, Manchester United are the LOCKDOWN CHAMPIONS

  • Manchester United’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been brilliant 
  • The club have helped their supporters by offering to refund or rebate tickets 
  • United have also looked after staff and also encouraged them to help the NHS 
  • A host of United’s players have helped with goodwill initiatives during lockdown 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

January 28. Hooded thugs descend on Ed Woodward’s family home in Cheshire, hurling flares over the gate, spraying graffiti on the walls outside and chanting that Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman ‘is going to die’.

At the previous home game, a 2-0 defeat by Burnley, the atmosphere inside Old Trafford turns toxic as supporters round on Woodward and United’s owners, the Glazers.

United have won two in seven games. Marcus Rashford could be out for the season with a back fracture. Paul Pogba is out with a persistent foot injury and has played only eight times all season.

Hooded thugs descended on Ed Woodward’s home in Chesire and hurled flares over the gate

The atmosphere at Old Trafford was toxic as fans turned on the Glazers after a loss to Burnley

United have hit a brick wall in negotiations with Sporting Lisbon over Bruno Fernandes.

Hours before the despicable attack on Woodward’s home, however, the tide begins to turn.

United make a breakthrough over Fernandes. Odion Ighalo is signed as a short-term replacement for Rashford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side then put together an 11-match unbeaten run that includes eight victories. Fernandes and Ighalo are instant hits.

But the tide has turned at the club with the signing of Bruno Fernandes providing a huge boost

When the coronavirus outbreak forces football to shut down, United are three points off the top four and advancing in the Europa League and FA Cup.

While the club’s progress is brought to a temporary halt, an equally impressive performance off the pitch is only just beginning, as Woodward and the Glazers lead United’s response to the pandemic. And a brilliant response it has been, too, allowing many within the club and its fanbase to take pride.

Of course, United are by no means the only ones to emerge from this crisis with credit. Football has used its universal appeal to fund, support and help the national effort in so many ways. But a club that has not always enjoyed the most polished of PR images is emerging from lockdown looking all the better for it. 

HELPING SUPPORTERS

Even before the shutdown, United were applauded for their decision to compensate fans who were unable to see the Europa League tie against LASK Linz played behind closed doors in Austria.

The club reimbursed the 700 fans for their travel expenses at a total cost of £245,000.

Since then, United have offered season ticket holders refunds or rebates if their remaining home games are also played behind closed doors, while donating a further £240,000 to youth charities around the world through the Manchester United Supporters’ Clubs.

Closer to home, club staff and former players have made welfare calls to more than 3,000 elderly and disabled supporters during lockdown.

United were applauded for compensating fans who were unable to watch the clash with LASK

LOOKING AFTER STAFF

While Liverpool and Tottenham were forced to make an embarrassing U-turn over their decision to furlough staff in the face of a public backlash, United continued to pay their employees and encouraged them to volunteer for work helping the NHS.

It is understood that 140 have done so, including 80 who helped produce 60,000 meals in the kitchens at Old Trafford for NHS staff at hospitals in Manchester and Salford. They were given a crate of beer or cider from the unused stocks at the club as a thank you and told to give another to a key worker.

United also pledged to make goodwill payments to protect the income of 3,000 casual matchday staff affected by matches being cancelled or played behind closed doors — costing more than £1m.

United continued to pay their employees and encouraged them to volunteer to help the NHS

AIDING THE NHS

United donated club medical supplies and protective equipment to the NHS when there were fears over a critical shortage.

The car parks at Old Trafford have been used as a coronavirus testing station and a fleet of 16 Manchester United Foundation vehicles and volunteer drivers were put at the disposal of the NHS to courier supplies across Manchester.

In addition to distributing meals to NHS staff, United also delivered hospitality gifts and merchandise to another 3,500 workers.

The club donated medical supplies and PPE to the NHS amid fears there would be a shortage

CARE IN THE COMMUNITY 

The club’s foundation has supported the community by giving £300,000 and 600 food parcels to support vulnerable children and families. 

A further £50,000 has been donated to food banks, along with 30,000 items of food and drink from United’s stocks.

The club’s foundation supported the community by giving £300,000 for vulnerable families

PLAYERS’ GOODWILL

Not all the efforts involving United have been led by the club. 

Captain Harry Maguire has been a key figure, along with Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson, in the #PlayersTogether initiative to raise millions for the NHS. Maguire has also paid for food boxes to be delivered to the elderly and vulnerable people in the area of Sheffield where he grew up.

Rashford, meanwhile, has helped raise £20m to provide meals for children who were at risk of going hungry while schools were shut. While there have been no shortage of ‘Covidiots’, United players have been conspicuous by their absence from the list of Premier League players who have broken lockdown rules.

With the exception of a video of Marcos Rojo, currently on loan at Estudiantes, playing poker with friends 7,000 miles away in Buenos Aires (United say he has been reminded of his responsibilities), Solskjaer’s squad have kept their noses clean. 

Marcus Rashford helped raise £20million to provide meals for children at risk of going hungry

Captain Harry Maguire has been a key figure in the #PlayersTogether initiative for the NHS

HELPING SMALLER CLUBS 

United have helped out smaller clubs struggling through the pandemic by waiving £130,000 in loan fees due for three of their players – goalkeepers Kieran O’Hara and Joel Pereira, plus midfielder Ethan Hamilton. 

It has given Burton Albion, Hearts and Bolton a break at a time when they are suffering financial hardship through the loss of matchday income.

United helped out smaller clubs struggling in the pandemic by waiving £130,000 in loan fees

The driving force behind United’s response has come from the Glazers and, in particular, Woodward who has used video messages in recent months to rally staff.

They have also been encouraged to come up with suggestions of their own and the idea to turn off the lights illuminating the club’s name at Old Trafford so it read ‘NHS’ came not from a slick PR executive but a member of the stadium staff.

As thoughts turn to Project Restart, United’s squad has come out of lockdown in better shape. Rashford and Pogba have made use of the time to get fit and Ighalo’s loan from Shanghai has been extended. 

Woodward has described this as ‘one of the most extraordinary and testing periods in the 142-year history of Manchester United’. The way they have risen to that challenge deserves great credit.




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