Manchester United fans protest against the club’s owners during a game against Chelsea

Manchester United chief executive Richard Arnold says he respects fans’ right to protest at Old Trafford but hopes the arrival of new manager Erik ten Hag will see a change in their attitude towards the team.

United are licking their wounds after an abysmal campaign, which Arnold admits fell well below expectations and only saw them finish sixth because West Ham gave away a lead to lose their final game.

Matches at Old Trafford at the end of the season were characterised by noisy protests, with some fans arriving late and others leaving early at specific games to mark 17 years of ownership by the Glazer family.

However, Arnold hopes United have ushered in a new dawn under former Ajax boss Ten Hag, who has signed a three-year contract.

“We understand fans are frustrated and want to see change and improvement,” said Arnold at a recent Fans’ Forum. “Suffice to say, we are not happy with where we are in terms of performance on the pitch.

“Football is a game of passion and we fully respect fans’ right to make their feelings known, as long as this remains legal and peaceful at all times.

“But I would very much hope that all fans within Old Trafford approach next season with renewed optimism and confidence as we look forward to a fresh start under Erik ten Hag.”

The Fans’ Forum minutes were published on the same day as United released their third-quarter results, which revealed the club’s net debt is now £495.7m. A cash dividend of $0.09 per share will be paid on 24 June, which means more funds going out of the club, mainly to members of the Glazer family.

These regular payments, combined with a relative lack of success on the pitch, are a major factor behind the protests.

However, United insiders argue the dividends and what they see as ‘low-cost debts’ account for a small fraction of revenues and do not stop investment in the team.

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