MAN UNITED CONFIDENTIAL: Mike Phelan lays a wreath at Franz Beckenbauer's grave in Munich, Juan Mata proves he's still a class act... and fan groups slam new ticketing policies

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Manchester United have been met with a backlash from fan groups over their ticketing policies for next season.

The Red Army, the group behind the atmosphere section at Old Trafford, criticised the club for ‘killing’ their hopes of expanding the section across the Stretford End.

While TRA are being allocated the 800 executive seats being removed from the heart of the section, they had hoped to be given more tickets nearby ‘to meet the ever-increasing demand’. 

United have instead allowed existing season ticket holders to apply for those tickets.

It is the latest in a dispute between TRA and the club, which had threatened the very existence of the atmosphere section.

The Red Army group have criticised Manchester United's ticketing policies for next season

The Red Army group have criticised Manchester United's ticketing policies for next season

The Red Army group have criticised Manchester United's ticketing policies for next season

The Red Army have long campaigned to improve the atmosphere at Old Trafford

The Red Army have long campaigned to improve the atmosphere at Old Trafford 

United were also forced into a climbdown over their minimum attendance policy. 

The club initially said concessionary or discounted season-ticket holders would have to personally attend 89 per cent of home games or risk losing their ticket, before the Manchester United Supporters Trust and others lobbied to get the rule changed.

They will still have to attend 17 of the 19 home Premier League fixtures but passing on their ticket to a member or donating it to the MU Foundation will now count towards that number.

Fans face more pain on the trains

United fans travelling to Brentford by train next month face the prospect of having to spend Easter Sunday in London, with no services running back to Manchester after the game.

The fixture at the Gtech Community Stadium will kick off at 8pm on March 30, just two minutes before the last service from London St Pancras International to Manchester Piccadilly is due to depart.

It is the fourth time this season United have had a game moved to 8pm on a Saturday – the most of any team in the Premier League – and all of them have been away from home following visits to Newcastle, Sheffield United and Burnley.

Trains will run less frequently over the weekend due to the Easter Bank Holiday, with passengers facing the prospect of longer journeys due to train changes and engineering works scheduled by National Rail.

United fans travelling to Brentford by train next month face the prospect of having to spend Easter Sunday in London with no services running back to Manchester after the game

United fans travelling to Brentford by train next month face the prospect of having to spend Easter Sunday in London with no services running back to Manchester after the game

An East Midlands Train service to Manchester via Sheffield leaves King's Cross at 8:02pm and arrives Manchester Piccadilly at 11:06pm.

While there are services departing St Pancras at 9:32pm and 10:32pm on March 30, they are both due to arrive at Manchester Piccadilly at 9:04am on Easter Sunday.

On a regular week, the latest Avanti West Coast service from London to Manchester on Saturday night departs Euston at 9:01pm and arrives in Manchester at 11:42pm.

The franchise is yet to make tickets for the Easter weekend available on its website, but Confidential has been told they should be on sale over the next few days.

Mike clocks up the miles

Former players Mike Phelan and David May were in Malta at the weekend with Jonny Evans' wife and MUTV presenter Helen to celebrate the 65th anniversary of their famous United supporters' club.

Part of the festivities was watching the 3-0 win against West Ham where by coincidence the shirt numbers of Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo added up to 65 as they perched together on the advertising hoardings to celebrate the first of Garnacho's two goals.

Phelan, a popular figure at United who was also a loyal No 2 to Sir Alex Ferguson and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, then flew from Valletta to Germany with 25 Maltese fans to represent the club at Tuesday's memorial for the Munich Air Disaster.

Phelan also visited the grave of Franz Beckenbauer, who died at the age of 78 last month, to lay a wreath in in honour of the Germany and Bayern Munich legend.

Mike Phelan (left) visited the grave of Franz Beckenbauer on Tuesday, to pay tribute to the Bayern Munich and Germany legend who died last month

Mike Phelan (left) visited the grave of Franz Beckenbauer on Tuesday, to pay tribute to the Bayern Munich and Germany legend who died last month

Phelan (second right) was part of a Manchester United delegation in Germany to remember the 66th anniversary of the Munich air crash

Phelan (second right) was part of a Manchester United delegation in Germany to remember the 66th anniversary of the Munich air crash

Mata’s still a class act

Nice touch from Juan Mata who recorded a farewell video for Alice McKeegan, the outgoing football editor of the Manchester Evening News who is moving to the BBC, as a thank-you for supporting his Common Goal project.

