Manchester United’s Director of Communications Phil Townsend talks Reds off the pitch

Manchester United Director of Communications Phil Townsend believes the rivalry between United and City is a “good thing” for the Premier League.

The Manchester rivalry has intensified in recent years, and after Manchester City overcame their neighbours to win the Premier League in an emphatic late comeback on the final day, this sets up the most enthralling bout yet between the two sides next season.

Townsend believes the competition between the top teams is a positive advert for the league in general.

“The fact that it’s a more exciting and a closer product than the Spanish or Italian League, it’s a major part in its popularity and value to television companies around the world, ” he said. “I think it is a good thing for the Premier League as a whole, there are several teams now who are capable of winning the league.”

The Red’s Director of Communications believes the club has become more proactive on the commercial side since he arrived. After the club recently announced followers of 659 million across the world, he spoke about how it has become easier to communicate with such a large fan base.

“The mobile partners that we have in 45 countries, allow you to literally bring the team and action to the palm of someone’s hand as people obviously carry mobile phones around. Through that, it’s possible to speak directly to supporters.”

The Old Trafford board member made it clear, ahead of next season’s pre-season tour, how not only is a global fan base important but also local supporters. Last year’s ‘Champions 19 Tour’ visited places across the world but also to the local community.

“What is also important is the Manchester legs of the tour, so it went to schools in Stretford, Urmston, Flixton and places like that. There was never an ignoring of the local fan base. It was a global thing but very much for the whole Manchester United family.”

Old Trafford
Old Trafford

Townsend, who has been at the club for eight and half seasons, reiterated how important Old Trafford is to the club.

“Old Trafford is one of the key assets of the club. The centenary celebrations that we had in 2010 were reflective of the value everybody sees in Old Trafford, you wouldn’t want to change it. You go to say the Emirates Stadium, the concourses are larger, the seats are probably bigger but for me, it doesn’t have the feel of Old Trafford.”

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated 25 years in charge of Manchester United last season and the club dedicated this achievement by changing the name of the ‘North Stand’ to the ‘Sir Alex Ferguson Stand’. Townsend, who was studying his A-Levels when Sir Alex took charge, said it was completed with great secrecy with only a few people knowing about the change.

Sir Alex Ferguson during the new stand name unveiling

“It was David Gill’s idea and he drew people in as and when necessary. We were able to source a company, the company was never told in what order the letters would be appearing. They were just sent a random array of letters,” he explains.

“They assembled them in blocks of three, those blocks were erected in a certain order and the guys putting them up didn’t know. Whilst they were putting it up it was covered so the CCTV cameras in the stadium couldn’t pick it up and see it.

“I think the fact the manager didn’t know was, firstly astonishing but also added to the sense of occasion on the day as he was staggered by what he was seeing.

“I think it achieved everything we wanted it to, we probably kept that more quiet than Paul Scholes’s return in January, because even his team-mates didn’t know. So it shows even in football you can keep secrets from people some of the time.”

The planned Sir Alex Ferguson statue is on course to be up by November time.

“The plan for that will probably be for in or around the 26th anniversary to unveil that. It will be like, in terms of size and feel, the Sir Matt Busby statue and will be outside the Sir Alex Ferguson stand,” Townsend explains.

Disclaimer: Image copyrighted to its respective owner.

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