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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Manchester United managing director criticised for labelling team a ‘religion’

Manchester United’s managing director has made a “big mistake” saying his club is as big as religion, according to the Chaplain for Sport.

Richard Arnold, Manchester United’s managing director, announced that the club was operating on a completely different scale than anyone else when it comes to social media, as the club made its billionth Facebook interaction.

“The level we’re are engaging at, to put it into context, is akin to religion,” he said at Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon.

“John Lennon was famously quoted as saying The Beatles were ‘bigger than Jesus’,” he continued. “While we wouldn’t want to be disrespectful in that way, what you are seeing from a measurement point of view is that the level of engagement and fervour we get is on par with the world’s major religions and those are the only things at the same level as Manchester United in terms of that interaction and engagement.”

However, as of the beginning of this week Manchester United’s Twitter account had 9.25 million followers compared to Pope Francis’ official Twitter account’s 10 million followers.

Meanwhile the Manchester United official Facebook page had 71.5 million likes but the pope does not have an official Facebook account to compare.

While it is obvious from the Twitter followers that Manchester United is not actually as big as religion, the Chaplain for Sport has pointed out that Mr Arnold has made an even bigger mistake.

“Richard has made a classical mistake, he is not comparing like with like, he is comparing quality and quantity; a physical activity and a spiritual one. A big mistake,” Fr Felzmann, who is also the chief executive of John Paul II Foundation, told The Universe. “What is bigger, Mount Everest or The Holy Spirit?” he added.

Fr Felzmann noted how in 1935 Joseph Stalin, in order to bolster his self-esteem, bragged, “The pope? How many [military] divisions has he got?”

“Many people who take their religion seriously, express their faith by trying to help God make this world a better place, silently, without any fanfare,” said Fr Felzmann. “St Theresa focused on more important things than social media.”

Fr Felzmann admitted that Manchester United has a massive, global following but this is nothing in comparison to faith.

“Good for them,” he said. “But it is football, not the Kingdom of God that is their game. “Religion, in the UK at least, is a low-key, private reality. Football is not. But strong silence can do far more and be much bigger than much noise and a red shirt.”

Manchester United host bitter rivals Arsenal today at Old Trafford. Kick off is 12.30pm. A win for the Gunners, who are currently in fourth spot in the Premier League table, will see them go top. However top spot rivals Manchester City, currently in third spot, and Liverpool, currently in first spot, both face away games at Crystal Palace and Southampton respectfully later in the day, while second spot Chelsea travel to Middlesbrough tomorrow.

However, a win for Manchester United would see the reds, who are currently placed sixth in the League table, draw level on points with fifth place Tottenham Hotspur, who host West Ham United later today.

This weekend’s full Premier League fixtures:

Saturday 19th November

Manchester United v Arsenal. Kick off: 12.30pm
Crystal Palace v Manchester City. Kick off: 3.00pm
Everton v Swansea City. Kick off: 3.00pm
Southampton v Liverpool. Kick off: 3.00pm
Stoke City v Bournemouth. Kick off: 3.00pm
Sunderland v Hull City. Kick off: 3.00pm
Watford v Leicester City. Kick off: 3.00pm
Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United. Kick off: 5.30pm

Sunday 20th November

Middlesbrough v Chelsea. Kick off: 4.00pm

Monday 21st November

West Bromwich Albion v Burnley. Kick off: 8.00pm

Picture: A Manchester United fan holds up a scarf in support of his team outside Old Trafford. (Picture by Richard Sellers EMPICS Sport).