The charitable movement, which encourages players to pledge at least one per cent of their salaries to support football charities around the world, was launched by Mata in 2017.

The Spaniard, who spent eight-and-a-half years at United after moving from Chelsea for £37million, left Old Trafford for Galatasaray in 2022 but has maintained strong links with Manchester. The 35-year-old is currently without a club after ending a short spell at Vissel Kobe in Japan last month.

Juan Mata who recorded a farewell video for Alice McKeegan, the outgoing football editor of the Manchester Evening News who is moving to the BBC

Juan Mata who recorded a farewell video for Alice McKeegan, the outgoing football editor of the Manchester Evening News who is moving to the BBC

Lingard a Seoul man for two years

Mata isn’t the only former United player who has ended up in the Far East. Jesse Lingard is having the second part of his medical with FC Seoul on Tuesday before signing a two-year deal to play in South Korea.

Lingard hasn’t played since coming off the bench as a late substitute for Nottingham Forest in their 2-0 defeat to United at the City Ground last April.

Despite a month’s trial with Steven Gerrard at Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia and discussions with a number of clubs including MLS teams Charlotte and Portland, the 31-year-old player has been out of action for nearly 10 months.

Lingard has been posting pictures of himself keeping fit, leading to that memorable response from former Old Trafford favourite Paul Scholes. 

‘Are you just gonna f*** about in the gym or are you gonna actually play football?’ wrote Scholes, whose idea of signing for a club in the Far East would probably be Hull City.

Jesse Lingard has signed a two-year deal for South Korean club FC Seoul

Jesse Lingard has signed a two-year deal for South Korean club FC Seoul 

Vitek’s an instant hit at Stanley

United have a host of youngsters out on loan but few are making quite as big an impact as Radek Vitek at Accrington Stanley. Two games, two clean sheets, and twice voted man of the match awards by fans, Vitek has made an immediate impression.

Confidential has been told that Accrington staff have been taken aback by the 20-year-old’s composure since walking into the dressing-room last month.

While plans for any initiation had to be shelved due to a tyre blowout en route to Forest Green - sat on the hard shoulder Jon Coleman’s side played their own version of Traitors instead – Saturday’s match against Grimsby saw Vitek go round to shake everyone’s hand as a personal thank you, and was last to leave the dressing-room.

It’s understood the Czech goalkeeper has been watching Accrington since the summer. As one insider put it, he has ‘got’ the club and the ‘sky is the limit’ for the young shot-stopper.

Radek Vitek (pictured here in October) has impressed on loan at Accrington Stanley

Radek Vitek (pictured here in October) has impressed on loan at Accrington Stanley

How United gave Jersey boys a boost

The lengths to which the New York/New Jersey organising committee went in its bid to bring the 2026 World Cup Final to MetLife Stadium were clear on United’s tour of the US last summer.

Minutes before the opening game against Arsenal in front of 82,000 fans at Meadowlands, the press pack covering United’s pre-season trip were given an impromptu audience with colourful New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy who, at 6ft 3in tall, was hard to miss in a cream suit and bright yellow tie and socks.

Reporters were presented with an official turquoise scarf promoting the NY/NJ bid, and posed for a picture with Governor Murphy in an apparent show of support, although it would be an exaggeration to claim it was even a minor factor in the MetLife being selected this week to host the showpiece game on July 19, 2026.

As well as pushing his state’s bid and endorsing the prospect of staging competitive games in the US in future, Governor Murphy spoke widely about his love of sport and soccer. 

However, asked if he would be flying to San Diego to see a United youth team take on Wrexham at the Snapdragon Stadium where United are expected to play again this summer, he replied drily: ‘No, I will be busy running New Jersey!’

MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will host the 2026 World Cup final

MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will host the 2026 World Cup final 

United’s grand gesture for Frank

Tensions have been high around Leigh Sports Village this season, with attention fixed on one man. But for one week only, the focus was on someone other than United women’s team boss boss Marc Skinner.

Grandad Frank, a relative of defender Millie Turner, was given the VIP treatment for the visit of Brighton as he was paraded on the pitch, given a signed shirt and even interviewed by MUTV after the match.

Unlike Skinner, Grandad Frank proved an instant hit.

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